How small online businesses can improve conversions with increased customer choice

online customer choiceToday’s consumers have high expectations of the type of customer experience they believe they are entitled to receive online. Customers are increasingly online savvy, confident and like choice and control. Enabling your customers to have the convenience of choice and flexibility enhances their overall online experience with your business , in turn increasing the likelihood of  conversion and repeat visits.

Increase choice to reduce the barriers to purchase

However, I’m not suggesting that you overwhelm your customers with a smorgasbord of choices – too many options can actually deter customers. Rather, focus on offering customers increased choice in a few strategic places along the purchasing journey to help reduce some of the barriers to purchase.

Shopping cart abandonment is part and parcel of any online businesses. The current rate averages at 67.4% so any changes you can make to help reduce your shopping cart abandonment rate can only be a good thing. We take a look at how offering customers choice in some key online areas can help you increase those all important conversions.

Simple ways to implement more customer choice

Online card paymentsPayment Choice

Offering your customers a choice of payment options at checkout can have a significant impact on conversions and help reduce shopping card abandonment. Figures show:

  • 59% of respondents would abandon a transaction if their preferred payment method was not in place.
  • 40%  of respondents would have more confidence in an online shop that had more than one payment method.

It is important to be able to offer customers both online and offline payment options as it means you are more likely to be able to provide the customer with their preferred payment choice. Being able to take payments by credit or debit card is becoming increasingly important. According to the UK Card Association the majority of online purchase are now made using cards.  In the UK during 2013;

When initially setting up in business, many small businesses begin selling online using the basic shopping carts provided by their existing website platform. It is a quick and simple way to get up and running. However it can mean that as your business grows you are limited to a single payment system such as PayPal. A simple, cost-effective way to improve your shopping cart capabilities without changing your existing website platform is to use a hosted third-party shopping cart solution that is quick to integrate and can offer your business a wide range of pre-integrated payment processors and offline payment options.

online shipping and deliveryIncreased delivery options

Underestimating the importance customers place on shipping and delivery options is a potential disaster for your conversion rates. Customers take online delivery very seriously, with 42.5% of customers looking at delivery pages first.  Research also show that 50% of customers have abandoned an online purchase due to unsatisfactory delivery options.

It is important that customers fare able to plan for delivery. I’m sure we have all experienced the frustration of not being at home when a package requiring a signature turns up. Offering more delivery choices makes the customer feel in control and goes along way towards providing an all-round positive customer experience. Research shows that in terms of e-commerce delivery,

  • 31% of customers would like the option of a fixed delivery date
  • 24% of customers would like the option of collecting from their local stores
  • 24% of customers would like the option of next day delivery
  • 13% would like the option of a two-hour delivery slot.

So think about introducing some flexible delivery choices such as:

  • Next day delivery
  • Nominated day delivery
  • Pick up from a local store (such as Click and Collect)
  • ‘If out please leave…” options such as : leave with neighbour, behind bins, in garage and so on.

smartphone online shoppingBe multi-device friendly

Your customers should have the choice of being able to view your website equally well on their preferred device – be it desk top, smart phone or tablet. By limiting your customers access to a standard desk-top version of your website, you may lose out on potential sales. M-commerce such as tablets and smart-phones play an increasingly important part in your customers purchasing journey.

“With over half of all e-retail traffic coming via smartphones and tablet devices the latest results reveal a huge landmark in the growth of mobile commerce” Guardian.com

Significantly, online shopping on mobile devices has overtaken desktop traffic for the first time in the UK with 52% of online visits made via a mobile and an impressive 36% of UK online sales completed on a smartphone or tablet device. So let your customer choose how he or she wishes to view your site in the most convenient way to them, at any particular point in time, by making sure your site is multi-device friendly.

social media small businessChoice of communication channels

“The attention of modern individuals is fragmented and in this hectic communication reality they want to decide for themselves how and when and with whom they speak, both in private and with business communication” Social Marketing Forum

There is no doubt that the last ten years have seen a huge change in how we choose to communicate.  The whole social landscape has changed and as a business this needs to be reflected in the way you communicate to your customers. By offering a choice of ways for your customers to interact with your business you are more likely to be able to provide the preferred channel communication to a wider range of customers. This communication choice can be applied across the board from customer services to marketing. Simple ways to do this is to think about using an integrated both offline and online. For example:

Customer services: let customers choose how they wish to interact with you – whether it is by email, phone, or via social media.

Marketing: Market your product or services in a variety of ways, communicating traditionally through direct mail and advertising and digitally through email, social networks, PPC and SEO. In integrated approach reinforces the message and gives customers a choice in how they chose to respond.

