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10 Elements That You Should Incorporate Into Your Ecommerce Website Design

I have a friend who runs a successful e-commerce business. He started off with just two small online stores a few years ago. When I asked him how he managed to climb so high in his trade, he responded saying that he was doing the exact same thing he was supposed to if he had opened a small flower shop near my house.

Now, you must be wondering – what does that have to with a flower shop?

Certainly, that wasn’t a clear answer and I really wanted to know the secret.

Here’s what he revealed.

His secret was that he didn’t bother much focusing on the online status of his business. Instead, he was doing his best to satisfy the clients’ demands and make them come back for more.

Many online companies are so occupied bringing their websites to the top of Google search results that they forget their primary purpose- serving the clients.Click to Tweet

Internet marketing, online advertising, and search engine optimization are essential for any online business. But they always go hand in hand with the friendly user interface, flawless website operation, and a worry-free customer care.

Here is the list of the features you should incorporate into your e-commerce website design, to get loyal clients and make the most of your business.

1) Customer names

Do you know the most pleasant word we marketers like to use? You might think of ‘success’, or ‘trust’, or ‘conversions’, or ‘respect’, or something else. Well, the reality is it’s your name.

Psychologists say people love being addressed by their names. It has a strong correlation with the friendly nature of a person.

Marketers and sales managers understand this very well. Haven’t you ever been approached by a sales manager? The first thing he’d ask would be your name and it’s likely that it’ll be used multiple times in the conversation.

customer name

 

Successful e-commerce websites use it as well. Personalization is the easiest way to make a customer feel special and important.Click to Tweet

If you allow personal account registration or support quick signup, make sure you ask a customer to enter the name. Here are the 3 reasons why you should certainly make one:

1) It’s quick. Compared with uploading pictures or entering other personal details it takes less time.
2) It’s worry-free. For most people, this isn’t considered as sensitive information and they don’t mind sharing it.
3) It’s efficient. You can use the name to personalize your clients’ dashboards and make them feel like home. This is something many e-commerce sites fail to do.

ecommerce website design

The main rule here is not to be obtrusive. Use customer names to greet them when they sign in after they make purchases or in email newsletters. Don’t put it in every second line on your website. We all dislike pushy shop assistants.

2) Popular products

It all starts with the shop window, doesn’t it?

Before we enter a shop, we study what it has to offer. The same thing works for e-commerce websites. Don’t hesitate to add the best products to your main page.

popular products

You may call them popular, featured or bestsellers. They always attract a lot of attention and provide good conversions. These lists are often the most viewed on the e-commerce websites.

Many customers are too busy or sometimes even lazy to spend a lot of time searching for something. Put the best products on your homepage to help them make the right choice before they get frustrated and exit your store.

bestsellers

To get the best results out of your favorites, monitor and update the lists regularly. A good idea is to share seasonal or monthly bestsellers.

3) Product collections

Product collections are the lists dedicated to a certain topic. They may be seasonal: winter or summer top products; festive: Christmas or New Year gifts, new arrivals, products with discounts or anything else that relates to your niche.

The best news is that they rank very well. This means you can climb much higher in the search results. Don’t forget to update and replace your collections from time to time. Customers are looking for something new every time they land on your site.

new arrivals

A good way to make your collections more personal is to create a list of recommended items. Add the items based on what the last customer searches. People tend to buy similar products based on their taste and need.

recommended items

4) Zoom option

If you have product pictures on your website (and it’s highly recommended to add them), make sure you’ve added a zoom option. Imagine you go to a shop to buy shoes. You’ll probably want to take a closer look at them. It’s all the same on the Internet.

People don’t want to buy a pig in a poke. Regardless of what they buy- be it clothes, gadgets or cars, they want to see the details. Simply allow your clients to zoom in and zoom out pictures. Just make sure that the pictures have a good quality and do not get blurred.

zoom

Since it isn’t possible for customers to touch and hold products, you should provide a customer with as much visual information as possible.

5) Shipping and delivery details

If you offer shipping or delivery, make sure you added detailed information to your website. Place a link to this page at the top of the website.

Want a better idea? Here you go.

Add it to the main navigation menu or pin to the page header. This is very important, especially if you have different terms based on the location or on the order.

free shipping

Customers get frustrated when they find out that they can’t get a product they picked just because there’s no delivery to their location. If you offer free delivery, don’t hesitate to mention it on the main page.

free delivery

This is a good point to start your online advertising and an extremely attractive option that can bring you more customers.

6) Contact details and feedback forms

You probably want to build long-term relationships with your clients. To achieve this, you should make them trust you. Start with providing your contact information. Customers should know that they can reach out if they need to. Place this information somewhere where it can be easily accessed.

feedback forms

If you can afford an online chat, it’s perfect. Nothing makes a customer happier than a quick response. But if you can’t add it yet, don’t worry. You can start with a simple feedback form.

However, make sure that the submitted messages are not ignored and the estimated reply time is one working day or less.

7) Ratings and reviews

A successful e-commerce website is a kind of collaboration between the website owners, managers and the customers. It’s not just a shopping platform but, a community. Customers buy products, share their opinion with other people and give recommendations. We all know that the word of mouth often works better than any advertising.

