The COVID-19 pandemic put e-commerce at the forefront of business continuity and sustainability. The digital economy boomed thanks to the changes in consumer buying behaviour. This disruption gave small businesses two options: step out or step up and embrace digital technologies to give shoppers a more convenient customer experience.
In walks Sendy Fulfillment, born to help take the burden of order fulfillment from small businesses. We have spoken to more than 2000 businesses since the pandemic started and it’s clear that e-commerce businesses have a different set of rules to brick-and-mortar stores. Visibility, order fulfillment and customer experience have emerged as critical factors to the functioning and longevity of small businesses.
Today, we’ll not only look at the challenges facing small e-commerce businesses in Kenya but we’ll also tell you how to overcome these hurdles.
In the e-commerce space, competition comes in many different forms. The space is saturated and you’ve got to keep up with competitive prices, services and products if you want to stand out. Take the clothing niche for instance. In Nairobi alone, the stores on Instagram are a dime a dozen. Yet there are small business owners playing on the same field with the big boys in the industry.
What makes them different? For small businesses, having a value proposition that customers can’t get anywhere else can help you beat price competition. Standing out is a key factor to keeping your current customer base and attracting new customers to your online store. You can achieve this by providing unique products, focusing on a smaller demographic so it’s easier to increase your authority in your niche.
Be flexible and open to adopting agile business approaches as you keep an eye open on your competitors and market leaders. This will help you grow and succeed in the midst of fierce competition.
How do you intend to convert visitors into customers if they can’t see you in the first place? Visibility is one of the greatest challenges small businesses face that can make or break their brand. Designing and running an e-commerce business is not a walk in the park and getting quality traffic is harder.
Every industry and niche is different hence the need to understand your audience so as to create content that resonates with them. Currently, social media and the internet are too noisy and crowded for you to think customers will ‘stumble’ on your content as long as it’s online. Businesses have to intentionally engage and grab the attention of their customers if they want traction.
For a clothing business, Instagram works very well, add influencer marketing and you’ll be popping champagne. On the other hand, a service-based business that solves a problem needs to work hard on SEO keywords related to their problem/solution to get traction.
Understanding who you’re targeting is the key to knowing the marketing channel to use to get to your audience. It’s also the key to increasing visibility, getting quality traffic and ultimately increasing your sales.
Figuring out how to give online shoppers the same customer experience they would have in a brick and mortar store has proved to be a challenge for most e-commerce business owners. Customers expect to be treated better and have a more convenient shopping experience online.
With most products and services going online, customers are more knowledgeable about prices, the products and the competition. If they’re frustrated by anything during the buying process, they can easily jump ship and buy it elsewhere. As if this isn’t bad enough, customers are now empowered to leave reviews of their customer experience online. There is no quicker way to a downward spiral in profits than negative reviews.
From the time a customer comes into contact with your brand, throughout the buying process and delivery, they expect to have a seamless experience. Keep in mind that the best marketing that money can’t buy is word-of-mouth from a happy customer who does the promotion for you.
As a small business owner, you don’t have to carry every aspect of your business on your shoulders. Order fulfillment is crucial to the customer experience. As customers, when we want something, we want it now. But as a seller, fulfilling these orders is easier said than done. Fulfillment directly impacts your bottom line. According to research, 61% of consumers don’t buy if shipping fees are too high and 38% will never shop at a store again if they had a poor delivery experience.
To increase efficiency, small businesses should outsource order fulfillment to third party companies whenever possible. It takes a lot of time to pack, label, ship and even handle returns. There are more strategic projects that relate to growing your business and you don’t need to drop the ball managing your distribution infrastructure.
Companies like Sendy Fulfillment will handle order fulfillment for you. Customer satisfaction should come first and ensuring seamless delivery of products is at the core.
It’s unfortunate that online space has been used to scam customers. Consumers are more cautious when making online purchases. It’s said once bitten twice shy so small businesses just entering the market might find it hard to gain customer’s trust without social proof. Customers want to read other customers reviews and comments before making a purchase. Most consumers ask their peers for suggestions on the pages to buy products from on social media making e-commerce a social commerce environment.
To gain the trust of customers, request the clients who loved your product and service to give positive online reviews on your page. Electronic word of mouth will help you build online trust. You should also ensure whatever you post matches the customer expectations. Aligning customer expectations with the products reduce uncertainties. Videos might be a good way to do this for products like electronics.
If your business is facing any of these challenges, know that you’re not alone. Many small businesses have gone before you and overcome these challenges. In addition, there are businesses that have really grown and scaled after transitioning to the e-commerce space. Look at Emirates shoe collection, Malika Kenya, Handbags by Wes, Kisasa home, and so many others. And you can do it too.
We’ll be posting more content on how to run your online business like a boss. So be on the lookout!