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Digital Commerce Marketing Guide (2021)

Digital commerce marketing is more than selling. Selling focuses on selling what is available. Digital commerce or ecommerce marketing covers much more such as deciding what to sell, finding ways to make the selling easier, and the actual selling process. In this post, we go into more detail on selling your products using an ecommerce website. It starts with a careful look at the specific value your product delivers to the customer and importance of digital marketing for ecommerce websites.

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What Value do you Deliver to your Customer?

Selling involves using the marketing message developed by professionals. The marketing message is designed to create a desire for the product by explaining the value it delivers to the customer.

Value is NOT the product. You don’t buy a smartphone because it is a smartphone. You buy it for a great camera, easy access to the Internet and a number of apps to do many tasks; in addition to being able to call someone at the other end of the world (or next door). It is these things that constitute value, and creates a desire in the minds of buyers.

Value is based on needs, starting from basic needs like hunger and thirst to status and prestige. Identify the need that your product fulfils and build your marketing message based on your findings.

Communicating the Digital Commerce Marketing Message

This core message, known as the Value Proposition, developed as outlined in the last section is communicated through different channels. The message will need to be adapted to each channel. For example, your AdWords ad copy will seek to communicate it in around 200 words. On the other hand a long-form email might use thousands of words to communicate the same message.

Which channels you use will depend mainly on the customer you are selling to. A business buyer is not going to be impressed by the emotion-triggering copy of the long-form email. On the other hand a whitepaper clearly bringing out the value of the product to the buyer’s business can influence the person in a big way.

Specifics of Digital Commerce Marketing

With the preliminaries covered as above, let us get into the specifics of ecommerce and online marketing.

You can do digital commerce using different channels including eBay, Amazon and other third party platforms. However, in this post, we are focusing on the option of creating an ecommerce website of your own and getting buyers to that site. This option allows you to create a business that can build a brand value and can be sold as a business.

Ecommerce Website

An ecommerce website will need:

  • Product display pages with photos, descriptions, prices and Buy Now buttons
  • Shopping cart software that stores a product catalog, and allows buyers to select products to buy and to put these into a virtual shopping cart for later checkout
  • Payment gateway for buyers to pay for the items in the shopping cart and complete the purchase

Buyers should be able to add and remove items from the shopping cart, choose different delivery options and payment methods, and track their orders.

While you can develop a website from scratch on your own, it is far easier, faster and less expensive to use Shopify, Bigcommerce and other platforms. They offer sites with all the e-commerce requirements built in. The built-in tools usually include marketing tools to promote the website.

Website Promotion

Once you have your website, the next task is to bring targeted visitors to it. Targeting means that the visitors should be people who are likely to buy what you sell. You can define such people by their characteristics such as age, gender, location, income, etc. Or you can define them through their behavior such as people searching for something related to your product or reading a publication that discusses issues related to it.

Let us now look at some specific ways to get visitors to your site or how to perform digital marketing for ecommerce sites.

Free or Low Cost Promotion Methods

  • Tell your relatives, friends and acquaintances about your store and ask them to check it out. If they make some purchases (say against a discount offer), you can test the ordering and fulfilment processes. in case something goes wrong, no serious damage to reputation will occur
  • Announce your store through your Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles, preferably with some great product photos. Ask relatives and friends to share the post to their connections
  • Add a link to your store in your email and blog comment signatures
  • Include your store URL in print materials you hand out, such as business cards and flyers
  • Join forums and groups frequented by prospective customers and participate actively in discussions. Once you have become an accepted member, you can offer a discount (with a live link to your store) to fellow members.
  • Publish a blog and regularly add informative and useful posts on a topic that allows you to mention about your product and store. Adding fresh and popular content to your site regularly can help you to answer the question – how to do ecommerce SEO?
  • Build a mailing list using a subscription form with an incentive for subscribing at your site and social media pages. Send regular newsletters to your subscribers with content of value. With valuable content, you can establish a relationship with your customers and prospects

Paid Campaigns

  • PPC advertising management on Google and Bing could help you generate some immediate traffic from interested persons. You will be able to reach persons actively searching for the product, or reading publications relevant to it
  • Social media ads can help you reach a wide audience you might not reach otherwise
  • Create a Google Merchant Centre account and use Google shopping ads to sell with product photographs and other details in search results. The photos and details show up when someone searches for the product
  • Create a Facebook store to supplement your main store and reach a highly targeted audience

Public Relations

  • Find bloggers who write on a topic relevant to your product and get them to post reviews of your products. Give them a free sample for evaluation
  • Find something newsworthy about your business and create a press release about it. Distribute the release to the press or press release distribution agencies. If a reporter looking for a story picks it up and publishes a favorable story, it could generate high value publicity
  • Go out into the field and hand out flyers and talk to people. If you have people skills, this could be a good opportunity to get the word out

Analyze performance

One major advantage of digital marketing is that it is possible to track the performance of each campaign. You can track which ads produced results that paid back its costs. Tools like Google Analytics help you do this in an automated fashion.