Why not let it spread on your website?

Some website owners avoid adding the rating and comment features. They fear that customers will write negative reviews. Of course, a disappointed customer is much more motivated to write an angry review, than a satisfied customer. It’s time-consuming and you must have a good reason to spend your time writing a review.

If you don’t think you’re ready to add the comment and review features, start with the rating option. This is a win-win feature:

1) You can use the submitted rating to create handy filters;
2) Customers can quickly pick the most rated (the best) products;
3) It doesn’t take a lot of time to rate the product, so it demands less motivation.

But if you decide to go with the comments features, there are some ways to push the satisfied customers to writing reviews:

1) You can ask them directly in the follow-up email after the purchase;
2) You can offer some perks to the most active users (e.g. discounts or bonuses)

product reviews and ratings

All in all, a feedback from clients as important as a chance to get a feedback from you.

8) Price filters

Filters are an important part of any e-commerce website. But price filters are the most used and the most significant. Therefore, they need more attention.

Make sure your customers are able to sort and filter product by price in all product categories. If the price excludes the cost of delivery, don’t forget to include the information. If there are free or paid delivery based on the product, add a checkbox to hide or show products with the paid delivery.

Product pricing details must be transparent, without any hidden information.

pricing details

Remember the more comfortable your users feel at your website, the more likely they are to find what they are looking for, buy it and then return or even bring some friends with them.

9) Wishlists

A wish list is an option designed for the customers who currently don’t have enough money to purchase a product or need more time to make a decision. Give them the opportunity to put a product aside and then get back to it when they are ready to buy.

People may forget what they wanted to purchase or simply find the same product on another website and buy it there. But if they have it on the wish list on your website, there is a greater chance they may buy it from you.

wishlists

You may later use gentle reminders to notify clients about price changes and push them to buy a product.

Tr to design a wish-list as eye-candy as possible. The better it looks, the more likely a customer is to move products to a cart.

10) Sharing options

Sharing is a powerful feature absent from many e-commerce website designs.

Allow your customers to share products with the nice and handy short links. You may integrate an online URL shortener with your website, many of them provide API. This feature may seem unnecessary to you, but don’t underestimate it.

Sharing products with one button that creates a short and eye-candy links is more attractive than copying bulky URLs. It’s especially important for smartphone and tablet users.

Some website owners prefer another way. They add the ‘Share on social media’ buttons. This option has some advantages. Instead of copying a link to a clipboard, this feature allows sharing products instantly, without pasting links anywhere.

Unfortunately, most customers prefer sharing products directly in personal messages, chats or via email.

sharing

You may decide to add both the above options. Just make sure your interface doesn’t look like a spaceship dashboard with hundreds of buttons.

Summary

All e-сommerce websites are different. There is no ultimate interface solution. You should always think what your business needs in the first place.

But there are some must-have features you could use to get better results. Don’t forget to make them fit in your design.

The basic e-commerce UX rules are simple:

1) The design of your e-commerce website should be simple. All customers should feel comfortable. The navigation should be clear. All information should be easily accessible.
2) You should provide detailed information about your products. Pictures, descriptions, zoom options. The more information customers get, the more likely they are to buy a product.
3) Design a personal account page. Save last orders, allow to create wish-lists and save items in the cart for later. Clients like to have everything at hand.
4) Add feedback and review forms. Give your clients a chance to reach out, ask questions and share feedback. This way you’ll make them feel more important.
5) Add detailed information on delivery options. Don’t forget about website rules and terms of service. Describe methods of payment, shipping procedure, and returns policy. Protect yourself from arguments and claims.
6) Make your website live and flourish. Add collections and lists, design a page with special offers and bonuses. Update your website regularly. Your customers will want to get back if they know something happens here
7) And finally, never forget, that you deal with real people on the other side of the screen. Make them feel special.

Keep in mind these rules when you plan to add a new feature.

Think for a while.

Maybe, your website lacks a personal touch or, maybe, you forgot to add a feedback form. Many UX features are tiny and don’t require much time to design and add. But, your customers would be satisfied.

And the last recommendation. Ask your clients what they need. Sometimes, they may offer brilliant ideas that never crossed your mind.


Featured image by Nguyen Le

The post 10 Elements That You Should Incorporate Into Your Ecommerce Website Design appeared first on Ecommerce Platforms.

Articles Alex Medviediev 05 Feb 2018 Comments Off on 10 Elements That You Should Incorporate Into Your Ecommerce Website Design

Product Photography Lighting Guide: A Secret Technique to Produce Stunning Visuals

If you thought that choosing the right product was more than enough, think again.

Photos define the product and show a potential customer a plethora of things – the uses for the product, the demographics of the people who use the product, the feelings associated with it, and of course, the perceived value of the product.

But, there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Believe it or not, even the most effortless product photos require so much effort. This is because a product photo conveys so much more than the product itself.

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder but in this case, you get to choose what your customers will see.

I welcome you to the wonderful world of product photography!

Let’s get started with the basics.

How To Take Product Photos

Many fall into the trap of just ticking boxes in their quest to getting the best photos of their product taken. It takes more than this.

