As we move closer towards 2024, the world of ecommerce is expected to grow significantly, and the market is expected to exceed $6.3 trillion. However, with this sector's rise comes threats and challenges for ecommerce businesses.
It doesn't matter if you're a small startup or a multinational company; every business is under threat from a myriad of different options, and being unprepared to protect against or deal with these threats can leave you open to fraud, loss of income, reputation and even fines and jail time if you are found to be willfully negligent in some cases.
On top of this, there will always be challenges facing new and existing ecommerce businesses you need to consider and navigate so as not to ruin all of your hard work.
If you're unaware of the types of threats facing your new ecommerce enterprise, this post looks at some of the challenges you might be facing this coming year.
Let's start with the biggest threat to ecommerce stores. Cyber security. As more and more people shop online, it's expected that 95% of consumers will be shopping digitally by 2040, and so will the risk increase of security breaches becoming commonplace.
When people shop online, retailers hold a lot of information on a person, from their name, address, payment details, phone number, etc, and this data is highly sensitive and can be extremely damaging if it lands in the wrong hands.
Ecommerce retailers must have stringent cyber security measures to prevent any attempts at stealing data or your defences being breached.
To improve your security, some great tips include
- Choosing secure hosting
- Secure passwords
- Change passwords regularly
- Use an SSL certificate
- Use a cyber security outsourcing company
- Have regular backups
- Perform regular updates
- Use Multi-Factor Authentication
- Use a CDN
- Have security plugins
- Anti-malware software
- Train employees in common hacks and phishing attempts
- Review all third-party apps and services you use
- Have privacy built into your site as a standard
- Use a secure portal for payments
Attracting Your Customers
With so many ecommerce stores popping up daily, getting your website out there to attract the right customers for your store can be tricky. While the increasing numbers of people shopping online are promising, it doesn't automatically mean your site will still be successful. It's no good having a fully secure and optimised website if no one is visiting it.
You need to be able to identify and target your customers through effective marketing methods both digitally and in print, too.
In the first instance, having social media accounts for your business can be highly beneficial as you can share your products on there and find people who are interested in making a purchase, but perfecting your sales funnel can lead to better targeting of customers to ensure that you are visible to the right people.
A/B testing, data analysis, a well-designed website with easy navigation and search options, clear images and detailed product subscriptions, email lists, PPC advertising, a good reputation and more are all instrumental in texting the right customers to your store and helping you to hit those targets and make the sales.
Finding your Niche
To be really successful, you need to be able to move into a niche in the market that no one else is currently occupying. Easier said than done. It is not enough to just pop up a website doing the same thing thousands of others do. You need something that will attract customers and keep them returning for more.
It could be that you are dedicated to one type of product, e.g. tools to make cleaning your home easier, or it could be supplying a specific kind of product or other businesses or a digital service marketers need and so on. You need to niche down on what you offer so that you can design your website and marketing methods around this to hone your approach and stand out.
Ecommerce still needs the same attention to customer service as in-person shopping does. Neglecting this can backfire and leave customers abandoning you for someone who offers the same but just does it better. These days, people don't just expect a high level of customer service. They demand it, so you need to be offering this as standard.
But what does good customer service look like for ecommerce stores? It provides customers with all the details they need to purchase in a clear format without having to jump through hoops. It is a well-designed website that offers high functionality and is easy to navigate. Ecommerce sites also need a way for customers to get in touch, be it having a live person answering queries or a chatbot for website that can be programmed to respond to commonly asked questions, or having a telephone number or email address easy to find so they can get in touch.
Excellent customer service also means you need to have a smooth and simplified checkout process, that orders are shipped in a timely fashion and that the product or service they purchased is of high quality and does exactly what they want it to do.
It can be a good idea to be the customer yourself. What do you expect from online retailers? What makes you happy, and what do you classify as good customer service? Apply this to your ecommerce store to improve your customer service.
Suppose you're hitting the customer service standards expected by consumers. In that case, you need to capitalise on this to turn new customers into loyal ones and ensure they return repeatedly. As a base, you need to put your excellent customer service standards into practice.
From here, you can then expand your offerings to meet customer demand. Are your customers purchasing other products or services to complement yours? Are they looking for something you don't offer on your website, or have they asked if you can stock or supply x.y.z?
By looking at what the customer needs and wants, you can improve your customer loyalty by giving them this.
Other options include;
- Offering discounts for repeat purchases
- Subscription services
- Bulk payment discounts
- Loyalty schemes
- Keeping in touch via newsletter and strategically sending emails for new launches, promotions, and special membership shopping events
- Free delivery over a particular spend or for loyal customers
Cart abandonment can be a challenging problem to overcome for small ecommerce sites. The reality is people like to window shop online just as much as in shops, and this results in abandoned carts. There is no taking away the impulsiveness of shoppers, but being able to turn an abandoned cart into a sale can be done.
You can have functions such as allowing the customers to save items to a wishlist for a later date, making an account so the products stay in their basket for their next visit to entice them to make the sale; you can send abandoned cart emails to remind them and include a discount or even free shipping if you are able to. All of these options will keep your store and their carts in their minds and provide an added incentive to finally check out.
Powerhouses of the ecommerce world, like Amazon, have mastered the art of same and next-day shipping. This isn't always possible for many smaller enterprises, especially at the prices set by some retailers. Free next-day shipping can come at an added cost to you and eat into profits, so how can you compete with the speed of logistics and get the customer the item they want in a reasonable time period?
Far from worrying about what others offer, you should assess your options to give the customer the best logistics options. Typically, you will find that many people respond to free shipping offers, and even if this is slower, they're willing to wait so they don't have to pay higher shipping costs, especially for international customers. However, you can introduce different shopping methods based on your location and the country you are delivering to. For orders within your country, you can offer various shipping methods at additional costs and allow customers to pick what they prefer. For local orders, you can provide curbside pickup, delivery or collection from your location if you wish; i.e. you have a local warehouse storing your products.
Talk to your local logistics operators to find out what they offer you and the best delivery options for your needs. This will give you a better idea of what to expect, if you can expect a high number of damages en route or delays and what the process will be like for you, e.g. how often will they collect, do you need to get your orders to a collection point and so on. The more you know, the more informed you will be about what happens once the delivery leaves your care.
There are multiple options that can affect an ecommerce store, and for SMBs, the challenges can many. But there are options and things you can do to help you overcome these challenges and threats to your business and make it as successful as possible.