Before Pure Fix Cycles, which sells bicycles online and via wholesalers, began using Lettuce, an app that streamlines the order fulfillment process in 2012, the checkout process for ecommerce customers was arduous.
"We were spending too much time relaying inventory and sales numbers to employees and sales reps, and doing data entry, such as inputting invoices and payments into QuickBooks," recalls co-founder Michael Fishman.
But since adopting Lettuce, Fishman says PureFix Cycles has experienced 250 percent sales growth. In addition to improving the online retail process, Lettuce has also improved his company's order processing and inventory management. With PureFix Cycle’s staff of 15 employees and 23 independent sales reps, Fishman hails the app as a boon for his company's online operations.
"We are also able to ship our goods much faster because orders are put in more quickly,” he says. “The faster orders go out, the faster the goods sell and the more orders we get as a result."
This is just one example of a small business that has greatly benefited from adding an app to its checkout process. What other tips should small businesses keep in mind when using digital tools to optimize the online checkout process?
Do your homework
No two businesses are the same and neither are their needs when it comes to the online checkout process. Evaluate what you require most in your online retail operations, and then speak to others who have used the same systems or read the reviews. As with any product, never buy a digital tool unless you investigate it thoroughly beforehand. Kevin Morgan is managing partner and chief operating officer of Anant Corporation, a company that helps small businesses run and grow their online operations, and agrees with this guidance.
“I can't tell you how many clients have come to us for emergency help after their original developers caused serious problems by not following industry standards in modifying their shopping cart,” he says. The company currently has a client that has spent nearly double their original investment on fixing a badly coded cart that prevented successful checkout. As a result, they experienced months of delays in launching their online product. “For small business owners dependent upon online sales for revenue, nothing is worse than a delayed rollout,” Morgan says. “Don't skimp: invest in quality developers the first time around.”
Dodd Caldwell, co-founder of MoonClerk, a web-based software that allows small businesses to accept online payments, says every ecommerce site owner needs to make sure the digital tools for the checkout are “efficient, safe, and easy for your customers to use.”
According to Caldwell, ask developers the following questions:
- What security systems does it have in place?
- What resources are available to you for troubleshooting problems and resolving potential failures?
- Does the checkout process do everything you need it to do without tiring consumers with redundancy or unnecessary steps?
Never store a customer's credit card information on your site
This may sound contrary to a small business owner’s wish to expedite the checkout process, but the repercussions could be costly should your online vendor fail a compliance audit. According to Morgan, storing customer credit card information on your site and/or server is a “huge” financial and security risk.“
While there is no legal prohibition preventing a non-PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant merchant from storing credit card information online, the terms of service of major credit card issuers require that transactions are completed using a PCI compliant service,” he says. “A merchant's ability to accept cards may be rescinded should an online vendor fail a compliance audit. If a business owner is not compliant, the time and money to resolve the issue could be significant.”
Make cyber security a priority
With recent headlines of fraud and consumer identity theft at major retailers, small business owners need to place a premium on data security. Dom Morea, senior vice president of First Data, a provider of mobile and ecommerce solutions, concurs.“
Fraud costs both merchants and individuals billions of dollars each year,” he explains.. “Small businesses must do everything they can to protect themselves and their customers. Merchants should look to payment processors that encrypt card data upon the swipe, which will help provide customers with protection from fraud during and after the transaction.”
Check your analytics
Is there a drop in your sales conversion rates when customers begin the online checkout process? Examine what your analytics are telling you. Perhaps it's not the digital tool you're using that's causing customers to not complete online purchases, but rather the way your site is guiding customers through the checkout process.
According to Caldwell, customers often drop out in the checkout process if they read “confusing information or text about shipping or delivery [of products].” To prevent this, Caldwell advises small businesses to be as specific as possible about “when, how, and for how much the product will be delivered or shipped.”
In this vein, rather than swap one digital resource for another, small businesses might only need to make tweaks to improve the checkout process. An example would be making sure that the checkout process has the same style and design (such as colors and fonts) as the rest of the site, says Caldwell. He feels this can improve the conversion rates. Also, keep the checkout process as short as possible.“
Eliminate any unnecessary fields or questions that the customer has to fill in and answer,” explains Caldwell. “People will give up during the checkout process if it feels too long.”
It’s not enough for your company’s website to have the right digital tools for online purchases. You need to be mobile ready as well. “Consumers are turning to their mobile devices for browsing and shopping now more than ever,” says First Data’s Morea. “Plus, with the ability to easily bounce between pages, customers are likely to return to the site, select items, purchase gift cards, or share 'wish list' findings with others.
And by making sure your technology is current, customers will not be hampered with the burden of printing out coupons and rewards or holding on to paper loyalty cards, adds Morea. They will be able to use their smartphones or tablets to find online coupons, which can further streamline the checkout process.
“Merchants should respond to their customers' desires by seeking out a point-of-sale system that has an integrated loyalty program,” explains Morea. “It simplifies the loyalty process for merchants, and customers can connect via their smartphone to receive offers and redeem rewards.”