Carefully planning out the theme of your photo shoot or pictorial should be part of the process, and before you can do this, your branding has to be set straight. If your product photo is not passing along the message of your brand then you clearly have to take a step back and replan.

Make sure that the theme is in line with what your company, business or enterprise stands for because a properly executed photo shoot can be an extension of your whole company image.

You’ve heard the saying “cut once measure twice”? It’s the same concept here, shoot once plan twice. Photography is a business expense that can easily cost you a lot of money so proper planning will save you money in the long run.

The Message You Want To Convey

This all boils down to the personality you want your product to have. Yes, it’s as important as determining a price for your product.

Think about this for a while.

It’s called product positioning.

Do you want it to look like the best thing since sliced bread, or would you want it to be sophisticated and chic? Perhaps, you’d want the fun side of your offering presented?

It doesn’t matter what you want. But, what really matters is that you have it all planned out before you even start the photo shoot.

The Subject

product photography lighting technique

There are plenty of ways for you to present your product photo.

One simple method involves displaying your offerings as a singular product in front of a white background. Do scale photographs to give the viewer a sense of the size of your offerings and you can use close-ups to highlight particular details.

It gets better.

Remember when we talked about the message that you want to convey with your photograph? This is where you can throw everything you know about the studio, out through that window.

Lifestyle shots are a great way to show your product in action.However, they might be trickier to do because you don’t control all the variables like a studio, but they really drive your brand image across.

Group shots are another way to present how your product integrates with the rest of the products in your portfolio. If you have different variations of the product i.e. different colors, or sizes, you’ll give the potential customer an easier time comparing.

Don’t forget the packaging too!

Great products are always presented well and that should be your goal. As much as a consumer is excited about the product itself, the packaging can make a difference. Remember how many YouTube channels rose to fame because of unboxing videos?

So, are you ready?

Once you have all the planning laid out, it’s time for us to start the photoshoot! The following steps are a quick guide for you to set everything up, it covers everything from your lighting to prep!

Getting Started: Prep

Make sure that you have more than one of the item you’re photographing.

Why?

If something happens to it, it would be relieving to know that you have a backup.

Prep the item beforehand. Did you know that those food photos you see from restaurants aren’t real food most of the time?

Looking for that refreshing look? Get a spray gun and mist your product. (Not advisable for electronics mind you.) Want that “sizzle” effect? Get a vaporizer or a smoke machine and give it that mysterious air.

Want to have a little more fun?

Make your product levitate with a thin piece of string and get rid of the string during this stage.

Like we said, product photography is a great time for you to unleash your creativity on all cylinders!

The Perfect Camera?

Camera lens

If you have the money, get the best camera that you can. At the end of the day, it’s a worthwhile investment especially if you’re planning to take a lot of photos or if you have a wide product inventory that you have to get on an ecommerce platform.

If you still can’t afford to invest in the best camera ever made then you can always borrow one from a friend.

But, hold your horses.

If you are truly looking for the most affordable product photography options, don’t discount that little technological marvel in your pocket.

iphone camera

Sometimes the hardware on your seemingly regular smartphone can do the trick, but make sure it takes clear photos!

So once you’ve got your camera, I have a few more tips to share with you.

  • Aperture size matters, smaller apertures will keep your product in focus, wider ones will create a distortion effect. Don’t dismiss the distortion effect if you’re eyeing some creative shots though.
  • White balance has to be consistent with the product photography lighting set up (more on this later) that you have in the photo shoot location.
  • As per ISO, experiment with this because it’s dependent on your lighting needs. Remember, too much ISO results in noise in most cases.
  • Different lenses for different purposes. You don’t need a telescopic lens unless you’re photographing your product from a mile away. Don’t use macro lenses unless you’re selling something tiny.
  • Shutter speed affects light, so depending on how much exposure you need to adjust accordingly.

Isn’t it easier to use your phone sometimes?

A Tripod To Hold It Still

tripod for camera

If you are taking a photograph of a stationary object, your camera has to be stationary as well.

Why? Because movement creates blurriness and distortion.

There are different kinds of tripods available and at best guess, you will just need one of those regular ones that they sell in camera stores. You could get a fancier setup which would cost more, or a monopod if you plan on doing other things with it after the shoot, but a tripod should be enough for now.

A good tripod is also a sound investment like a camera; they last for years and they rarely go out of date.

Want to know the best part?

You can even use your tripod for personal purposes, think about all those professional looking photos you can take with your friends and family.

Product Photography Lighting Techniques

photography studio

You have plenty of options for lighting but that doesn’t mean you should rush out and get yourself studio-grade lighting equipment. You can get yourself a lightbox, which can disperse light evenly and minimize shadows.

But before you pick your lighting options, find out what color your product is because of the fact that this greatly affects how everything works out. You can bounce cards from white foam, and even play with the reflections and shadows to create your desired effects.

The opportunities are endless.

But, wait.

How about if you want to use natural light coming in from the windows? You can do that too! The trick is to control the natural light coming in from the window; you don’t want it to be too one-sided to any degree. So, use bounce boards if necessary.

