Most online sellers go through the same set of well-known eCommerce problems around security, shipping, returns, and shifting customer bases. The boom in eCommerce sales and popularity makes your response to these issues ever more crucial because there’s plenty of competition to step up if you fumble. To help, we’ll look at four of the common eCommerce threats you’ll face and some new ways to address them quickly, efficiently, and affordably.
#1 Growth makes you a cyber target
Success comes with many increased eCommerce issues and, unfortunately, one of them is that people will try to take away everything you’ve gained. Growing small and mid-sized businesses need a variety of policies and plans to protect themselves. This starts with small steps like having an IT security consultant and ensuring everyone uses safe passwords. From there, you’ll want a cybersecurity framework to keep customer, payment, and account data safe.
Many services use two-factor authentication (2FA) to add a layer of protection. This requires your staff to have login information for core services plus a second type of ID. That’s often being able to get an email or text message on a separate account or device. Clicking a link or using a code then “verifies” their identity and allows access.
Unfortunately, sometimes a hack starts by gaining access to email addresses, removing the protection 2FA provides — especially if the hacker can simply request a new password. You can improve 2FA protections with physical assets like USB tokens or smart cards that cannot be duplicated easily. These tools mitigate many social engineering risks and keep authentication separate from attacks on your main systems.
#2 Shipping promises become unreliable
ECommerce owners can find hundreds of studies saying that fast and free shipping options are essential to customer satisfaction and long-term growth. No one needs to tell you to make these offers, but it’s become increasingly difficult to make good on those promises over the past couple of years. With uncertainty becoming the new normal, what is a business to do?
The silver lining, in this case, is that many regional carriers have identified the concerns you’re having and are expanding their operations to support businesses like yours. Most shippers within the US now have access to multiple, reliable regional carriers to help support your network. Working with these partners close to your distribution centers helps you prioritize what you send to national carriers, too.
Diversifying your network or working with a third-party logistics partner with multiple regional carriers also helps you avoid common capacity crunches. When you start your Q4 sales and run those big campaigns, having more carriers helps you avoid limiting how many orders you send out daily. In many cases, regional carriers also offer competitive rates and offer discounts starting at lower volumes.
If you want to have fruitful relationships, then you’ll want to find, evaluate, and start using regional carriers soon. They want to be a long-term partner and not just a backup plan. Shifting some volume to them now makes them more likely to give you extra capacity for regional shipments during the year-end holidays.
#3 Returns are a point of frustration
Returns are a tough nut to crack for any eCommerce business. Before COVID-19, the best advice was to have a generous returns policy to help encourage repeat business. Useful returns policies had a positive correlation with people becoming return shoppers. Recent research shows that this trend is still common. However, it also notes that about 44% of American digital shoppers have changed how they buy to avoid having to return things.
That presents a challenge for eCommerce companies that want to keep people engaged but minimize returns — now a potential win-win for you and your customers. How do you go about this in 2021 and beyond?
The best advice we’ve seen working lately is to keep that generous return policy but pair it with a broad set of pre-sales knowledge. Research your customers to learn their values and tie these to returns. Give people a better understanding of your products and how to make the right choice. You may also find ways to market yourself and your service that maintains high engagement while reducing some returns.
Consider brands that have audiences who prioritize being eco-friendly. Discussing the environmental impacts of returns may dissuade some people from using your store’s returns without harming your reputation. It could be a strong justification for not accepting returns on every product — this requires clarity ahead of time and reliable reasoning to not feel like a marketing ploy.
If you’re experiencing shipping delays, you’re likely experiencing delays with returns too. Let customers know that the pandemic is impacting the speed of returns so that a carrier’s delay may delay them getting their refund or replacement (when the return isn’t your fault). Displaying that kind of message on your returns page may slow your return rate somewhat, while still allowing you to benefit from having a robust returns policy.
#4 Target markets are changing dramatically
Most eCommerce businesses start with some audience research to learn about who might be your best customers. Then, you follow this up with research on who is actually buying from you, and refine targets based on the difference. Unfortunately, the past couple of years have taught us that markets and audiences can swing wildly very quickly. That means the people you’re targeting now might not broadcast the same intent signals in six months. Or your best market could be an entirely different group.
Respond by looking deeper at what brought that initial audience to you and asking who else shares those characteristics. What demographic data do other groups or targets share? Do habits point to purchase decisions across your markets? Are you still generating leads on the same platforms even if the shoppers have changed? What problems are your products solving for these groups?
Mapping characteristics of your targets can help you identify similar audiences within other markets. You might reduce stress and now be able to target company HR teams that are trying to help remote workers cope. If your audience is moving from cities to more rural environments, you might still be able to reach them with a shift in messaging. The divide between B2B and B2C shopping habits is shrinking, and you might be able to help a company’s employees achieve goals or solve a problem — allowing you to target the business instead of individuals.
The 2021 difference is that a focus on characteristics and the problems you solve will give you a roadmap to understanding (and eventually predicting) the new opportunities available during major cultural and commercial shifts.
Above all else, prioritize flexibility in your eCommerce operations
The core values in these challenges and responses are flexibility and resiliency. Protect your business from common and unique eCommerce threats by ensuring you have a backup plan. Whether it’s adding a regional carrier or identifying potential new markets even as existing segments grow, being proactive is key. The more flexible you become, the better you’re able to weather whatever comes next.
Note: This blog article was written by a guest contributor for the purpose of offering a wider variety of content for our readers. The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of GlobalSign.