By monitoring results in this way and acting appropriately on the findings, you can grow your business volumes continuously.

Conclusion

In this post we focused on selling, the final component of marketing. You create a marketing message based on the value your product delivers to its users. Then adapt this marketing message to different media that reaches prospective buyers. Next you get it in front of these prospects using different strategies outlined above.

Each of these strategies has its own best practices. Following these best practices will lead to effective campaigns that produce results.

Don’t forget to measure campaign performance using analytic tools like Google Analytics and act on the findings.

What is Dropshipping?

There are different types of retail businesses. For those entrepreneurs or businesses, who does not want to invest heavily, dropshipping can be considered a viable option. Ideally, a dropshipping businesses don’t invest heavily to maintain stock, buy large warehousing space, and purchase a fleet of vehicles to offer delivery service. Entrepreneurs who wish to explore this economical idea and start their dropshipping business, we share this detailed guide. In this guide on what is dropshipping, we cover the following table of contents.

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Basic overview of the dropshipping ecosystem

To understand dropshipping, one has to understand different services seekers and providers involved. To elaborate this, a simple use case is being considered where there are three people involved.

Seller – An individual or business may seek to start their own dropship startup. This may also include a dropshipping retailer who has a brick and mortar store and might keep few products on shelf.

Suppliers – Once the seller receives an order, the quantity as well as shipment details are shared with manufacturer, large retailer, or fulfillment house that handles most of the supply chain operations.

How to find suppliers or dropshippers?

The last two paragraphs of the previous section would have highlighted a key issue. You will have to find someone who will:

  • Ship small quantity orders to your customers under your name
  • And charge you only wholesale prices so that you can make a profit by selling at retail prices

How do you find such drop shippers? Can you find them at all?

The good news is that you can find such drop shippers. While few manufacturers might be willing to ship in small quantities, many wholesalers are willing to do so to increase their business volumes. A dropshipping general store gets them orders through ecommerce digital marketing efforts without setting up a digital marketing department of their own!

That means you do digital marketing.

With these preliminaries, let us now see how you can find drop shippers. The following approach will work if you do it well:

  • Register yourself as a proper retail business with business and tax IDs. Wholesalers might not reveal their wholesale prices until they are convinced that you are a genuine retailer.
  • Decide what products you want to sell (see next section) and then contact manufacturers of those products to find out names and contact details of their wholesalers.
  • Contact the wholesalers with your retailer credentials and find out whether they do drop shipping, i.e. ship small quantity orders under your name to your customers.
  • You can also do a Google or other search to find wholesalers for selected products. In this case, don’t restrict your search to the top few pages. Good wholesalers might not be good digital marketers who can get their sites to the top of search engines. So continue searching into pages 50 and lower
  • Or get access to an authoritative list of wholesalers or drop shippers. For example, you can check:

How do you Identify Genuine from the Rest?

Genuine drop shippers don’t charge their customers a monthly fee for doing business with them. If your “drop shipper” asks for such a payment, it could be a signal that they are not genuine. 

Many retailers pose as drop shippers and try to enhance their income by charging monthly fees. If you work with them you could find yourself priced out of the market after paying them. Competition is intense in dropshipping and margins are low. Hence it is critically important to find genuine wholesalers who offer low prices to start your dropshipping general store business.

How to Decide on Products to Sell?

With the intense competition in the market, it is critical to find the right product to dropship. How do you find the right product?