Quick advice?

Make sure you always have two sources of light. Well, if you don’t, a pair of bright bulbs – the cool 5000K kind will usually do the trick.

Remember, that lighting can be tricky and dependent on a number of factors that are not directly related to lightning per se. For example, the aperture of the camera plays a vital role in how much exposure your product photograph gets in general.

Don’t forget about white balance and ISO filters, these play such a crucial role in the exposure of your photograph.

More importantly, don’t be afraid of shadows. In a perfect environment, you would want to eliminate them altogether, but it can also be a creative way to “frame” your photo.

Your Background

Product photographs usually utilize white backgrounds. Again, as we’ve repeated time and time again, if you have the money and are going to do this often, it’s better to invest in something great.

White sweeps can be bought online, or if you’re on a tight budget, you can always use poster board or cardboard, and sometimes even a sheet.

But, here’s the caveat:

Remember that the color that you see now has a chance to look different in photographs. This is especially the case with poster boards.

Off-white as opposed to pure white really looks different when you start “framing” your product.

What kind of sweep should you get? It really depends on you. Paper sweep is a good choice because it’s cost effective since you can always get rid of the dirty areas. Also, make sure that the white background is seamless.

The Extras

There are a few other things that you will need in order to set up the product photo shoot. Make sure you have a table in order for you to have a place to put the products on.

Make sure you have some tape ready to get everything in order and have someone around to help you out, should the need arise.

The Checklist: How to Take Product Photos

camera equipment

  • Get your table in order; this means getting your product in place and making sure you’ve got everything you need.
  • Set your camera with the product in focus.
  • Double check the background, is there anything that will mess up the photo to begin with? Everything in the background has to be clean.
  • Get your light right. It helps if you have a hand with the bounce cards at this point.
  • Using the tips that we gave you adjust your camera as necessary

and here’s more:

  • Click the shutter
  • It’s probably going to be a bad photo.
  • So, readjust and hit that button again, and take as many photos as you wish.

Congratulations, you now have a product photo! And now, let’s move onto touching up.

Touching Up

There are plenty of post-processing programs that you can use like Adobe Lightroom (or VSCOCam if you did plan on post-processing on your phone). They offer you many benefits; they can alter lighting and change the mood with a flick of the switch.

Always look for ways to enhance your photo with minimal effort. You don’t want to end up with something that looks completely natural. If you nailed down most of the steps above, then you shouldn’t even be spending too much time with post-processing.

Want a better way to do this?

Get your photos touched up by a professional.

You would be surprised at how affordable it’ll be to just send the photos to a professional.

Some would even only charge you roughly $4 per photograph that you submit for a professional touch up.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that you won’t be able to get everything down on your first “click”, but that’s all part of the process. Give it just a little time.

You can hire professionals to take the photographs for you, but that will cost you time and money.

However, if you decide to take that route, I hope that this article will give you the basics of painting the theme that you want them to capture.

Believe it or not, it takes a lot of photos and preparation to even score one perfect photograph to be used commercially. Let your enthusiasm and creativity get the best of you.

Product photography lighting is a crucial skill to learn and you can always apply it to future products that you release.

It certainly is a win-win situation.


Feature image by Jeff Sheldon

The post Product Photography Lighting Guide: A Secret Technique to Produce Stunning Visuals appeared first on Ecommerce Platforms.

Articles Alex Medviediev 29 Jan 2018 Comments Off on Product Photography Lighting Guide: A Secret Technique to Produce Stunning Visuals

Customer Lifecycle Guide: Develop Perfect Understanding With Your Customers

Your business is alive and kicking.

Just like how your business has a life cycle, so do your customers. They are continuously interacting with the goods and services that you offer. This phenomenon is often referred to as the customer lifecycle.

To put it into quick perspective, there are different ways to get a potential customer to consider your offering and then ensure that they’ll come back for more all the time.

Want to know the secret art? Read on.

It might appear to be difficult when you come to know about it but it isn’t.

Well, I’ll explain how it really works but before we proceed, you’ll need to be able to identify the different phases a customer goes through.

The Stages of The Customer Life Cycle

The first thing to understand before you can start luring customers is the intrinsic value of the customer lifecycle.

Life is synonymous with business; both have different stages.

Namely, this process is broken into these main steps: your reach, acquisition, development and nurturing, retaining them, and creating an advocacy.

It isn’t just about making them come back for more. For you to understand the technique, you need to look at those in context.

  • Reach – this refers to how you can get your offerings in front of your customer. Think advertising, promotion, and outreach.
  • Acquisition – getting them to pay for your good or service.
  • Development and nurturing – maintaining the relationship with them. If you already got them to buy once, you can always get them to do it again.
  • Retention – keeping your customers close, very close.
  • Advocacy – pretty much, getting to love you so much that they’ll spread the word.

These steps are important in developing your customer relationship management (CRM) along with the customer lifecycle.

Increasing Customer Life Cycle Value

Now that we have it all hammered down, let’s take a look at how we can increase the customer lifecycle and turn clients into clientele.

The most important part of increasing customer lifecycle value is the relationship that you have with your customer after the sale. For most entrepreneurs, this is probably going to be the best part.

