With global eCommerce sales expected to reach a whopping $4.8 trillion by next year, there’s a lot for online stores to gain. But also endless challenges to face, especially for those of us who are a one-man (or woman) operation and are expected to do everything on our own.
As a one-person eCommerce store, you don’t always have the time or the skills to do everything it takes to make your site run smoothly. For instance, you may be an excellent clothing designer who creates an outstanding product, but that by no means implies that you have the skills needed when it comes to developing, marketing, or logistics, let alone have the time it takes to learn and implement it all.
Any kind of one-man operation poses this challenge, but eCommerce stores bring on a whole new set of rules and regulations unlike those we are used to with a usual mom and pop shop.
If you’re reading this, I am sure that this isn’t news to you. But it’s not just bad news – there are tons of resources to help you tackle these challenges and we’re going to address them one by one.
1. Building your online store
Like a brick and mortar, you need to build a solid eCommerce store around your product before you can open it up to the public and start selling. Unlike a brick and mortar, the most important thing about your store is that it is optimized and bug-free. Pesky technical glitches is the #1 customer deterrent and will end up costing you too many sales.
For those of us who aren’t developers or QA engineers, the creation and upkeep of our eCommerce store can seem like an impossible task that is ultimately doomed to fail once we hit the slightest snag. But luckily, due to multiple eCommerce website builders, this is not the case. You no longer have to build your online store from scratch.
While you will still need some development and design, eCommerce platforms are the simplest, fastest and most affordable way for you to build your online store. Among our top choices are Shopify, Squarespace, and BigCommerce.
Website Builder Expert assembled a comprehensive comparison chart along with a personalized quiz do help you find the best platform for you.
It’s important to take a look at the capabilities of each platform to find the one that best suits your store’s goals. Remember that the task isn’t over once your store is built. You will need to continuously grow, optimize and fix aspects of your store as your business moves forward and new challenges arise.
Pro-tip: Promo.com offers a FREE video-making app for Shopify, so if you go with this option make sure to install it so you can make product videos for your store in minutes.
2. Designing effective UX
Good eCommerce web design is essential to your conversion rate. The sad truth is that on average, only 2.42% of store visits actually convert into a purchase. Many of these losses are due to poorly optimized product pages that simply lack easily implementable components.
Ideating a design strategy for your store right might seem like a complicated task, but the truth is just the opposite. Research has actually shown that the simplest design is actually the best for your user experience. It appeals to the consumer’s expectations, loads quicker, and gets rid of distractions as visitors are guided through your funnel.
Even Google abides by these rules of simplicity.
All of the website building platforms mentioned above offer theme designs which makes this task much easier for the non-web designers among us. Again, we encourage going with the simplest themes. However, it’s important that even after you design your website, you stay up to date on the latest UX trends and A/B test to make sure that your site is fully optimized for conversions at all times.
3. Driving traffic to your store
Okay, you’ve got your store built, designed and ready to greet all of those visitors. But wait… what visitors? Even the most beautifully optimized online stores won’t start procuring traffic out of thin air. In today’s oversaturated market, this is proven to be quite a challenge.
However, there are tons of ways that even non-professional marketers can yield the power of digital marketing to bring relevant traffic to their site. Among the most effective of these options are Facebook and Google ads. This might require a little self-education but there are a ton of resources out there and in the end, it will all be worth it. Working on your SEO efforts can also go a long way, but keep in mind that it might take a while before you start seeing significant results from this.
Once you have some existing leads and lists of potential/existing customers, you can start with unpaid outreach such as email marketing, opening a referral program, and social engagement.
4. Optimizing your checkout process
We know what you’re thinking – Everything you do is to optimize for conversion. This is true but many times there are easily implementable assets that have the potential to significantly increase your bottom line without too much work.
If your store checkout process is too long and messy, you’re bound to lose potential customers at that crucial moment right before purchase. This is a struggle that too many online stores face and few know how to address it. While most platforms offer a standard industry checkout, it is important to continuously A/B test and optimize personalization strategies in order to hit that sweet spot for your specific customer base.
This is where using BigCommerce has an advantage.
They allow you (or your developer) to customize every pixel so that you can tweak until you get it exactly right.
Other platforms offer versions of this as well, but if you don’t have any development resources, starting with built-in one-page checkouts can usually be tweaked and tested too.
5. Struggling with shipping prices
The price of shipping is one of the biggest challenges of eCommerce stores. With so many eCommerce giants offering free shipping, this factor particularly impacts small businesses who just can’t compete.
Larger companies can allow themselves this luxury because they have multiple warehouses spread throughout larger areas, which ultimately decreases the cost of distribution and delivers the order in a mere day or two. So, with every online shopper expecting free and fast shipping – how can we compete?
This is a hard problem to solve, but there are a few pieces of advice we can give you. First off, differentiate your products so customers won’t compare competing products that might be cheaper or offer free shipping. Another tip we can offer is to try to streamline your delivery process, possibly using a fulfillment center to lower overall costs. You can also offer various shipping options such as standard and express so customers feel they are getting value for their dollar.
And last but definitely not least, make sure to specify your shipping rates! Don’t surprise your customers at checkout. Too often they feel fooled or frustrated and ultimately abandon their cart.
6. Avoiding abandoned carts
That brings us to our next point – how do we combat abandoned carts? This is not only a universal challenge for eCommerce stores everywhere, but it is also the most soul-crushing. Cart abandonment means that you were able to get a consumer all the way through the marathon that is your marketing funnel and tripped just as you reached the finish line.
