Why Customer Service is So Important for Your Ecommerce Business

December 2nd, 2016 Comments off

stamps_customer-care

Take care of your shoppers and if you do it well, your shoppers will take care of you. How? Prompt and thoughtful customer service, regardless of the issue at hand, can mean the difference between a one-time buyer and a loyal repeat customer. Recent figures indicate that 82 percent of clients stop doing business with a company solely due to bad customer service, and 85 percent would pay more to ensure a better customer experience!

Clearly, shoppers are looking for more than great products—they want interactions with your store to be just as satisfying. What can you do to provide outstanding customer care? Here are a few ideas.

Honor every customer with a response

There can be no stupid questions if you want your products to sell and your store to thrive. Acknowledge all questions, complaints and compliments, even if it’s just a quick, “I’m working on getting a better answer for you right now” or “Thanks for taking the time to let us know!” 

Consider the pros and cons of a multichannel support

Different methods of customer contact may work better for your shop than others. For example, email is usually less time-consuming, while phone calls can feel more personal but may require extra manpower to keep up with demand. A dedicated call center system may relieve shop owners of this task but can lack the personal touch you’ve established for your business. Live chat and social media bring more tiers to the equation. Which can you and your team best keep up with? What works with your customer-service budget? See what your own favorite stores are doing, and listen to and log customer feedback on this issue to help you make the best choices. 

Make sure your entire team is on the same page in terms of customer service

If you have help in responding to customers, whether you have dedicated staff or use an outside vendor, establish ground rules about language, policies and approaches. 

Respect customers’ time

Often, customers will contact you for the same reason or with similar questions. Posting short videos on your site – for example, how to assemble a product or troubleshoot a known issue – makes it easy for customers to find answers on their own, and lets you focus on other business matters. Similarly, an effective FAQ page can prevent unnecessary calls as well as provide a handy place for referrals. 

Make social media work for you

If you haven’t already established dedicated business accounts on your preferred social media platforms, do it now. Your presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest can help connect you to customers. Be sure to post regularly and find ways to engage your followers in conversation, such as asking for product ideas or offering coupons. Do you shy away from negative feedback on social media? Turn that habit around now, because not responding is a turnoff for 88 percent of customers! Potential new customers might look at a company’s social media account to see how responsive the company is to customer support issues. 

Be positive about the negatives

The feedback that’s hardest to hear can be the most useful for your business. If your store hasn’t lived up to a customer’s expectations, take note of the problems and make changes immediately. If you follow up with the dissatisfied customer once the change is in place, you may have an opportunity to win back his or her business. 

Measure your customer service success

Keep detailed records of customer contact, response time, and resolution rates (how many calls or emails it took to resolve an issue). This data will help steer you toward the most effective ways to keep up a strong customer service program.

Best practices for shipping toys and holiday gifts

November 28th, 2016 Comments off

Stamps.com Blog Shipping ToysKids of all ages are busy writing their letters to Santa asking for all sorts of fun and playful gifts. Whether you are a toymaker, sell toys on your ecommerce site, or just plan to ship a gift to a loved one, Stamps.com can offer some advice! 

Stuffed Toys 
Stuffed animals and plush toys are meant to be lovingly squeezed, not squashed during transit. The best way to guarantee a great impression and the safe delivery of your stuffed toy is to ship the product in a box. However, for added protection and to prevent damage to a teddy bear’s plastic or glass eye, for example, you may also want to wrap the stuffed animal in transparent sealed bags, packing paper or bubble wrap. Remember that your recipient may open the box with a sharp cutter or a pair of scissors, so the best way to prevent damage to the stuffed animal is to use a box with some extra space for cushioning material. If you use a sealed bag or shrink wrap, clearly mark it with a suffocation warning label.

Action Figures and Boxed Collectibles
Some toys, such as action figures and collectibles, will already have packaging of their own. We recommend placing this package within a slightly larger box when shipping. Fill the empty spaces between the shipping container and the packaged toy with plenty of padding and peanuts. If you’re sending vintage or fragile toys, we recommend marking the package “Fragile” to prevent breakage. If the original packaging of the toy is vintage itself, collectors may be upset if there is any damage to the box’s corners, so you may want to wrap the original packaging in clear plastic.

Battery-operated Toys
Sending a remote-control car or robot? Keep in mind that restrictions exist for shipping lithium cells and batteries. For domestic mail, batteries cannot contain more than 1 gram of lithium content per cell and your package must have a complete delivery and return address. Restrictions vary depending on whether the lithium batteries are installed in the equipment, mailed with the equipment, or mailed without the equipment. For international mail, items may be prohibited by the destination country.  Check out USPS battery restrictions here. 

International Restrictions 
Remember that, if you’re shipping internationally, restrictions can exist regarding toys. These vary by country. For example, non-wood toys cannot be sent to Italy, toy guns cannot be sent to the United Kingdom, and children’s toys operated by steam or electricity cannot be sent to Indonesia in commercial shipments. Learn more about international shipping restrictions by country here.