And, it gets better:

Getting this right usually results in more business for your enterprise. Take a step back and think about this for a little while. What’s better- a single sale over one period or repeat sales from a particular customer?

In theory, repeat sales cost less money to procure and open the doors to even more opportunities in the future. (I’ll discuss this later)

An Impeccable After Sales Experience

Ever loved an almost perfect service only for your feelings towards it to change after speaking to annoying tech support reps who only care about logging in their hours?

We’ve all been there.

You may have the perfect product and service but, if your after sales experience sucks, they’re not going to come back for more.

Make sure that you have proper procedures in place to handle the after sales aspect of the actual sale. This includes having a good team that can handle any concerns, having a proper feedback system, and follow up.

Don’t just follow up if they have a complaint. If they do have a complaint, you should get very personal with them in your connection. Check out Pizza Hut’s example: an apology letter sent to this woman.

Pizaa hut customer relations

You might be thinking of follow up as a way to generate sales off the bat, but trust me, customers usually know when you’re attempting an upsell almost immediately after the sale.

Instead of offering them an add-on, ask them how they feel about a product and how you can help them with your offering. Every interaction with them has to show that you care about them more than your profits.

Believe me, it’s not that hard to implement and certainly begs the question – ‘How to do it?’

Well, here are some very useful ways.

Offer More Than What They’ve Asked For

Did you know that it takes more than five times the resources to make a new sale than retain a new one? So if you’re already spending money then you should offer more!

I’m not talking about giving away your stock, but rather about adding value to the value that they’re purchasing.

An extended warranty, semi-preferential treatment, special packaging, special rates, free shipping, no delivery charge, as long as it’s making them feel special, they’ll want to get that feeling from you.

Plus:

They’ll associate that particular feeling with your products allowing you to develop your brand even more.

Check out this Redditor who talks about how Dell values warranties on their products.

Dell customer service

After talking to their customer they decided to actually send a real person over and not even let the customer spend a single penny!

Bond With Your Customer

Yes, you read that right. One of the ways that you can positively increase the customer lifecycle is to bond with your customer. Create meaningful interactions if you can and create real avenues for conversation.

  • Social media is a good tool. Use it.

Redbull prolonging customer lifecycle

Don’t you just love this? Red Bull, one of the biggest beverage companies in the world with a roster of famous people that we love, freely interacts with their customers. Social media can easily bridge the divide if customers perceive you to be too corporate.

  • Provide feedback on your end with regard to how others use the offerings that they have purchased.

Grammarly email

Check out how Grammarly’s emails aren’t really annoying and make for a very casual read. In fact, you feel great about using their services and they can even encourage you to write some more! (Whilst, indirectly telling you they’re helping you!)

They create this collaborative feeling between you and their company.

  • Send emails to them on special days with special offers.
  • Reach out to them and ask them how they are.

But:

Don’t be annoying.

Understand Your Customer

If you think you’ve nailed the three most important precepts of customer retention. Then, you’re ready for more.

Customers’ needs are very dynamic, as a result of this, you also have to be as dynamic with your offerings.

This goes beyond the usual surveys or customer feedback that we’re all used to. Study their purchasing behavior and see how you can improve your products to match demand. Find out what makes them tick and adapt to that, it will all be worth it in the long run. 

Check out what Starbucks used to do.

My Starbucks Idea

Although they have now moved this to their main Twitter page, it still serves as a good example of a company reaching out to their customers and asking them to get involved!

Tools to Help You Nurture Lifecycle

If you own a company then you should pay attention to your customer relationship management.

There are probably a hundred different CRM software choices available for you out there and you shouldn’t have any problems picking one out of the pack.

Pick one that allows you to funnel your customers in their different stages of the lifecycle.

However, realize one thing, most CRM software solutions are concentrated on sealing the deal. Look for one that helps you keep a connection going with your customer even after the initial sale.

That’s what’s going to nurture the relationship, not the sale itself.

Getting Them to Stay Loyal

The customer life cycle is just like any relationship that you’ll have with a person. With that being said, it’s important to note that loyalty plays an important role in getting them to stay with you.

But, it’s not your customers that need to be loyal to your brand or offering. You have to make sure that you’re loyal to them as well.

Here’s the deal.

I don’t want you to sound like your spouse, but loyalty is a two-way stream. As I’ve discussed earlier, you need to nurture the business relationship that you have with your customer.

Build an advocacy with your customers. Trust me, you’ll reap the benefits soon enough.

Customers will start talking about you and that’s when you realize that you’ve done a great job.

For instance, look at this random Buffer user. Check out the personalized reply from Buffer after the customer advocated their product.

Buffer Reply

By the way, if you’re having a social management debacle with regard to nurturing the customer lifecycle, you can use their service. You see the effect? Even we like them for some reason!

They nail it perfectly. They offered a great service that made users advocate for them, they tend to be personal with their users and that establishes a connection, and they can be sure that this user will keep coming back.

This is the bottom line:

If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you, because they’re only human too.

Hopefully, this article has provided enough insight to help you develop and nurture the most important values of your customer lifecycle.