Purchasing: Make sure customers have an options to make the final sale in the way that suits them – this could be over the phone, through your website’s online checkout or even via your social media.  For example if you have a large majority of customers who interact with your business on Facebook, then think about how you can better use that to your advantage. Try offering them the choice of purchasing your products directly through a Facebook Store.

So to reiterate, it isn’t about overwhelming customers with an overabundance of options but rather implementing customer choice strategically to give customers more control and an improved customer experience. This can help remove some of the barriers to purchase and help you increase your conversions.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic, so do please leave a comment.

 Online shopping concept image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos

 

 

 

 

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Does your online shipping and delivery cut the mustard?

Red post box

It may not be the most glamorous area of e-commerce, but shipping and delivery is a fundamental part of the online buying process and underestimating its importance can have a detrimental effect on the success of your business.

Why is shipping and delivery so important?

Get your shipping and delivery strategy right and you are rewarded with increased levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Get it wrong and you risk reducing your profit margin, alienating customers and damaging your brand image.

Customers expectations rise as they become increasingly web savvy and research findings repeatedly tell us that delivery has a direct influence on a customers buying decision.

According to research carried out on behalf of MetaPack:

  • 68% of potential customers abandon online sales at the delivery page
  • 42.5% of customers look at the delivery pages first
  • It costs 10 times the cost of the original delivery when a delivery fails first time

More food for thought…

Research findings from a recent ComScore White Paper on behalf of UPS  found that although 83% of respondents were happy with online shopping overall, some of the lowest satisfaction scorings were in the area of delivery and returns.

In addition, a IMRG UK Home Delivery Review 2013 found that:

  • 74% of consumers said that a good delivery experience would encourage them to shop with again with a specific retailer
  • 75% would like access to clear delivery information prior to purchase
  • 80% would like online tracking
  • 78% would like the ability to choose a specific day for delivery

Five best practice tips to help meet customers expectationsDelivery Man

When planning your shipping and delivery strategy, spend time thinking about each of the areas of best practice suggested below and see if they can be incorporated into your shipping and delivery service.

1. Shipping rates

Make sure you are offering shipping and delivery rates that the customer deems fair. Getting the prices right for your market is essential.

“The setting of shipping fees have a dramatic effect on both conversion rates and profitability” (Internet Marketing, Chaffey et al, 2009)

Rates can be varied for the length of time it takes to deliver. For example checkout Amazon’s list of delivery options.  Amazon offers seven different shipping rates with costs varying depending on the time it takes for delivery. Customers can take advantage of free super saver delivery shipping if they are willing to wait 3-5 days for delivery, pay a premium for next day delivery or take advantage of Amazon Prime – Amazon’s loyalty programme where customers pay an annual fee to qualify for free next day purchase.

Know your product delivery costs  – find out exactly what the costs are to ship a product and make sure you check what your competitors are offering. With a bit of research you can offer shipping rates that keep your customers happy and your profit margins where they should be.

2. Free shipping

76% of online shoppers would like to see free shipping options at checkout (UPS ComScore research)

It is not always possible to offer free shipping on items, however wherever you can you should try to offer the option.  Customers are often willing to wait longer for something if it can be delivered for free (think Amazon). If you can’t offer a permanent free shipping option then think about using it as a sales promotion technique. For example, ‘spend £50 or over and get free delivery’ or a time limited offer such as ‘free delivery this week only’. If free shipping is really out of the question for your business then think about offering ‘real time’ delivery – where customers pay exactly what you have to pay to ship products.

3. Returns

Make your returns policy clear and as customer friendly as possible. Returns are always a bit of a pain, so try to make it as convenient as possible for a customer to return your item. For example, offer free returns with a pre-printed, postage-paid returns label that the customer can simply peel of and stick back onto to the original packaging. Think about signing up to a returns service such as Collect + where customers can drop their parcel into a local shop rather than having to go to the post office.

4. Flexibility

Try and be as flexible as possible with your delivery options. We’ve all experienced the frustration of waiting in all day for a delivery.  Where you can offer flexible delivery instructions that can be passed on to the delivery service such as, leave in garage, leave with a neighbour, leave behind the bins and so on. Where the customer has to be in to take receipt of their order then think about offering options where the customer can pick a delivery day, or a morning or afternoon time slot. Put yourself in your customers shoes and think about what kind of options you’d like.

5. Communication

Keep customers informed about the status of their order. People like to know when their order has been processed and is out for delivery. Implement delivery notification emails with shipping tracking references. Not only do you keep your customer happy, you are also cutting down on potential calls to your customer service department.  So when choosing your delivery service and shopping cart software think about whether they offer these options.

Shipping and delivery is a critical part of your online business, so keep your customer in mind and research your market.  And remember one size doesn’t fit all – have a shipping and delivery strategy that reflects your own individual business requirements.

 

We’d really love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.