Tips for Taking Advantage of the E-Commerce Boom

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to some of the highest e-commerce sales that some companies have ever seen. Though revenue growth is beginning to stabilize, there has never been a better time to make sure that your e-commerce experience is up to snuff, said Tony Cox, president of 5th Food Group, during a recent SFA Ask the Experts webinar. He offered tips on how to take advantage of the boom and increase success in selling direct-to-consumer.

Assessing Your Web Site

Get honest and specific feedback from five or six people who have never seen or shopped your site, recommended Cox, by asking them if the website is visually appealing, if it’s easy to navigate, if the food products look appetizing. Brands should make sure it’s clear what they are selling and how they’re different from competitors. “These things need to be very clear within a couple of seconds,or people will not stick around to buy your product,” said Cox.

He suggested some simple and low-to-no-cost site improvements to help boost sales, inlcuding displaying the best-selling and core products prominently on the home page. “Don’t make a visitor guess what you are selling,” said Cox. In addition, brands should make sure that site navigation helps visitors find what they are looking for and have subcategories that customers can explore such as gifts under $50 or gifts by occasion.

Though you don’t have to offer free shipping to be competitive, it can be helpful to have a category of items that you offer free shipping on, said Cox. These items should be inexpensive to ship and have a bigger margin so you can eat the shipping cost and still make a profit, he said. If you are charging for shipping, make sure that information is easy to find. 

Websites should also be mobile-compatible, especially since most traffic originates on a mobile device. Adding one-click checkout options like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Amazon Pay will also help streamline the experience for customers on their mobile devices.

Prioritize Connecting with Customers

Many companies already send triggered emails when a customer abandons their cart without purchasing, but there are other types of triggered emails that help to build a dialogue with the customer, according to Cox. Emails can be sent for order confirmations, shipping confirmations, delivery confirmations (which are especially helpful with gift orders), requesting a review, or thanking a customer for a review. 

Direct mail is also a great way to establish a dialogue and has been found to increase reorder rates, lifetime value, and revenue per customer, according to Cox. Postcard reminders can be especially profitable when sent to those who have visited the site but have not bought an item yet, said Cox.

Have a Plan, But Be Flexible

“As optimistic as we are about the holiday season from an e-commerce sales perspective, it’s critical to have some type of contingency plan,” said Cox. Though things are starting to reopen and business is resuming, things may be different come the holiday season. Make sure you have a plan if work restrictions and social distancing requirements are tightened again, he said.

Cox believes that being flexible will help ensure success for companies. For instance, instead of selling a specific product by itself, it could be helpful to package it as part of a gift set or sampler. That way, if there are any issues with inventory, the item can be swapped for another easily. Zingerman’s, which has three or four different packaging options that can be filled with the retailer’s products, does this successfully, said Cox. “They can create 150 different gifts by mixing and matching the products they have,” he said.

Watch the full recording now.

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