At the end, all you got to do is care about them as if they were family.


Feature image by David Buitrago

The post Customer Lifecycle Guide: Develop Perfect Understanding With Your Customers appeared first on Ecommerce Platforms.

Articles Alex Medviediev 24 Jan 2018 Comments Off on Customer Lifecycle Guide: Develop Perfect Understanding With Your Customers

Return Policy Template to Refund & Skyrocket Sales

If you’re a returning visitor, you might have realized that this website is filled with various guides to increase your online sales. From improving engagement with your online store to boosting sales during the holiday season, ecommerce professionals are constantly on the lookout for the next best way to make a tweak and pad those margins.

But did you ever think about how that return and refund policy could really help out your customers?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tested return policy template that’s known to help out with sales?

It’s easy to compare to Amazon, but in this respect, it makes a lot of sense.

Amazon doesn’t do anything fancy, but its return policy is hard to beat. In fact, as long as you live a few blocks from a UPS there’s almost nothing to it when returning an item. Most items are given a 30-day return policy, and Amazon extends this policy during the holiday season. Oh yeah, and if you pass that threshold Amazon still allows customers to trade-in or sell back their products.

Now, let’s take a look at LL Bean. The company is famous for having one of the best return policies in the world, so it makes sense that LL Bean has so many loyal customers. In short, LL Bean does state that it can reject a return or exchange at any time, but most customers report being able to return used items, items without tags, items without receipts, and more. In fact, many times the company is fully willing to let you exchange a product used for years.

So, where does that leave you?

It leaves you with two choices:

Would you like to set up a return policy template that makes it easy for your customers, or are you more interested in wowing customers with how flexible you are?

In order to communicate a decent policy to your users, it’s important to display it on your website. That’s why we’ve put together the ideal return policy template for you to start off with.

Elements of a Great Return Policy Template to Build Trust with Customers

Not every return policy is going to look the same. Obviously, you would want to customize the policy with your company name and other specifics, but in general, you should focus on a policy with the following elements:

Keep it Short and Sweet

Take a Look at the LL Bean Return Policy.

return policy template

It doesn’t go much longer than the screen, so technically the customer doesn’t have to scroll down if they’re only looking for the rules. It outlines the details and special conditions ( which is only a short list of bullet points,) along with what happens if you try to misuse the flexible policy.

In addition, LL Bean has the company philosophy towards the top, pretty much stating that you can return or exchange the majority of products, even after being worn.

And that’s how it should be. If you plan on having a return policy that looks like a long privacy or security policy, no one is going to read it.

Have a Quick Link to Print a Return Form and Shipping Label

There’s a UPS no more than a block away from my house in Chicago. Therefore, when I want to return an Amazon package all I have to do is print out the shipping label, walk it over to UPS, and hand it to the person at the counter. If I already have it in a box they’ll tape it up for me. If not, a box is provided. It’s just about the simplest return process I’ve ever encountered.

return policy example

Every return policy template requires a quick link to print a return form and shipping label. You should also test out the process with your own items to see how quickly UPS employees take the package and box it up. If they look confused then maybe there’s something wrong with your labels.

Consider Unlimited Time for Returns (Or Something Close)

Want to beat out the big dogs like Amazon? Consider giving your customers an unlimited time window to bring in their items. We already talked about how LL Bean does this, but you can also see this in other stores like Costco and REI. Costco doesn’t allow this on some items like TVs and other electronics, but most other items are included.

refund policy template

If this seems impossible for your business, take some advice from Kohls and stick to a one-year return policy. At least this is 12-times better than what customers get on Amazon.

Offer In-store Returns

This only applies to online shops with retail stores as well. It’s one of the main reasons places like Walmart and Target still have an advantage over Amazon. REI does a wonderful job of this as well. Why? Because it’s much easier to hand a return to a person than it is to print out that shipping label and work with UPS or the post office.

Some additional rules when devising a return policy:

  • Never copy and paste a return policy template like this. It’s only going to cause problems down the road for your SEO, since you’ll have duplicate content on your website. Instead, take a template and use it as a guide, then completely rewrite it for your company.
  • Avoid intimidating statements like “you must” or “it is required.” These statements don’t build trust at all. Instead, they sound like your customers are being forced to do something.
  • Make sure your entire staff knows and is educated about the policies. Otherwise, you’re going to have some unsettling conversations between staff and customers.
  • Advertise your policy. You should be proud of your return policy, so there’s no reason to hide it like you would a privacy policy. That’s not to say you’re embarrassed by a privacy policy, but that’s typically a more intimidating document to read.

A Return Policy Template That Can Help With Sales

And now for the template you’ve all been waiting for. In theory, it’s not all that difficult to formulate one of these. It’s more a matter of whether or not your operations are ready for what you promise on the policy. For instance, you can write about how you’re willing to accept returns within a year’s time, but can your staff manage that?

Anyway, here’s our favorite return policy template for online stores:

Full disclosure, this template is based off the LL Bean policy, since it’s such as well-shaped outline:

(Include a paragraph that explains your company philosophy about returns. Is your company all about letting people use the products then return them? Are you trying to create an environment where the return process is fast and easy?)

