eCommerce has taken the retail market by storm. In 2014, it was a $1.3-trillion business; last year, that number had risen to $2.3 trillion. Analysts predict that, by the year 2021, the online retail industry will see as much as $4.5 trillion. The rapid growth, as most would expect, brings certain growing pains and shifts in business strategies. While some practices may have worked in a brick-and-mortar environment, they don’t serve their masters well in an eCommerce world.
One of Costa Rica’s leading businessmen and entrepreneurs, Jose Duarte, knows this too well. He started in the traditional retail environment with his first business more than 20 years ago – a business that is still going strong today – but when he began incorporating eCommerce platforms into his portfolio, he quickly learned that he had to adopt new strategies. His ability to maintain an open mind and not let his ego override his business sense has helped him become a success on both fronts, and he points out several lessons that can help any entrepreneur improve his or her eCommerce presence and the customer experience at the same time.
Duarte points out that it’s important to always make sure the information is accurate and up to date. Missing details, mismarked goods or prices and outdated information lead to potential customers not feeling confident when they want to make a purchase. This lack of confidence translates directly into lost sales and lost revenue, as the customers will look for their goods or services elsewhere.
The first tip Duarte provides is that presence is a virtue. Create a strong website that is easy to understand and easy to navigate. Let others test it out and then use their feedback to make it better. No one individual has all the answers and, since consumers will make or break the business, let them decide how it needs to be constructed. Says Duarte, “I take a lot of pride in the design of my eCommerce sites. Not only because they’re a reflection of me, but also because I’m confident that they’re a reflection of what the consumers want. I always listen to our customers and use their feedback to make the businesses better.”
Don’t hide the ball from online shoppers. Nothing is more frustrating to a consumer than visiting a retail website and finding no prices listed. The shell game might be fun as a parlor trick, but it isn’t effective marketing. Consumers today want to compare prices. They want the information upfront. They don’t want to feel that they’re being teased. In an environment where time is money, don’t waste your consumer’s time over money.
Research shows that 63% of consumers research a product or service online 50% of the time before making a purchase. Make sure that the products and services provide full details. If space is a concern, then an eCommerce site needs to ensure that it offers a balanced combination of online information and online customer support with friendly, knowledgeable staffers. If consumers cannot find a decent amount of information to justify the purchase, they’ll give up and go elsewhere.
Duarte also recommends that entrepreneurs pay attention to third-party ratings. “While ratings cannot be a primary focal point of altering business practices or offerings,” explains Duarte, “they are an integral part of the process. Peruse popular rating websites to assimilate the comments left on your operations to best determine how to proceed.” According to a survey by BrightLocal, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as if they were personal recommendations. Only 12% of the population does not regularly read reviews prior to purchases according to the same survey.
These recommendations are certainly not the only tools to help an eCommerce site become a success. There are a number of factors that have to be considered, such as pricing, competition, market response, etc. However, by incorporating these tips, an entrepreneur looking to make it in the tough eCommerce market will be off to a good start.