In order to know how to combat this, it’s imperative that we understand what causes it. Let’s go over the most common causes and their solutions:
- Poor UX – Make sure that your checkout process (as mentioned above) is fast, easy, and gives the consumer no reason to give up along the way.
- Sticker shock – Make sure that your pricing is crystal clear before the consumer gets to the checkout. Shipping costs (also mentioned above) also contribute to sticker shock and it is crucial that you are upfront about that as well.
- Security Issues – While most website building platforms come with industry-standard security features and data protection, it’s important that you’re entire store and checkout, in particular, fosters a sense of trust. professional visuals, attractive design, and available customer support can go a long way to boost their confidence.
- Just browsing – We’re all familiar with this practice. Sometimes you want to see a product and save it, but you’re just not ready to make a purchase. This is where remarketing comes in: Keep track of your visitors and the items they selected, then remind them to come back (and even offer a discount) on different advertising platforms, such as pop-ups, Facebook ads, and email marketing.
7. Dealing with product returns
This the thorn in the side of every single eCommerce store on the planet. For many online retailers without a physical brick and mortar, the only way to accept returns is to ask the customer to mail back the item. Most of you are probably shuddering at the mere thought of dealing with this.
However, it is absolutely crucial for your business to get the process of returns right because they play a fundamental role in your purchasing funnel. 66% of shoppers look at a retailer’s return policy before purchasing and often leave if they’re not satisfied with it. We can never make this an enjoyable interaction because, in all honesty, it extremely annoying. But we can make it as comfortable as possible for both you and your customer.
How? First of all, present your return policy accurately and prominently. Shippo shows three good return policy examples from real stores. Second, include a return label in the original shipping box to streamline the return process. Many carriers offer the option to create scan-based return labels, which means you won’t be charged for the postage fee until it’s scanned in.
8. Managing data security
Hopefully, you’ve never learned this the hard way, but data breaches can be a real nightmare. They can not only infect your website with viruses, but they can also expose confidential customer data, including phone numbers and even credit card details.
The first step of dealing with this is by being constantly alert and aware that this is a real issue. It’s also important to have an immediate response plan if the worst-case scenario ever arises. Second, most website builders include standard security features and it’s an important factor to take into account once you decide you’re in the market for a platform. Beyond that, there are plenty of customizable apps that not only secure your site as best as possible but provide you with a trust badge that will contribute to your visitors’ sense of security.
You obviously don’t need them all. Identify your blind spots and choose the services that address them.
9. Maintaining customer loyalty
Someone purchased your product – congrats! Now it’s time for the next challenge. How do you turn a one-time customer into a returning customer? No matter what trade you’re in, there is no more coveted commodity. It can cost up to 5 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.
So how do we make this happen? Well, other than having a killer product, which we hope you all have, the answer is simple: Top-notch customer service. The more pleasant the process was for your customers, the more likely they are to return. Create a positive experience and you’ll be at the top of their list when they consider buying that item again.
If you have multiple products, you can also retarget customers with complimentary items and special loyalty sales.
10. Competing with giants
Competing with eCommerce giants, like Amazon, can seem like an impossible feat. Major retailers can reduce their costs by buying in bulk and spreading out their inventory, gaining more customers by investing in wide-spread marketing.
How you level the playing field is by using your disadvantages to your advantage. Smaller businesses need to use their size to be unique. You should consider yourself a boutique business rather than a small business. It’s imperative that you have a unique selling proposition so that no matter what you sell, you brand it in a way that makes consumers feel there is an added value from buying it from you. Offer a personal touch that no big brand can.
Social media has also done a great job of leveling the field. It allows you to reach more people and create a growing community.
But why do it all on your own?
While some challenges are definitely more manageable than others, there are just some things that one person can’t (and shouldn’t) do all on their own. But that doesn’t mean that one-man stores can’t thrive, it just means that they need to know how to find the right resources.
As the world of eCommerce evolves, so do the solutions to the many challenges that arise. There’s a fairly easy solution for those tasks that you just don’t have the skills or time to do: Outsourcing.
These vet freelancers to make sure that you have the expert you need for any given job. It’s more affordable than hiring employees but offers you the 24/7 availability of having in-house experts. No matter what tasks you need done, development, design, marketing and more, they have someone will do it for you and do it well.
It also doesn’t matter what website builder you ultimately chose. Storetasker offers expert freelancers specifically for Shopify, while Lorem has experts for other website builders such as WordPress, Squarespace, Wix and more.
Storetasker was inspired by firsthand experience. One of the co-founder’s parents owned a boutique online store that sold fine jewelry.
Sam Wilcoxon, one of Storetasker’s and Lorem’s co-founders told us “On top of the 100+ other things they needed to worry about, they were always stressed out about their website. Who would be there if it went down or got hacked, who could help them increase conversion rates or run a holiday promotion, how should they set up their abandoned cart emails, etc? What they needed was a small team of talented developers, designers, and marketers they could trust. They couldn’t hire all these people on salary, so it had to be contractors.”
They decided to build a product to solve those very needs. Since then, they’ve helped over 20k eCommerce business owners build their stores and sell more online.
Here’s how it works: Once you submit a project, they automatically connect you within minutes to one of their experts who has the right skills for the job. They give you a price quote and can start working right away. They hold the money in escrow during the project and wait to pay out the expert until the end after you’ve approved their work.
You’ve got this
Yes, there are a lot of challenges to overcome, but you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if you couldn’t handle a challenge. One of the most exciting parts of building your own business venture is solving tough problems and growing your knowledge as you do. Each of these problems could break a lesser store owner, but as long as you face challenges head-on, they can take your business to a whole new level and move you toward your ultimate eCommerce goals.