  • Existence of Demand: The product must be one in good enough demand to generate viable volumes for you. If you select a product that has few buyers, you are unlikely to generate margins that will recover your marketing and other costs.
  • High Margins: In a competitive market, it is difficult to find products that can be sold at high margins. However, if you focus on the following, you might still be able to generate good margins:
    • Lower priced accessories: Low prices and regular replacement needs could generate margins and volumes that lead to profits
    • Hobbyist products: Hobbyists are usually willing to pay high prices for things they are passionate about but find difficult to get
    • MAP products: MAP means Minimum Advertised Price. Some manufacturers insist that their products cannot be sold at prices below the MAP level. In such cases, competitors will not be able to reduce prices below that level and margins can be maintained
  • Differentiate Your Offer: If a product needs a lot of support, you can add value to your offer by including the support along with the product. A detailed operations manual, installation and maintenance support and phone support might not be provided by all sellers. You can differentiate yourself by adding value in these and other forms. By selecting complex products that need support, you open up the opportunity for such differentiation
  • Larger Volume Purchases: Thin margins per unit can be compensated by high volumes. High volumes are possible if the products are used by businesses, who tend to buy in bulk, and for items that are purchased repeatedly by the same customer, as in the case of supplies and accessories for the main product

If you select products by looking at factors like those above (instead of selecting them on the basis of your personal likes and dislikes) you can enhance the success potential of your dropshipping general store business.

Initial Preparation

While the dropshipping general store business model has several advantages, it also has several disadvantages. Unless you think through these and prepare yourself, you could find yourself in serious trouble. Let us take a look at some common issues:

  • Lack of Control over Merchandise and Shipping: You depend on the drop-shipper for the quality of the merchandise and for the correct shipping of each order. If they make a mess of these, you will have to take responsibility and keep the customer happy. You can never put the blame on the drop shipper who is not in the picture as far as the customer is concerned
  • Return Policies: in case the customer wants to return the goods, again, you will have to coordinate with the drop shipper in the background and facilitate the return to the customer’s satisfaction
  • Controlling Operations: You might work with increasing numbers of drop shippers as your business grows. This will mean managing a lot of things to keep operations under control. You will have to route orders to the right drop shipper, keep a watch on items getting out-of-stock, and monitor product quality, correct shipment, returns and any customer complaints. Unless a proper system is in place to attend to each issue, you could find yourself in a complete mess
  • Compliance with Government Regulations: In addition to standard business and tax regulations, you will also need to comply with things like customer data privacy and Payment Card Industry (PCI) requirements. Get a clear idea of what you have to comply with and how to meet the requirements efficiently and effectively
  • Leading Your Business to Success: While attending to the routines above, you also have to work on making your business a success. This would depend primarily on the value you add and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. We look at success factors in more detail in the next section
  • Other Issues: There are also issues like computing and recovering shipping costs, complexities of international shipments and dealing with credit card chargebacks and order frauds. Do the research and prepare for these

Success Factors

Dropshipping general store is easy to start and offers many advantages such as lowered business risks. This has led to a huge number of entrepreneurs entering this industry. You will have to find ways to compete successfully through:

  • A great Website: Create a website that showcases your products to great effect, and makes it easy for buyers to find the product they want, make the purchase, pay for it and get support. You can create such sites using platforms like the following:
    • Shopify
    • BigCommerce
    • Magento
  • Website Promotion: Get the website in front of prospective customers using comparatively inexpensive options such as social media and ecommerce SEO. Some helpful resources include:
    • Moz
    • Hubspot
  • Value Addition: As mentioned earlier, you have to find ways to add value to compete in the competitive market. Help your buyers benefit most from their purchases by providing clear information, guidance and support
  • Specialize in a Niche: Value addition becomes practical when you specialize in a niche so that you can learn everything about the problems customers face in that niche, and help them solve these
  • Build Your Reputation: Create a great image among your customers through excellent products and support. Keep an eye on what they are saying about you. Be ready to forego some immediate profit to keep customers happy

Dropshipping General Store Business: Summary

There are many advantages of the dropshipping business model such as low investment, lower risk, and less hassle in managing operations. You don’t need a warehouse or inventory. You do not face the prospect of a big financial loss if the product is not accepted by the market. And you don’t have to bother about packing and shipping thousands of orders.

On the other hand, you will be operating in an intensely competitive business with low margins. You will also have to answer to your customers for mistakes that the drop shipper makes.

However, if you can add value in some form to the customer so that your offer is differentiated from competitors’ offers, and can do a great job of marketing, you could make your business a success. Specialization in a niche is a great way to achieve differentiation and effective marketing.

What are Shopping Cart Software Solutions?

The dictionary definition of traditional shopping cart – “A small vehicle that you push around a store, putting the things that you want to buy in it”. You cannot put such a physical vehicle into a virtual digital commerce store. Instead, you have a shopping cart software solution that enables one to select things to buy and add items into a virtual shopping cart and remove items you had added in this cart if you decide not to buy these now.

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What is Shopping Cart Software?

