The business case for building an easy-to-use e-commerce system
You’re on the couch on a Saturday night, scrolling your news feed. Oh, look. A Facebook ad for jeans you didn’t even know you wanted. You click. You click maybe a couple more times, hit “buy now,” and the package lands on your doorstep Sunday morning.
Shopping in the 2020s literally couldn’t be easier.
E-commerce systems have become so fast and smart in the last few years. It seems we barely have to think about our next purchase, and there it is, in a matter of hours or days. It’s tempting to dismiss the fact that such simplicity requires complex thought and planning.
Ease is not easy. But it’s absolutely critical that you do the work—not just for your customers, but for your distributors and internal teams, too—to create no-brainer e-commerce systems. In this final deep dive into our e-commerce benchmarks, we look at best practices behind simple technology.
Make it easy for the customer.
If a customer has to work too hard to buy from you or resolve questions and problems with you, you will lose their business. Direct selling products may be premium, but there are still generally many viable alternatives to what you’re offering. Someone else is always standing by to grab your customer’s attention and their loyalty. These three strategies will help you tune into your shoppers and keep them coming back.
Take personalized shopping to a deeper level.
Effective personalization is more than greeting a customer by name on your website and in emails. And it’s more than having a general profile of their demographic. With a truly tailored e-commerce system, you let shoppers know that you “get” them and their preferences.
Global consulting firm McKinsey & Company advises online retailers to give customers offers that are “targeted not just at customers like them, with brands targeting at the segment level with broad-based offers, but at them as individuals, with products, offers and communications that are uniquely relevant to them.” The bottom line benefits are significant: Companies with strong personalization programs have a 10 to 15 percent higher browser-to-buyer conversion rate and a 20 percent higher customer satisfaction rate, McKinsey research shows. Harvard Business Review reports that if you can increase your customer satisfaction rate by just 5 percent, you could see a profit increase between 25 and 95 percent.
Assume shoppers will get distracted.
Your customers’ attention is in demand, and even those who intend to purchase may leave your site before they click “complete order.” There are some simple tools you can use to bring them back to your virtual aisles and move them through the checkout line.
Take a cue from the “keep watching” feature on streaming services that bring people back to where they were when they logged off or timed out. If they don’t have to retrace their steps to get to the products they were considering, they will appreciate the convenience and be more likely to finish the transaction. There’s also the “You still have a full cart” email that can help you lower your percentage of abandoned carts.
Build trust through empowerment and accessibility.
As our industry focuses more and more on customer acquisition, preferred buyers who sign up for auto-ship are critical for our bottom lines. But subscription programs should never make a customer feel trapped. They should be easy to manage, allowing people to skip a shipment or cancel at any time, in just a few clicks.
Your customer service can also reinforce your customers’ trust or erode it. Chatbots are becoming increasingly effective at handling a certain level of inquiry, but the statistics on what percentage of customers prefer them are all over the place. Today’s consumers don’t have a lot of patience. Sometimes, talking to a real company representative is the only way to get a timely, thorough resolution to an issue. Pay attention to how your customers want to communicate with you, and give them the right mix of tech-based and people-based options.
Make it easy for the distributor.
You know this, but it bears repeating: Most of your distributors don’t have professional sales backgrounds and probably have only basic technology skills.
In his book “Systems Scale: Eight Simple Systems that Ignite Growth,” Brett Blake writes, “Too many direct selling companies focus on great products, excellent compensation systems, and eye-popping marketing and neglect the difficult work of making their customer acquisition system something that is simple enough to ensure the success of [average] distributors.”
Your e-commerce tools (the mobile app, back office, etc.) need to be intuitive so that your team members can learn to use them with little or no curve and move quickly from sign-up to sales. This means you probably need to do more internal testing than you’re doing—and with the right groups of people. Often, we rely on the experiences and talents of top distributors as our benchmarks, but they are such a small percentage of our people. So instead, build and test your systems using a sample of novice distributors.
Make it easy for your internal team.
Your IT, sales and marketing teams will thank you for creating an e-commerce system that allows them to help you get the most out of the technology.
Seamless integration is the key to making this happen—in our July issue, we told you how important it is that your e-commerce applications talk to each other. Collecting customer data through your mobile app, for example, doesn’t do you any good if your system for analyzing data can’t process what you’re gathering.
But the best e-commerce system in the world won’t give you a meaningful return on your investment if you don’t have the right team. They have to be sophisticated enough to deploy and manage the system and to understand what the data are telling them. This is crucial to know whether your technology and your e-commerce strategies are working. You can assume you’re making more baskets than the competition, but if you don’t know the actual score, you’re merely guessing on a macro level. And that’s not a good spot to be in.
Time to be standard-bearers.
Direct selling companies haven’t traditionally led the technology pack. We tend to be later adopters of internal and customer-facing systems. But expectations for how seamless and foolproof technology, especially e-commerce technology, should be now are higher than ever.
We don’t have to wait for our traditional retail counterparts and online giants like Amazon and Etsy to keep setting the next bar. We have the resources and the platforms to be the example of e-commerce excellence and innovation that others look to. With the right mindset, strategy, and discipline, it’s easy.
From the August 2021 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.