When you own or help run a company that sells products or services online, you’ll need to do a lot to help it grow. Marketing, customer service, and even speedy load times are all important.
With ecommerce businesses on track to generate over $490 billion in U.S. sales by 2018, now is a good time to establish a foothold in the arena. However, if you really want to grow your ecommerce business over the coming years, you must stay up-to-date on trends and statistics that will impact the industry. Here are some key online numbers that will help you plan.
Don’t surprise customers with shipping fees.
According to the 2014 eCommerce Survey conducted by Visual Website Optimizer (VWO), 28 percent of shoppers will abandon their shopping cart if they are presented with unexpected shipping costs at checkout. If shipping costs were clearly specified, cart abandonment didn’t occur as much. Other top issues included confusing store navigation and security concerns.
The lesson here is to be upfront and explicit about your company’s shipping fees. It’s OK to charge for shipping, but you have to make it clear that you do before shoppers get very far down the sales funnel.
If you have a flat-rate charge, for instance, list it directly on your home page or each product page. Alternatively, if you calculate shipping for each individual order, then consider making a note about that fact in the shopping cart — at the very first stage of the process, not the last. A clear and concise way to do this is to incorporate a “calculate shipping” feature directly within the cart that people can use early on in the checkout process to determine the additional cost.
Don’t insist customers create an account.
The same VWO survey also identified another common cause of cart abandonment: having to create a new user account. In fact, 23 percent of consumers said they would abandon their shopping cart if they’re forced to become a member and must spend time inputting a bunch of additional personal information apart from their address and contact details.
It’s important to remember that many shoppers don’t want to spend more time than necessary completing their purchase, and are simply focused on getting their items, not on joining a club. To many buyers, being suddenly forced to become a member when they’re checking out creates hassles and leaves a bad impression.
To avoid losing almost a quarter of your potential customers because of membership signups, make sure that you have a guest checkout option in your website’s checkout design. It’s still fine to have a member checkout as an option for those people who are keen to sign up, but don’t force the decision on shoppers.
Don’t underestimate the influence of online reviews.
The VWO survey found that a whopping 55 percent of shoppers said online reviews influence their purchase decisions. Indeed, seeing top reviews from satisfied previous customers makes other shoppers much more likely to get out their wallet for a product or service.
Online reviews are so powerful because customers know that they are typically genuine, not curated and hand-picked by a company. Think about how influential the reviews on Amazon can be for book sales, for instance.
To help your conversion rate soar, it pays to encourage shoppers to write reviews. I’ve seen companies offer a free additional product if the customer logs a review on Amazon. You should also consider asking customers to upload their thoughts about your product or customer service directly on your site or on third-party spots, such as social media pages.
Ultimately, it takes clarity, communication, and respect for the customer’s time if you want to build a foundation for a successful e-commerce business.
This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com.