The shopping cart software enables an entrepreneur to do more things, including:

  • Display the prices of each item in the cart and the total amount, taxes, and more, before you proceed to checkout
  • Keep the cart at the store with the things you have selected, and leave; you can come back say, after a month and still find the cart with the selected things

Shopping cart software are thus proving more useful for shoppers. Let us now look at different aspects of shopping cart solutions and the key functionalities that keep shoppers happy.

Types of Ecommerce Shopping Cart Software Solutions

Buy Now Button

The first online buying tool, Buy Now buttons are used even now to speed up the buying process. You display a button labeled Buy Now or similar wording with each product. The button is linked to a checkout process that allows the buyer to specify shipping details and pay for the purchase. This is a great solution when you have only one or a few items to sell. Even in large ecommerce stores, it can be used to speed up purchases:

  • Instead of putting things in a virtual shopping cart, you click the Buy Now button and immediately taken to the checkout page
  • If you had already shopped at the store, the Buy Now button could even eliminate the checkout. The shipping and payment details you used last time are applied automatically to the new purchase, and the entire transaction gets completed with that one click

You can get a few lines of code to create a Buy Now button at any place on your website. Many companies may allow you to generate the needed code. You can then copy and paste the code to where you want the button.

Self-Hosted or Downloadable Cart Software

You can buy the software for a one-time payment from the seller and install it at your site (or even multiple sites). The software could have different features, including:

  • Creating a product catalog
  • Creating a storefront displaying available products
  • Setting up a payment gateway
  • Searching for specific products
  • Making purchases and payments easy
  • Marketing and promotional tools
  • Operational statistics and inventory control

Companies like CS-Cart develop downloadable cart software. The disadvantage of the downloadable shopping cart software solution is that you have to buy upgrades (and install them).

Hosted Shopping Cart Software Solutions

Hosted shopping carts are SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions where you typically get a complete ecommerce solution on the web, including:

  • An ecommerce website that can display product details
  • A product catalog (database) to store product details; a shopping cart for customers to put products they want to buy; and inventory management tools
  • Payment gateway with checkout pages and payment method selection options
  • Ecommerce online marketing and promotional tools

You can sign up with the provider and start doing business straightaway. The software will be kept up to date by the provider, and you will have access to the latest version at all times. In return, you pay a recurring fee. Hosted solutions are available from Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion, and more.

Fulfillment Centres

Fulfillment centers allow ecommerce companies to focus on building their brands and marketing their products. The ecommerce company:

  • Sends the physical products to a fulfillment center
  • Transmits details of orders received to the center

The fulfillment center:

  • Packs, labels, and despatches each order to the customer on receipt of order details
  • Provides storage and handling facilities as warehouses do

ShipBob is an example of an ecommerce fulfillment company.

Shopping Cart Software Success Factors

Certain features make the shopping cart more buyer-friendly and facilitate success. These include:

  • Displaying product information that helps prospective buyers to decide whether the product is indeed what they want. Great photographs, multiple views, clear and complete (but concise) descriptions and pricing details are examples of information to display
  • An overall layout that is both pleasing and convenient. Buyers should, for example, be able to add and remove products from the cart, enter promo codes, see the prices by product and in total and move to the checkout page without any confusion
  • Clear mention about all applicable charges, such as taxes and shipping costs, so that buyers know exactly how much they will be paying
  • Where there are a large number of products at an ecommerce store, a search function is essential. Customers should be able to narrow down to what they are looking for by categories, features, prices, and such meaningful filters. And do it quickly and easily
  • A checkout process with clear instructions. The Buy Now button mentioned earlier is one great example. The checkout should not ideally go beyond one page

Shopping cart abandonment is a frequent occurrence. Abandonment means putting things on the cart and then not completing the purchase. This cart abandonment study lists the top reasons for abandonment:

  • High extra costs such as shipping and taxes
  • Asking to create an account before buying
  • The long and complicated checkout process
  • Inability to calculate or see the total cost
  • Website errors or crashes
  • Lack of trust to give credit card information
  • Slow deliveries
  • Unsatisfactory return policy
  • Too few payment methods
  • Credit card declines

Significance of the Shopping Cart

If you look at the role of the shopping cart carefully, you will notice a few surprising things. By offering a virtual shopping cart to customers, your ecommerce store can eliminate:

  • A physical building for the store, probably in a high-cost location
  • Display shelves, promotional information boards, signage
  • A lot of furniture and fittings
  • A physical cash register

With a fulfillment center, you can even eliminate storage and handling facilities for the merchandise.

Summary

The virtual shopping cart at an ecommerce store offers more functionality compared to traditional physical shopping carts. There are several types of virtual shopping carts in the market. Certain features add to the user-friendliness of the carts and reduce shopping cart abandonment.