In order to protect all customers and ensure that all returns and exchanges are handled fairly, (insert company name) may require a receipt or decline your return or exchange in some situations, such as: 

  • Products that were not bought directly from (insert company name) – like from a thrift store
  • Products that have been defaced
  • Products with missing labels
  • Products without receipts or store IDs
  • Products that haven’t been cleaned
  • Products that have been lost or damaged to the point where they aren’t usable

Make a Return or Exchange through the Mail

Do you need to make an exchange immediately?

Order online or call (insert phone number) for the fastest delivery.

The Refund details

It will take up to (how many weeks) to receive a full refund. Gifts receive a merchandise credit, but most of the time we reimburse you with the payment method used.

1. Find the Packing Slip

Find and complete the form printed on the packing slip that came with your order. (You might also have a link for the customer to print out a new one.)

2. Prepare the Package

Include the item, receipt, and packing slip. Use the original packaging or something similar.

3. Attach the Shipping Label

Include a link here for them to print out the shipping label. You might also need to specify how much the return shipping will cost them. 

 4. Ship Us Your Package

Take the package to a UPS location. (Include a link for them to find locations to UPS, or something like USPS or FedEx).

(If Needed) Include a Section About Returning to a Store

It doesn’t matter whether you purchased your item at an (insert company name) retail store or online. You can always bring the item into one of the stores for a full refund. 

Final Note

Places like Shopify have return policy generators, but once again, you should only use this as a starting point. Stray away from copying and pasting, since it’s only going to make your policy sound generic, and you’re most likely going to hurt yourself in the SEO game.

Do You Have a Refund Policy Template That’ll Actually Help Your Business?

This return policy template is sure to get you started, but don’t forget about making it your own.

And when I say that, I’m talking about more than just changing the fields (company name and contact information). Think about what makes your store unique and how you can get customers talking about your return policy over others.

We encourage you to take this template as a building block, then utilize some of the tips we’ve talked about in this article.

There are also plenty of other real-world return policy examples you can search for on Google and check out when you’re shopping.

Have you come across any good return policy examples? Please do share the templates!

If you have any questions about our return policy template, or how to formulate a quality policy, let us know in the comments section below.


Feature Image by Prem Guruswamy

The post Return Policy Template to Refund & Skyrocket Sales appeared first on Ecommerce Platforms.

Articles admin 18 Jan 2018 Comments Off on Return Policy Template to Refund & Skyrocket Sales

Buying From Alibaba: How to Have a Secure Buying Experience

Oh, the wonderful world of Alibaba!

Just like the old tale, a trip to Alibaba’s website can either unearth many treasures or lead you down a path to destruction.

Either way, buying from Alibaba can be quite the adventure.

Your first visit to Alibaba can be a little intimidating. You’ve probably heard stories of people being scammed on the website and are probably wondering if it could happen to you.

Here’s the truth:

Shopping from Alibaba is relatively safe if you know where to shop from. There are good and honest suppliers on Alibaba, but there are also a few undesirables lurking on the platform. That’s a usual sight in any marketplace.

What if I told you that there is a way for you to have an enjoyable, secure, and profitable experience through Alibaba by spending an extra two minutes? I can guarantee your safety.

Well, here’s how you can have a great buying experience from Alibaba:

Trade Assurance Can Save You Money

Trade Assurance Screencap

So there you are, ready to search for your next business supplier.

You will now be presented with a filter underneath the search box- make sure you tick all three of them, especially ‘Trade Assurance’. These three boxes are pretty much the first steps to finding good suppliers on Alibaba.

Trade Assurance can be considered escrow protection as the money you send will go directly to the supplier’s bank account, but if something goes wrong you’ll have some form of protection.

Choose Gold Suppliers

What’s so special about Gold Suppliers? I’m glad you asked.

Gold Suppliers Screencap

The truth is:

There are still some nasty gold suppliers that can get your order wrong or give you a hard time, but a Gold supplier is a membership that’s exclusive to select sellers on Alibaba. They get more product exposure and other perks from Alibaba.

The Gold Supplier membership is expensive, so it should offer a baseline of protection against scammers. After all, they worked hard to get there. A better way of using the Gold Supplier rating is to use it in conjunction with the number of years they have been aGold Supplier for.

The longer the better, like these guys for instance:

ecommerce return policy

Make Sure That There Has Been a Supplier Assessment

Here is the third of those three magical checkboxes and quite possibly the most important one out of the three.

Some say that the onsite check is alright, but if you really want that added layer of trust, it won’t hurt to only select suppliers that have had a Supplier Assessment.

A Supplier Assessment basically means that a third party has checked out the company and their factory. Getting this assessment is difficult, but you can sleep better at night knowing that you’re dealing with a business that has gone over and beyond to be recognized for their export prowess.

Supplier Assessment Screencap

For example, this company when viewed shows that it has been verified onsite by a third party inspection company.

To the left, you’ll find details about their capabilities, business performance and some other additional information such as the trade shows they have been a part of.

Validate What They’re Saying About Themselves

If you have a contact in China that can validate the company, great! If you can go to the factory itself, even better!

