Most small businesses fail to fully leverage an online presence to its full potential. Data published in 2016 revealed barely 1 in 4 small businesses used a website to help conduct or drive sales. This is at a time when e-commerce sales are booming and opportunities presented to businesses online are seemingly endless.
Expanding an existing brick-and-mortar business into an e-commerce operation won’t substantially increase overhead, but it can provide a major boon to revenue. But why are so many businesses reluctant to embrace e-commerce platforms?
Brick-and-Mortar Sellers Aren’t Acclimated to E-Commerce
Traditional retailers are used to dealing with customers face-to-face, conducting transactions through direct interaction. For example, you can see and speak to a customer before completing a purchase to verify her identity. In e-commerce, though, you must trust that a customer is who she claims to be and hope your identify verification practices are strong enough.
Some of the top concerns that can keep retailers out of the digital sphere include:
*a lack of reliable verification;
*more complex return processes;
*less insight into the customer experience and sales funnel;
*the possibility of security breaches; and
*challenges of cross-channel interaction.
If you’re considering branching out into e-commerce, special care and attention will be necessary to address each of these points.
#1. Verify Your Customers
Unlike a brick-and-mortar sale, you can’t directly verify the cardholder’s identity in a card-not-present transaction. There are a variety of technologies that can help with this process, though, like CVV verification, address verification and 3-D Secure.
Device authentication allows you to see whether a device was used to complete a previous transaction. This enables you to verify if items are shipped to the same address or involves the same payment information, which can pinpoint suspicious activity. Mobile wallet apps like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay employ two-factor authentication, requiring users to unlock their device, then provide a biometric scan to complete a purchase.
#2. Make Returns As Simple As Possible
No business wants returns, but believe me: A return is far from the worst that can happen. If return processes are too complex, customers might request a chargeback instead. This will cost you the sales profits, merchandise, and cost of shipping and processing the order, plus the additional fees associated with chargebacks. They may even threaten your business’s sustainability.
You want to encourage customers to request returns through proper channels by making your contact information and policies accessible from every page of the site and easy to understand. Be willing to provide round-the-clock service; after all, when you’re dealing with customers from around the world, there is no such thing as “regular business hours.”
Lastly, though you don’t need to hand out refunds to every customer, you should not be too strict about issuing refunds either. Bending the rules to refund a customer is a good way to both prevent a chargeback and build positive feelings toward your brand.
#3. Consistency Across All Channels
Modern e-commerce is an omnichannel experience. Customers tend to hop between devices, and you need to provide a consistent and cohesive experience across all sales channels.
Examine the entire customer experience from beginning to end. If you operate in both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce, for example, allowing customers to make online returns in-store is a great way to reduce friction.
You’ll also need to smooth out the experience across multiple devices. Create a responsive site that is optimized for mobile devices. Allow (but don’t force) customers to create accounts to continue a sale from the desktop to mobile and vise-versa. Remember: Even if individuals don’t complete a transaction the first time visiting your site, providing a smooth customer experience encourages shoppers to keep coming back.
Embrace E-Commerce … With A Plan.
Expanding into e-commerce can be an intimidating concept for small businesses. There are more potential stumbling blocks than you can count, and many risks factors are more pronounced than in brick-and-mortar. By ignoring e-commerce, though, you’re leaving a huge pool of potential global customers on the table.
Don’t be afraid to go digital, but remember: Do it wisely.
Monica Eaton-Cardone is an entrepreneur and business leader with expertise in technology, e-commerce, risk relativity and payment-processing solutions. She is COO of Chargebacks911 and CIO of its parent company Global Risk Technologies.