Digital Commerce Platform for your e-commerce Business

“Digital commerce platform facilitates purchasing transactions over the Web, and supports the creation and development of customer relationships across multiple retail, wholesale, mobile, direct and indirect sales, call center, and digital sales channels. Key functionality for this technology includes the creation and management of product catalogs, Web storefronts, shopping carts, and product recommendation and personalization.” – Gartner.

Going by the Gartner definition above, the core functionalities of a digital commerce platform are:

  • Creation and management of a product catalog, containing details of the products you sell
  • A Web storefront, where you display your products, possibly under relevant categories
  • A digital shopping cart that enables buyers to select specific products and put them in the cart for a later checkout

The definition also mentions functionalities for:

  • Product recommendation and
  • Personalization

The overall objective is defined as the “creation and development of customer relationships across multiple” channels. This will include marketing your business and providing a great customer experience, including easy buying and payment experiences and after-sales support.

The Gartner resource cited above contains reviews of many platforms in the market. These platforms provide the required functionalities to run digital commerce businesses.

In this post, we look in a little more detail at the functionalities and focus on a few popular digital commerce platforms.

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Essential Digital Commerce Platform Features

Product Catalog

Every product has its page at the Shopify platform. The page will contain:

  • Image of the product
  • Its description
  • Price information
  • An “Add to Cart” button

These details will be shown only if you have marked the product as available. If a product is out of stock, you can set it as “not visible”, and it will not appear at the site. Alternatively, if the stock value becomes zero, the algorithms in the platform can set the product as “Out of Stock” or remove it from the listing.

The Shopify product catalog is stored in a database at the back end of your Shopify account. You add products to this database by going to Products->All products page from Shopify admin. Once on the products page, you click the Add products button to bring up a form that allows you to enter a title and description for the new product. After entering these details, you click Save, and that creates a details page for that product.

You go to the details page of a product by clicking the product name on the all Products page. Once there, you can add a picture of the product by clicking the “Add image” button.

You can also enter price details while editing the details page of a product.

The above outline is only the bare minimum to give you an idea. Shopify offers many options to accommodate differing requirements. Entering price, for example, can be complicated by factors such as:

  • Selling in different currencies
  • Sale and discount prices
  • Price computation based on cost plus margin
  • Tax issues

Storefront

The storefront of digital commerce consists of a website that incorporates:

  • Product pages that display product pictures and other details
  • Shopping cart software that allows buyers to select products to buy and
  • Checkout page where the items in the shopping cart are paid for

In addition to these essential elements, the website could also provide features that make the shopping experience easier and more enjoyable. For example, the buyer can remove items from the shopping cart or make payments in different ways. They might also see personalized recommendations, bestseller lists, and customer reviews from past buyers of products.

BigCommerce, another popular e-commerce platform, provides:

  • Readymade store themes that make it possible to create beautiful product pages that will look good on desktops, tablets, and mobile
  • A theme-editor to customize the themes, and API’s for full-scale customization with HTML and CSS
  • Conversion-boosting features such as an optimized checkout experience, abandoned cart saver and an augmented search that allows you to narrow down to just what you are looking for
  • Different options to accept payments from shoppers, including credit or debit card, PayPal and Amazon Pay among others

You can build great storefronts even if you don’t know HTML and CSS. This is made possible by a site builder and the different themes. You add “blocks” such as paragraphs, headings, and images to build up your site.

Marketing Features

Popular digital commerce platforms typically include features that help you improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Digital commerce marketing involves:

  • Getting interested visitors to your site, and 
  • Getting them to buy when they are at the site

Let us see how some popular platforms help with the above issues and improve web traffic of an ecommerce website.

Shopify themes also pay conscious attention to making it easy for visitors to find what they want and to make purchases. These conversion-boosting elements make it more likely that visitors will buy what they wish to once they land on the site.

BigCommerce has themes that are built for better search engine visibility. HTTPS, optimized URLs, and automatic sitemaps, for example, help SEO. BigCommerce is also integrated with Google Shopping so that you can advertise to shoppers looking for products on Google. 

The brief mentions above are just examples of marketing support that two popular digital platforms offer. They offer more.

When you select a digital commerce platform, look carefully at how they help with the two critical issues mentioned earlier viz.

  • Bringing visitors to the site and 
  • Converting visitors into buyers when they are at the site.