Using Stamps.com to Ship Toys 
Reduce stress for your recipients by using our Shipment Notification feature. When you check the “Email Recipient” box on the Packages, International or Batch sections, the Stamps.com software sends an email to the package recipient indicating that the package has been sent. Under our “Packages” section, you can select one of our “Shipping Label” options. You can easily print a trackable label on plain paper or on one of our self-adhesive labels, such as the 4 1/4″ x 6 3/4″ shipping labels. With Stamps.com, you can print barcoded shipping labels for Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes (order your free USPS supplies at the Stamps.com Store!) and receive the discounted Commercial Base rate. If you want to use your own box, just select “Package/Thick Envelope” as your mailpiece and print out a barcoded shipping label. You’ll still receive the discounted Commercial Base rate! With Stamps.com, you can send First Class Packages with barcoded Shipping Labels as long as your package does not exceed 15.99 ounces. Otherwise, you can use Priority Mail, or if you need packages sent at the speed of a magic reindeer, Priority Mail Express. Remember that toys cannot be sent by Media Mail.

How to Create a Social Media Strategy

November 14th, 2016 Comments off

SDC_Blog_Social Media PlanSocial media is a great way to build your brand and develop a relationship with your customers. Still, while many ecommerce businesses have already established a social media presence, devising a plan for your posts leverages the power of social media even more.

Here’s some information about creating and implementing an effective social media plan for your ecommerce business.

Be choosy. While it’s tempting to jump on every social media platform, be realistic about how much you or your team can keep up with. Consider too how well your business translates to the different platforms. Sometimes, a service-oriented business can skip photo-dependent sites like Instagram. If your audience skews older, that demographic is more likely to check Facebook than Snapchat. 

Be easy to find. When you create social media accounts, choose usernames that match your business name as closely as possible, and try to keep them consistent across all of your social media platforms. Include as much information about your business in your profile as possible, as this indexable content can help search engines direct interested parties to not only your social media accounts but your business website as well. Once you’ve established the accounts, be sure to add your handles to your email communication, signage, stationery and other methods you use to make your business visible.

Be organized. Develop an editorial calendar to help you build out timely and newsworthy content. Creating compelling social content can be challenging, and utilizing a calendar can help a company focus on current topics and trends.

Build your following. Put thought into your content, and followers will pay attention when what you post is original and shareable. Don’t shy away from engaging well-known bloggers, influencers and media outlets. One great way to do this is to respond with useful information when users ask a question on one of your social media channels. Offering discounts to customers is another method to consider in order to grow your following.

Be responsive. Social media is worthless unless you’re ready to have conversations with your followers. Post regularly, be prompt when answering questions and concerns, and follow any interested parties yourself. Keep your content fresh and consistent so followers have a reason to check in frequently.

Be yourself. Social media gives you an opportunity to infuse your personality into your business. Consider sharing the story behind your business, interesting links you’ve found and inspiring words with your followers. You might also want to consider sharing any challenges you faced when starting your business—chances are, other businesses will encounter the same challenges and can benefit from your experience and insight.

Be innovative. Social media gives small-business owners unique opportunities to try out new products, programs and communications. Offer your followers the first look at a new item in your shop, a discount on the first shipment or the chance to sound in about their opinions. Once your promotion or experiment is over, track the kind of response you got and add the results to your social media plan.

Christmas in July? 5 Reasons Why it Pays to Plan Ahead for the Holiday Selling Season

July 21st, 2016 Comments off

Christmas in July Blog PostThe weather outside may not be frightful…but successful ecommerce is so delightful! And just imagine how delightful it will feel just a few months from now when you fully appreciate your advance preparation for the 2016 holiday season. Remember, many retailers find November and December alone makes up as much as 30 percent of their yearly revenue. It definitely pays to be proactive in planning, even if you’re presently thinking more about sandcastles than Santa.

Here are 5 reasons why it pays to get into the holiday selling spirit well in advance.

1. Your customers are already thinking ahead. Google Trends indicates searches for “Christmas Gift Ideas” begin in August and only go up from there. With a plethora of holidays stacking up once October hits – including Yom Kippur, Halloween and Thanksgiving – almost everyone gets busier and more frazzled as the year draws to a close.

2. Non-calendar holidays are key. You know about Black Friday (Nov. 25) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 28), but these aren’t the only retail-friendly dates to mark on your calendar. They may not appear on everyone’s to-do list, but as an ecommerce seller, you absolutely need to be prepared for Green Monday (Dec. 12), a shopping holiday similar to Cyber Monday that tends to fall on the second Monday of December, and Free Shipping Day (Dec. 16), a one-day event when merchants are encouraged to offer this perk with guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery. Create a holiday calendar so you know exactly which ecommerce promotions you’ll be participating in so you can be sure to plan accordingly as well as alert your customers.