However, most of us will find that going to China would defeat our economies of scale altogether, but there are ways to validate a company without leaving your couch.

You’ve ticked off Supplier Assessment and are sure about your third-party validation.

Another way to validate the company is to check out their phone numbers through a call, their website or domain through whois search, and the Chinese Yellowpages directories like www.chinaeall.com and www.cnaic.org.cn.

WHOIS Lookup

A whois lookup will shed some light on the ownership of their website, check out their email and see if anything is suspicious.

You can also use Google to check out their company name alongside the word “scam” or “fraud” in quotes.

What Are Other People Saying About Your Supplier

Let’s stop for a second:

Remember how you asked around about that special someone before you got married/started dating?

It’s the same thing with business and dealing with suppliers on Alibaba. Asking around is generally a good practice especially if you want to start a business relationship.

There are plenty of forums, but a good forum to check out a supplier, a category or a product is the Alibaba forum itself.

A simple Google search such as the one shown in the below screenshot isolates all your queries using quotation marks to the respective Alibaba forum.

Don’t you just love these search engine operators?

Search Engine Operators

You Cannot, I Repeat, Cannot Buy Branded Items Wholesale From Alibaba

Here’s the deal:

If you’re buying branded items from Alibaba, keep a strict eye on your supplier.

Parent companies of branded items have strict distribution policies with their factories in China.

So if someone claims that they can export branded items in bulk, it’s probably a scam.

Check Out The Company’s History

Use this at your own discretion. Next to the information on the specific product that you’re looking at you’ll find this:

Supplier Diamonds

These diamonds are an indication of transaction-level points obtained by the company for their transactions awarded by Alibaba.

Alibaba explains these:

Alibaba Diamond Guide

According to Alibaba, the Trading Level is, “based on an accumulated score awarded for total online transaction volume and amount”.

The higher the score, the better the volume and amount so to speak.

Also, when you go the company page there is usually a section called Transaction History. Here you’ll find a summary of how many transactions they’ve processed in the year.

Supplier Transaction History

There are two ways to interpret this data, one is that you can probably trust a company that has made a lot of transactions in the past.

I mean, why won’t you?

Bigger transactions pretty much mean that they’re currently in the business and that they’ve been in the business for a while now.

You could also be looking for a new and reliable company which doesn’t involve in scamming practices and really sells quality stuff.

The decision is entirely up to you, but usually, I’d almost always pick those with substantial transaction history.

There’s a Difference Between Manufacturers and Traders

I understand. So many choices.

A manufacturer will be able to offer you a better deal since what a trader does is, well, just trading. If you’re looking for a long-term supplier you’re better off looking for a manufacturer rather than a trader of goods.

They’ll be able to offer you more competitive prices and you’ll be able to develop a relationship with them in the long run- which comes with a lot of benefits!

Order a Sample Before You Go All Out

Don’t be part of the statistic. We know a lot of people who’ll find a great deal from a legitimate supplier and just start ordering 100,000 units without even having a first evaluation. It doesn’t work like that.

Ever bought a suit or a dress without trying it on? Nope. Everyone has an “it looked different online” story and you don’t want one, especially in any large-scale business deal.

It’s the same thing, you’ll want to be a good business owner and part of that process is verifying that your product lives up to your standards. Failure to do so is a recipe for an early loss of revenue.

It’s All About The Money

This is a part that you don’t want to mess up, so pay attention. A bonafide company will have multiple options for you to pay, and like we said earlier it’s sometimes more desirable to transact with companies that offer escrow via Trade Assurance.

Make sure you’re very clear about everything that’s been stipulated in your negotiation including any hidden costs or anything in fine print.

You’ll receive an invoice once you’re done negotiating the odds and ends of your supply and make sure that all the details match as what’s mentioned in Alibaba.

If Paypal is an option, then pay via Paypal.

Make Sure You’re Ready To Receive The Shipment

Take a moment to think about how the goods will reach their destination.

You’ll have practice with the sample product you’ve asked them to ship you if that’s the case. Some vendors will be able to arrange all the shipping for you, but you have to make sure that they do.

You can hire a shipping broker to help you out should you have any specific concerns about importing and what not.

However, a quick way to find out more information is to ask the vendor itself. The price of shipping may surprise you, but sometimes you’ll find that they have bundled it along with the cost of your goods.

So, there you have it, if you follow these simple rules, you’re on a good track to find your ideal supplier, whilst being on the safe side. Remember, trust your instincts, and your gut is usually correct.

Alibaba can help you set up your own dropshipping business easily when done right! Also, ensure that the supplier has a return policy, before placing the order. Things can go wrong and if the shipment never arrives, you’ll have to raise a dispute with the shipping agent.

Buying from Alibaba is an easy task but you have to do it with precision.

What have you bought from Alibaba in the past? How long did it take? How was the process? Share your Alibaba stories in the comments below.


Feature image by HOHO

The post Buying From Alibaba: How to Have a Secure Buying Experience appeared first on Ecommerce Platforms.

Articles Alex Medviediev 17 Jan 2018 Comments Off on Buying From Alibaba: How to Have a Secure Buying Experience

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