Analytical Reports

You control your business by:

  • Setting targets for key performance areas, such as sales volumes, revenues, and profits
  • Recording actual performance along with the same areas
  • Comparing the performance in each area against the targets
  • Analyzing the factors that led to any deviations of actual performance from pre-set targets
  • Taking actions based on findings of the analytics so that performance reaches desired levels

Google Analytics is a tool to help with the above. It allows you to set goals and measure performance against these. Extensive analytical capabilities are incorporated to identify the factors that affect performance.

The Magento 2 digital commerce platform allows tapping the power of Google Analytics to control the performance of e-commerce businesses built with Magento.

Digital Commerce Platform Reviews

BigCommerce

The solutions offered by BigCommerce depend on the use case. For instance, the company provides digital commerce solutions for the following use cases:

  • Headless Ecommerce – This includes a backend engine which comes with sophisticated application programming interfaces (APIs).
  • B2B – For businesses with existing systems in place. Such systems might be enterprise resource planning (ERP), order management system (OMS), customer relationship management (CRM), and more.
  • Wholesale – BigCommerce enables a business to deliver single frontend and backend experience to wholesale audience and much more.
  • Multi-channel – For those who sell on other ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, ebay, and more.
  • International – For global brands that want to offer localized experiences to audiences. This includes localized currency, content, and more.

Magento

Magento Commerce, also known as Adobe Commerce Cloud, offers a rich set of application programming interfaces (APIs), which website owners can leverage to migrate their online store with improved time to market to headless commerce.

Volusion

Volusion is a software company that offers different capabilities for entrepreneurs to:

Create Their Online Store

Volusion claims to have enabled around 180,000 entrepreneurs to start an online store. Value is added for their target audience as important features are provided, such as an easy to use ecommerce website builder tool, responsive themes, and more.

Sell Their Products

Sellers can sell with ease as Volusion offers inventory management, payment collection, and different product options. Furthermore, there is an endless array of third-party integrations that work with Volusion. Few such names include FedEx, PayPal, ShipStation, Stripe, and more.

Market Their Products

Volusion users can leverage features that enable better search engine ranking, craft and send engaging email newsletters, and a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud

Salesforce Commerce Cloud enables one to deliver customer-centric ecommerce experiences on the customer’s favorite channels. Here are few additional capabilities of Salesforce Commerce Cloud:

  • Personalized buying experiences
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered customer insights
  • Entire ecosystem of pre-integrated apps

Digital Commerce Platforms: A Summary

We looked very briefly at some aspects of three popular digital commerce platforms. Our goal was to illustrate how features helped critical issues of managing an e-commerce business in the platforms. 

There are many more platforms, including those created by reputed companies like Oracle. What you have to check is whether the platform you select is easy to use and whether it provides the key functionalities for you to succeed with digital commerce.

Ecommerce Shipping Options that add Value in the Fulfillment Process

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In a study conducted by Forter and OnePoll, insights were shared on different reasons behind the high ecommerce shopping cart abandonment rate in the ecommerce ecosystem. In the graph shown below, we can observe the top five reasons behind why shoppers abandon their cart. The top five reasons were – need to re-enter shipping info, need to re-enter payment information, delayed shipping, broken discount code feature, and high shipping rates.

With many digital shoppers abandoning their shopping carts due to different reasons associated with shipping, it becomes a necessity for an online business to provide flexibility to the buyer in the way he or she chooses the shipping option. In this blog post, we will share information on different types of ecommerce shipping options and rates in ecommerce that will add value to your fulfillment process.

Ecommerce Shipping Options

Before an order is placed, the buyer is shown different ecommerce shipping options. As per the buyer’s preference, a shipping option is selected. Here is a brief explanation of different shipping options in digital commerce for your better understanding.

Free in-store Pickup

If you have a brick and mortar store, this option will do. For entrepreneurs selling on ecommerce marketplaces such as Amazon and Alibaba, the in-store pickup option can be optional but not limited to your brick and mortar store. By leveraging this option, you can offer related products to the buyer through upselling.

LTL Shipping Carriers

The Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping option is suitable for those companies that are primarily involved in conducting business-to-business (B2B) transactions. Ideally, the LTL shipping option is applicable where the quality ordered is very high. Furthermore, when ordering in bulk, the weight factor also comes into play.

Same-Day Delivery

The same-day delivery option can add value for a regular buyer and improve the conversion rates. If you are planning to sell perishable items such as groceries, then you must provide the same-day delivery option to your buyers. You can charge an additional fee from those buyers who select the same-day delivery option.

