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4 Unique Challenges Facing Online Retailers

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

As an online retailer, you’re already in a unique situation. Without a physical presence in the form of a brick and mortar location, it can be difficult to effectively reach customers and encourage new leads to become paying customers. With ever-changing POS systems, shipping methods, and marketing techniques, online businesses are forever changing how they approach the customer.  Here we’ve narrowed down four unique challenges facing online retailers today.

  1. Turning Leads into Customers

With online retail outlets, it can be incredibly difficult to turn those precious leads into the all-important paying customer. You essentially have to depend on your website and customer reviews to convince leads to make a purchase.

A professional site is a great place to start here. Making the investment in a web developer instead of using sites like Wixto build your own website is the better option for most businesses. A developer will have greater knowledge on customization of your site, and platforms like Wix and Weebly can be limiting as far as certain options go.

Although “free” website builder sounds better than paying hundreds or even thousands for a developer/designer, your customers willknow the difference in the way the website functions. A lead will pay close attention to the design, navigation, and ease of access of your site. If your pages load slowly, navigate poorly, and look amateur, the lead is more likely to distrust the site and disengage.

Make an investment in your website, especiallyif you’re selling exclusively online. The hundreds or thousands of dollars you spend on a professionally designed site will help to set you apart from your competitors, and give your brand a reputation for quality.

  1. Security

Cyber crimes have become a true threat in our modern digitalized world. Online retailers face many challenges with security, trying to keep customer bank and credit card information safe and secure while keeping their own site secured as well. This is a vital part of a successful online retailer.

You should treat your customer’s info as your own, and do your very best to provide the most secure platform you can for your customers to purchase from. A customer that feels as though their info is secure is more likely to continue purchasing from your site.

Be sure to keep your site updated with the latest security protocols, and, of course, keep an eye on the trends in cyber crimes. Smaller sites are certainly less likely to be hacked than those with millions of accounts, but that doesn’t make them immune.

Keeping your customers’ information safe is not only an ethical requirement but can also help you avoid legal troubles. You could potentially be held liable for security breaches that jeopardize bank information, especially if your site wasn’t secure to begin with due to negligence.

  1. Marketing & Customer Interaction

Marketing can be quite tricky for online retailers. Figuring out which platforms serve to best market your products can be time-consuming and challenging, and you may need to do a lot of trial and error before you create an effective campaign to reach your customer base.

Since you’re not dealing with a brick and mortar store, it’s difficult to discuss the products with the customers and get that all-important person-to-person interaction which can often mean the difference between completing a sale and losing one.

Interacting with customers on a purely digital platform requires a bit more creativity for proper engagement. One popular option is a chatbot,which provides a pop-up chat window when customers visit your site. This allows you to interact with your customers and assist them via the chat window. This is especially useful for first-time visitors to your site.

It can also be effective for you to follow up with customers who purchased an item via a thank you email. This lets your customers know that you not only appreciate their business but would like to introduce yourself and form a customer-retailer relationship. This can help bring the human-to-human interaction to a web-based platform and help foster trust between you and your customers.

Don’t forget to follow up on inquiries on either your website or social media pages. Following up on a question can sometimes mean the difference between creating a customer or losing a lead. Customers often ask simple questions to gauge the business’s response time and customer service, so be quick, accurate, and courteous when addressing questions or concerns!

  1. Shipping Costs

While an online business can have significantly less overhead without the need for a brick and mortar location, shipping items can be costly; especially for large orders. While the customer usually pays shipping costs, these can add up on the bill, and even discourage a customer from completing their purchase.

Keeping shipping costs down is vital to staying in business as an online retailer, especially if your competition can ship the same items for less. You’ll want to offer your customers a least two different shipping methods, whether they be USPS, UPS, FedEx, or DHL. Whichever carriers you choose to work with, be sure you include shipping costs or cost calculators on your site so customers know exactly what they’ll be spending on shipping.

Conclusion

With many unique challenges, online retailers face obstacles brick and mortar stores may rarely or never have to address. With the freedom and flexibility of an online retail outlet comes factors such as shipping costs, customer interactions, and more. These obstacles aren’t impossible to navigate, however, as we can see from the rise of sites like Amazon, which is now one of the most profitable retailers in the world.

 

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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