The shift towards ecommerce had been growing steadily, but in the last two years, online shopping has boomed. Today, 40% of consumers say they buy everything online, and 43% of consumers don’t plan on going back to their old ways of purchasing products in brick-and-mortar stores.
That’s good news for ecommerce brands like yours – but only if you can get customers to resist the pull of giants like Amazon and Walmart in favor of smaller independent shops.
These companies have leveled up customer expectations when it comes to customer service, delivery time, and shipping.
In fact, 66% of customers expect free shipping on every purchase they make. They also want their orders fast: 91% say they expect to receive their orders in less than a week, while 9% expect their orders on the same day.
As a smaller brand, how can you meet customer expectations and win customers over from larger brands?
Here are a few strategies to put in place.
Use an online ecommerce platform
Rather than trying to build your own ecommerce backend, integrate your shop with a pre-existing platform like Shopify.
By listing your products on Shopify, you’ll be able to easily set up and display your products in a mobile-optimized online shopfront with integrated payment processing. That gives customers the same seamless experience they’d have shopping on Amazon or another retail giant, without spending thousands of dollars in ongoing development costs.
Shopify uses a subscription model, so you’ll have on-tap access to customer support and resources to help you build your store as you go, paying monthly for their cloud-based services.
Take advantage of add-on apps
You’ll be able to customize your Shopify store with more than 100 different apps that have been created by Shopify or third-party developers; helping you with store design, marketing, management, customer service, shipping and delivery, order fulfillment, and other categories.
In order to remain competitive with big players, you’ll want to use a 3PL, which can help you spread your inventory across numerous warehouse locations so that it can be quickly shipped to customers throughout the country. Some 3PLs even offer same-day order fulfillment, if that makes sense for your business.
The Shopify platform and its partner apps makes it easy to research a range of fulfillment services to identify the one that has the best pricing and services for your business.
Expand your visibility
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
You can sync your shopfront to Amazon, Walmart, and other retailers, so that your products can be found by their huge customer bases. Make sure that you include high-quality product photos and relevant SEO keywords, so that customers will be able to find your products easily. We also recommend to evaluate competitors in your product category to ensure that you have a good pricing strategy for your products.
If you use Shopify, you’ll be able to sync your real-time inventory to Amazon, and integrate data between the two platforms.
Optimize your customer support
You’ll also need to make sure that your customer support channels are optimized for quick problem resolution.
Customers don’t want to wait a day for a response: 49% of customers say they’d like to hear back from you within less than a minute while using chat support. Customers using email are willing to wait a little longer, with 48% saying they’d wait up to 6 hours, and 94% saying they expect a response within 24 hours max.
In order to deliver on customer expectations, put steps in place to ensure that customers can easily find the answers to common questions, using a chatbot for support. Your chatbot can guide them to frequently asked questions on your website, or enable customers to use search queries to get snippets of information. They can use these tools to look up order status if needed, reserving your live support agents for customer tickets that need more personalized support.
This can help you deliver high-quality customer support for the customers who do require personalized attention, making it easy to provide a strong customer experience.
Offer same-day delivery
Most customers have come to expect fast and free shipping, so the best way to compete with larger brands is to follow their lead. At least 51% of retailers now offer same-day delivery on at least some of their items.
Same-day delivery is a great goal to shoot for, if it makes sense for your business financially. Same-day delivery is more expensive, so consider whether you should offer it in your default free delivery or tack on an extra fee for customers who need their orders faster.
Whether you offer same-day delivery as an option, it’s important to ensure you’re accurately communicating estimated delivery dates. If an order doesn’t arrive within two days of its originally scheduled date, 69% of customers say they were much less likely to buy from that company in the future. Make sure that you’re working with a reliable logistics partner, and ensure that you update your customers immediately if there’s a change in schedule.
Simplify the returns process
Customer purchases don’t always work out, for whatever reason, and that’s okay. In order to ensure a great customer experience that keeps customers coming back for more, it’s important to make the returns process as painless as possible.
To compete with larger retailers like Amazon, you should offer free return shipping. And don’t make it a complicated process for customers to request a return; they should be able to use a self-service platform that enables them to set up their own return.
By integrating your Shopify store with Loop Returns, you’ll be able to set up automated, streamlined workflows to process your returns seamlessly. With Loop, customers are able to access a portal where they can choose the reason they’re returning an item (too big, too small, wrong style, etc.).
The platform will then automatically go through your inventory to offer recommendations for a product exchange, based on the reason for return. This process makes it quick and easy for the customer to find a product that’s a better match for them – and by incentivizing exchanges, you’ll be able to keep that customer for the long term, helping you increase your brand’s lifetime revenue.
Focus on quality products and customer service
In order to keep winning over customers from retail giants, don’t focus on cutting prices. Instead, you’ll be able to differentiate by supplying high-quality, unique products, and standing behind them with great customer support throughout the entire customer journey, including during the post-purchase experience.
By building a best-in-class reputation that stands behind the quality of your products, you’ll be able to build a loyal following that helps your brand grow organically through word of mouth, year after year.
Want to learn more about how Loop can help you compete with retail giants by integrating a seamless returns process? Get in touch with our team.