Types of Ecommerce Shipping Rates

Free Shipping

One can call the free shipping option as an innovation that was perfected by Amazon. To satisfy the changing customer expectation, retailers and sellers on ecommerce marketplaces can free shipping. This step was welcomed, and sellers and retailers alike observed improvement in the conversion rates.

However, free shipping is not free for a retailer as there is cost associated with each phase of the supply chain. To know whether you can offer free shipping or the order value above which you can offer free shipping, we suggest you read the information on the free shipping threshold.

Flat Rate Ecommerce Shipping

Flat rate shipping adds value to digital commerce by simplifying the calculation for both the buyer and seller on an ecommerce marketplace or an online retailer. When a buyer places an order, the different aspects of a product, such as weight, dimensions, and more, are not taken into consideration.

Furthermore, irrespective of the order value, the shipping cost remains the same. However, there is one use case, where flat rate shipping can be a warning sign for the seller. If a buyer places an order for a heavy item, you may end up paying more. Always double-check before offering flat rate shipping.

Table Rate Ecommerce Shipping

Table rate shipping is used to calculate the cost of shipping in which multiple aspects of the product are considered before an order is placed. While product dimensions and weight are found, additional factors include location, distance, and more. If you plan to use WooCommerce, Shopify, BigCommerce, and more to start your ecommerce store, then we suggest using a table rate shipping plugin.

Alternatively, for enterprise users such as large retail brands or other B2B ecommerce businesses, a custom feature can be developed in the ecommerce solution that considers specific points to suit your unique requirements.

Live Shipping Rates

To precision in the calculation of shipping rates, you can integrate your ecommerce store with a third-party shipping service provider using an application programming interface (API). When an order is placed, data such as dimensions, weight, location, and more are shared with the shipping service provider via the API. The end-user sees the live shipping rate shared by the shipping company.

Benefits of using Shipping API

Address and Delivery Validation

Verify addresses to ensure that the order can be delivered correctly and speedily. You can also check that you deliver at the given addresses. If you don’t, you can decline the order.

Select a Relevant Carrier

Select the best carrier for the particular order. Carriers differ in the delivery locations they service, speed of delivery, shipping rates and the supporting services such as tracking the package. By enabling you to select a particular carrier, you will be better able to meet customer expectations.

Almost Real Time Tracking

Provide tracking information that can dramatically increase the level of comfort customers feel about online ordering. The one major advantage of brick-and-mortar stores is the opportunity they provide for customers to see the product and carry it with them. By providing full product details and also shipment tracking information, ecommerce sites can offset this advantage to some extent.

Shipping API Functionalities

The following list of API’s from UPS will give an indication of API functionalities you can expect:

  • Address Validation – City, State, ZIP: Verify the city, state, and ZIP or postal code information is valid. 
  • Address Validation – Street Level: Verify the street address, city, state, and ZIP or postal code information is valid.
  • Dangerous Goods – Validate Air, Ground, and International Dangerous Goods (hazardous materials) shipments are acceptable to UPS.
  • Locator – Global: Find a UPS Access Point, UPS location or The UPS Store nearest to you.
  • Pickup – Request a pickup for you or for one of your customers.
  • Pre-Notification – Notify UPS of Dangerous Goods shipments after shipment processing.
  • Rating – Compare delivery services and shipping rates to determine the best option for your customers.
  • Shipping – Validate addresses, compare rates, and print labels for your internal business processes.
  • Time in Transit – Compare shipping transit times of UPS services.

Shipping API Providers

Major couriers such as FedEx provide shipping API’s to integrate their services to your systems. For example, FedEx Web Services is a shipping API for integrating software applications with FedEx Systems to create shipping labels, facilitate returns, track shipments, obtain rate quotes and generate reports. Other major players like UPS and DHL also provide shipping API’s.

Other API developers provide APIs that allow selection of your own carrier (instead of just FedEx or UPS or DHL). For example, ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and Bigcommerce provide shipping APIs with multicarrier options. So do many other specialist developers.

Conclusion

Online retailers and sellers on ecommerce marketplaces suffer from low conversion rates due to inappropriate ecommerce shipping and fulfillment strategy. In this blog post, we discussed information on different ecommerce shipping rates and fulfillment options for retailers and sellers on ecommerce marketplaces to make an informed decision.

Creating an Effective Questionnaire – Tips and Examples

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To create an effective questionnaire for primary market research you have to be very clear what exactly you want to find out. Market research can be done to find out different things about the market. For example:

  • Is there a market for the new product you are planning to launch?
  • What features can you add to an existing product to improve its marketability?
  • What do customers think about competitors’ products?
  • Which channels are best to reach prospective customers?

