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How can you achieve online sales success? As a small business owner, it’s important that you have reliable resources when you need them most. As an e-commerce business, shipping reliability is vital to your business success. FedEx supports small business owners with easy, world-class shipping solutions -- whether you run an e-commerce business or a traditional brick and mortar store.

In addition to having seamless shipping operations, another way to build a strong business online is with an excellent customer experience in your ecommerce store.

Here’s a few tips to help you do just that.

When running an online business, finding and keeping loyal customers often isn’t as simple as it is with a brick-and-mortar. Without a physical location, frontline employees, or direct contact with consumers, we often think we can’t do much to enhance how customers feel inside our ecommerce store. That isn’t the whole truth though. Sure it's not necessarily easy to create a memorable and enjoyable customer experience for your e-commerce website, but it can be done with the right focus in the right areas.

The greatest example is Amazon – no introductions required. But how can a budding independent e-commerce business offer an ‘Amazon like’ customer experience? Or enhance your customer’s experiences on your existing website?

Let’s take a look at three areas on which you can focus:

1. Reputation: Here is a startling statistic from Harvard Business Review, 77% of shoppers do NOT want to have a relationship with a brand! I know that is a hard to hear. But get this: most consumers really want to get their items when they want it, the way they want it and without friction. They are not looking for a long-term commitment. So, how do we bridge our brand to that drive-by shopper? You give them an experience worth remembering and sharing! Your brand is simply what people say about your business when you are NOT in the room. People talk about experiences with brands, both good and bad. Focus on frictionless buying to increase your customer engagement reputation with these four suggestions:

  1. Walk them through the purchasing processes. A customer needs strong navigation and progress bars.
     
  2. Set expectations with confirmation, shipping and fulfillment notifications. A customer wants to know what just happened, what is going to happen, and when will they get their stuff.
     
  3. Leverage customer feedback and user-generated content. Solicit feedback from your end user and team members regularly. Their response gives you the pulse of your business, so take it often.
     
  4. Leverage the shipping box. You can place inserts in the box that thank your customer and ask for feedback or recommendations.
     

2. Mobile User Experience Design: You must offer a mobile shopping experience. There are 3 main options for engaging customers on mobile devices.

  1. Website With Responsive Design Make sure your website is developed with a responsive design that translates to any device. This is the easiest option to implement and maintain. All the information for your page converts to a mobile friendly page. Basically, you are squeezing your website and making it easier to render on mobile. Some of the challenges lie in the fact that it does not always make it easier to read. Sometimes too many fonts or images that are too large make things extend past the window width. Generally, page conversion is the slowest of three mobile options. Be sure to check all forms, optimize images and test on both iOS and Android devices. What looks great on an iPhone can look horrendous on a Samsung and vise versa.

    Your website should include a site map and customers should be able to easily navigate your website. Products need to be properly categorized to offer quick and easy service to customers. Customers don’t like to read a lot of content when browsing through an online store; however, they do consider customer reviews. So make sure that you have honest customer reviews on your website, or offer external links. The website should be attractive, with high-quality pictures and minimal content for best results.  
     

  2. Mobile Web Pages (optimized for mobile) – This is the most user friendly and the faster of the options. You can design to exact specs for the mobile user. A mobile site, is normally stripped down to the essentials, making it load faster and easier to navigate. The downside with these pages is you are often forced to maintain two separate websites with redirection based on device. While not hard to accomplish, it can require extra effort and time.
     
  3. Mobile App ​- If you have customers that you want to interact with and have a personalized experience, then the mobile app is the best option. Also, direct contact via mobile gives you an advantage over a website. However, if you design an app, you need to give consumers good reasons to choose the app over the immediate convenience of a website. According to Business of Apps.com, less than 3% of time spent on a smartphone is spent on shopping apps.

3. Personalization: Use your current data to keep your customers feeling like you know them and care about helping them… and you don’t have a lot of time! According to conversion expert Ellie Hubble, 80% of web visitors abandon a site in 5 seconds...so you cannot be just another cookie cutter web site. The proliferation of options online is massive. According to the UK’s DailyMail.com, in just one minute on the internet: 216,000 photos are posted, 278,000 Tweets are made and 1.8m Facebook likes are transacted. And in that same minute, according to readycloud.com, $3 million dollars is generated from ecommerce stores. There is an enormous volume of activity and competition. To stand out online, you must leverage customer information in your own data to personalize the customer experience.

So how to turn data sets into customer engaging action? Use data from past customer interactions to make recommendations to current users. “If you like this, then you may like that.” Sure, you have seen this on high-end enterprise stores like Amazon, but now you have the same capability! Several third party providers offer plug-ins solution for most website such as Shopify’s Also Bought Plug-in which runs about $6 a month and WooCommerce’s  Product Add Ons Plugin which runs $49 a year for on website.  

Also, do not discount using that same data inside of your email marketing campaigns. Nothing is more discouraging than receiving generic recommendations. As an example, if I come to your site and order a washing machine, I should not get emails about your next washing machine sale. Also, imagine using that historical purchasing data to see that 40% of people that ordered washers ended up purchasing detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets!

That is how you cross-sell in email based on purchasing behavior. Remember, the difference between cross-selling and upselling. When upselling, it is best done during checkout. If I am ordering the washing machine, show me the matching dryer and the 5-year extended warranty. After the order is placed, follow up within 7-10 days with personalized email to check on how they enjoying their new washing machine and pitch them to buy detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets which would be an appropriate cross-sell.

If you are thinking about which to design, a mobile website or a native app, the easy choice is a website. But the decision comes down to what your end goal is. An interactive game should be done on an app. But if you are trying to show your items for buying without little hassle, then a website is your best bet. The importance of having a website that automatically resizes according to browsers and mobile screens can’t be stressed enough.

If you’re looking for other ways to grow your business, FedEx is a valuable resource. Now in its 5th year, entering the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is a way to give your business a boost. For a chance to win a $25,000 grant and $7,500 in products and services from FedEx Office, simply apply at fedex.com/grant contest. You’ve got from February 21st through March 29th to enter this year’s contest.  More than $250K has been awarded to small businesses over the past four years.

As a grant winner, not only will you earn a cash prize, but you’ll also join a distinguished group of previous winners and have a chance to build a special bond with your fellow winners and a valuable relationship with FedEx.