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Failing or Sailing: How’s Your E-Commerce Site Performing?

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Failing or Sailing: How’s Your E-Commerce Site Performing?

More and more distributors are jumping into e-commerce. Unfortunately, many (if not most) of them are experiencing a significant lack of success, which comes with a bit of disappointment in the accompanying negative ROI. You’ve taken the steps recommended by the experts, so why aren’t your customers buying from your website?

Build It and They Will Come – Not True!

Here’s the thing. Getting customers to use your e-commerce site requires them to change some very deeply-ingrained habits. Telling them they’ll save money and time just isn’t enough when it’s more comfortable to order the way they’ve become accustomed to. Motivational speakers are paid millions to teach people to change, which speaks directly to the level of difficulty tied to what you’re trying to accomplish.

Certainly, when your customers experience smooth, easy, successful transactions on your site, they’ll want to use it. However, that’s often not what they’re experiencing, primarily due to problems on your site that have either been overlooked or that you plan to fix down the road. Overlooking these issues will almost always result in an unpleasant experience that leaves a lasting negative impression on your users.

All Is Not Lost if You Eliminate These Problems

Take a good critical look at your website and know that everything on it should be looked at as a possible barrier to entry. The slightest bit of uncomfortableness or inconvenience, be it the number of clicks a purchase requires, the ease of finding products, the lack of information provided, the number of products available, and especially the look and feel of the site itself, all contribute to whether someone is or is not willing to change from their long-existing method of ordering.

With that, here are seven reasons we see distributors’ e-commerce sites fail along with accompanying suggestions about how to improve each situation. Rest assured, these suggestions will work, so be sure to approach these fixes with a sense of urgency before someone bigger or faster takes your market away.

  1. Customers cannot complete their entire purchase on your website.

Don’t make the mistake of having only your big-ticket items available on your site. Along the same lines, when an order requires special instructions, there must be an opportunity to communicate those instructions at the time of purchase. A customer’s first experience on your site will not be a good one if, despite their best efforts, their order requires a phone call to complete it.

Takeaway: Do not send your customers to your website prematurely. All of your items should be included on the site, and space for special instructions must be provided.

  1. Your website doesn’t function well.

Building a website requires an investment not only in its construction, but also in testing and troubleshooting. Run speed tests and check that every link is working correctly. The size of your images and fonts should adjust and display properly on each of the most commonly-used screen sizes. Take time to examine the site on a desktop computer, on a laptop, on a tablet, and on your smartphone. Also, view the site using the most popular browsers ensuring it loads properly and responds well right out of the gate.

Takeaway: Don’t send customers to your website until it is error free, intuitive, easy to use, and responds properly on all commonly-used devices. You only get one opportunity to make a first impression, so make it a good one!

  1. Customers come to your website, find your products, but leave without making a purchase.

Online shoppers are conditioned to conduct fairly extensive research before making a purchase. If a customer isn’t satisfied with the information given, they may turn elsewhere. Be sure to include more than just the information and image(s) from your manufacturers. Videos, FAQs, and rating systems all add to a buyer’s experience and will move them toward their decision to purchase while they’re still on your site.

Takeaway: Be sure to provide enough information for a buyer to make an informed purchase without having to leave your site. Once a visitor leaves your site, more often than not, they do not return.

  1. Customers cannot find what they want. Your search function is not giving them relevant results.

Similar to increasing the speed of your website, it’s also important to increase its intelligence. Your site’s search function should be able to connect misspelled search terms with actual products, sort results logically, recognize attributes and their synonyms, and provide relevant results only. Today’s technology makes this easy to accomplish.

Takeaway: Be sure you’re using and keeping up with the best tools available to bolster your site’s internal search capabilities. If a buyer cannot find the product they’re looking for on your site, they’ll find a site that better serves them.

  1. You’re not offering sufficient delivery options and/or payment methods.

Spending 30 minutes loading up a shopping cart only to discover at check-out that there are limited payment methods or delivery options available can be incredibly frustrating. Make it easy to complete the sale. Offer a wide selection of payment methods and delivery options, including customer pick-up. Also include the ability to ship to multiple addresses. As an added bonus, if your site can securely store payment information and ship-to addresses, it will make for faster, easier ordering in the future.

Takeaway: People want options! Multiple payment and shipping methods, quick storing of reusable information and, if possible, a pick-up option should all be available to help facilitate a quick and easy purchase.

  1. Customers cannot see real-time inventory.

Like the previous tip, getting to check-out after spending time loading up your cart only to find that your product(s) won’t be delivered for another 3 weeks is frustrating. Be sure your product management software is “talking” to your e-commerce system so that real-time branch inventory stays updated and is displayed correctly. Your customers will thank you for it.

Takeaway: Integrate your e-commerce system with your ERP system to display up-to-date inventory information. Even better, show product availability at each branch.

  1. Your salespeople are either discouraging or not encouraging your customers to use your e-commerce site.

According to a recent study by MDM, the primary reason a salesperson may impede a successful e-commerce launch is not because they feel the site is a threat. Rather, they don’t have the technical knowledge to use the site correctly, which discourages them from promoting the site’s usage. Know this: If your salespeople are struggling with how to use your site, so are your customers.

Takeaway: Provide your salesforce with technical training that gets them comfortable using your website. From there they can train your customers, and they will better support the customers’ use of the site.

People will almost always take the least painful, most comfortable path toward completing a task. To affect change upon an activity that has been executed comfortably for years, you’ve got to remove every reason for resistance along with every obstacle. Once using your e-commerce site is painless, easy and enjoyable for your customers, you’ll see your site’s usage increase, and realize a positive return on your investment.

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Susan Merlo  is a strategic marketing consultant, speaker, and trainer who specializes in digital marketing for the distribution industry. To learn more about her visit www.SusanMerlo.com or email her directly at Susan@SusanMerlo.com.

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