3. Expanded holiday payment options and generous return policies appeal to shoppers. Many retailers extend additional payment options, discounts and loosened return windows during the busy holiday season. By taking the time to consider these factors now, you can make informed decisions once the busiest shopping season begins.

4. Intuitive mobile platforms attract shoppers on the go. Studies have shown that mobile shoppers make quicker purchasing decisions than desktop users. If you haven’t already done so, optimize your mobile site now to make it more responsive to mobile browsing.

5. Connecting with customers can benefit your bottom line. Whether it’s a curated Pinterest board of your holiday gift ideas, enthusiastic Tweets about products or personal emails to customers, your social media and personalized marketing can have a big impact on customers, especially during the stressful shopping season. Start your campaigns now by reaching out via abandoned-cart and after-sales emails or posting “Only 130 shopping days left!” teasers on social media. The more you connect with customers, the more you can be sure to offer them the products they want.

The bottom line
It’s often said that the days are long, but the years are short — so don’t let the holiday shopping season sneak up on you. Take steps now to consider your options and plan ahead for the busiest shopping season of the year. That way, when fall rolls around, you’ll be prepared to celebrate a successful season.

How To Offer Customer Service Through Your Order Fulfillment

June 15th, 2016 Comments off

sdc_ShippingStrategyCustomerServiceTo run a successful business, you need to have great customer service. While brick-and-mortar stores capitalize on the face-to-face communication we often associate with customer service, online businesses can still master the art of communicating with their customers – namely, through their shipping process. Here are five ways to master customer service by improving your shipping strategy.

1. Be clear about shipping expectations
Negative feedback is overwhelmingly related to issues associated with shipping. To hedge your bets and negate this, provide very realistic expectations for when an item should arrive. Be transparent, and explain the difference between shipping (when an item leaves your possession or warehouse to begin its journey to the customer) and delivery (when the package arrives on the buyer’s doorstep). During high-volume times like the holidays, provide a shipping time table that lets buyers see how soon they need to order packages to expect them by Christmas. Always try to get items to the Post Office the day the order was placed or within 24 hours, if possible. If and when packages show up early, buyers will be pleasantly surprised and more likely to leave positive feedback.

2. Include a custom packing slip
Marketplaces like Amazon have strict rules on how you can contact and interact with a buyer. The packing slip is a safe way to connect, and can help personalize the buying experience. Write a brief note within the packing slips thanking buyers for their patronage, letting them know that they are welcome to contact you, if necessary, and leaving the best method of contacting you. This will reassure buyers that you care, and that you’re just a phone call or email away should they need to reach out. The best packing slips I’ve seen also include a handwritten thanks with the signature of the employee that packaged my item. A reported 68% of customers will stop supporting a business if they feel that the company is indifferent towards them. Bring some humanity to the shipping experience and let buyers know you care.

3. Offer a discount for their next purchase
Discounts and coupons encourage repeat salesand demonstrate that you appreciate a customer’s business. As always, you must abide by each marketplace’s rules when offering discounts or coupons. It is legal to extend a discounted offer, but you cannot do so in exchange for positive feedback. A coupon for their next purchase may encourage feedback organically, but you can’t use it an as incentive.

4. Brand your packaging
The more you can make your buyers’ shopping experience stand out, the better. A 10-year study found that brands that can evoke an emotional connection with buyers can effectively charge up to 200% more than competitors. Branding your packaging will contribute to this. If you sell on your own website, you have free rein to package as creatively as you like. That said, you can still offer a unique experience on stricter marketplaces. After you have the appropriate packing materials, like bubble mailers or sturdy boxes, what can you add to set yourself apart from competitors and create a fun experience for customers? What unique addition would make sense with your brand persona? I recently ordered balloons from a small, party supplies seller on Etsy. When the package arrived, I opened the bubble mailer and confetti came out. It was fun, surprising, and totally consistent with the brand. Creating a genuinely fun shipping experience for me set this seller apart from her competitors, and demonstrated to me that she thinks about her customers from start to finish. I loved it, and I will definitely purchase from her again.

5. Make all returns free
We know not every seller is able to make free shipping work with their budget. Free, unconditional returns is a great alternative to offering unlimited free shipping, and benefits the customer and retailer alike. Here’s why:  a reported 49% of consumers believe shipping costs to be the most exasperating aspect of returning an item. Another 88% of consumers would rate free return shipping as either “important” or “very important” when making purchase decisions, and 82% of another test group affirm that they would complete an online purchase if the seller offers free return shipping. Making returns easy and free for the buyer is a great way to nail customer service and promote buyer trust. And if a buyer does make a return, they are more than likely going to shop from you again in the future, if your return shipping is free.

Offering exceptional customer service through your shipping process doesn’t just impress customers – it encourages future purchases, stewards repeat buyers and helps you win out over competitors. Get creative with branding, be generous with returns and communicate with buyers that you’re a reliable and considerate retailer. If you can nail this, you will reap the benefits. Happy selling!

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