It is clear that the same survey questions will not help you find answers to these different broad questions. So consider the current business context and the broad question that needs to be answered in that context. Detailed survey questions will have to be designed to produce an answer to the broad question.

Actually, you might need to conduct a secondary research to get a clear perspective to frame the broad question to be answered by primary research. With that perspective you might come up with a hypothesis. For example, a secondary research exercise might point to changing media habits and you might want to test a hypothesis such as: “Using Instagram for promoting our product will reach more prospective customers.” Your questions (and the whole research exercise) will then be designed to collect data to test this hypothesis.

Starting with a hypothesis as above will make the primary market research exercise more meaningful. You can then check:

  • What data do we need to validate the hypothesis? The statistical techniques used to prove or disprove the hypothesis will point to the type of data to be collected.
  • What questions can this data generate?

Such a hypothesis can also help you narrow down the specific population you want to research. For example, when you are testing whether Instagram reaches more members of your audience, you will be forced to define that audience. And check whether it is really the right audience considering the business results you are seeking.

Selecting the right audience is critically important. For example, if the research is for finding out reactions to an existing product, your audience will consist of people who have used the product. Your first question will be a filtering question to check whether they have used it. If the answer is NO, the survey will not proceed with that respondent. On the other hand, if you are planning to introduce a new product, your focus will be to find an audience that is likely to be interested in that product. You might check such potential interest through a series of questions.

With these preliminary remarks, let us now proceed to the topic of questionnaire design.

The detailed questions in the research questionnaire will primarily be determined by the broad business question you are trying to answer, as discussed above. The presentation of the questions will be affected by other aspects of the research.

Consider the Method of Question Delivery

The specific method used to reach research respondents will affect the wording of the questionnaire. Research can be done using:

  • Face to face interviews: During a face to face interview, you can explain any question that is not clear. You can also check the body language and facial expressions of the respondent to validate the answer to some extent.
  • Telephone interviews: A telephone interview also allows explaining questions in more detail. However, it might not be as effective because you cannot check the body language to ensure that the respondent has understood it right.
  • Mailed questionnaire: Mailed questionnaires have to contain full explanations so that the respondents know exactly what is being asked. If different respondents understand the question differently, you are unlikely to get the information you are looking for.
  • Focus group discussions: Focus groups are best for open discussions, not for questions that need a Yes or No answer.

So decide how you are going to reach your audience, and phrase your questions considering that context.

Structure the Flow of Questions

Don’t present the question in a haphazard order. Instead, there should be:

  • Opening questions to put the respondent at ease. At this stage, don’t ask questions that are likely to cause discomfort to the respondent. For example, personal questions such as level of income are best left to the end. The opening questions might not provide meaningful information; they put the respondent at ease and ready to answer remaining questions.
  • Main questions should be presented in a psychological order, with each question leading to the next question, wherever possible. These are the questions that generate the information you are really seeking.
  • “Dummy” questions can be included where you want to hide the purpose of certain questions from the respondent. These are extra questions that do not provide any information you want but prevents the respondent from understanding the intent behind a certain question.
  • Closing questions typically include personal information. Some of these questions might cause discomfort to some respondents. Leaving  them to the end ensures that you can get the key answers before you come to these.

Format of Main Questions

Questions can be phrased in three broad formats:

  • Open ended: These allow the respondent to respond in his or her own way. For example, the question might be: What do you think about this product? It could bring up answers you might not have expected. Open ended questions are good where the question could elicit varied answers.
  • Close ended: These questions typically have YES or NO answers. Such questions are good to get specific information that you can later tabulate and classify to identify meaningful patterns.
  • Open response option: These are like dropdown lists with a number of ready answers for the respondent to choose from. These are great when you have a clear idea of possible  answers because it combines some features of the open and close ended questions. It allows the respondent some choice of answers while also facilitating later statistical analysis.

The format is important for two conflicting reasons:

  • Getting a true picture by allowing the respondent through open questions to provide information that is relevant to the  research and
  • Allowing subsequent tabulation, classification and analysis of the answers. This is easier with closed questions. Answers to open ended questions will need additional work before they can be analysed. They will need to be categorised in a way relevant to the research objective and then tabulated and classified.

Review each Question

Once you have completed the questionnaire, go through each question and check:

  • Does this question serve any purpose? The purpose could be generating information to meet the research objective, or to put the respondent at ease, or a dummy question described earlier or a personal question to profile the respondent.
  • Does this question serve the intended purpose? Will it provide needed information or put the respondent at ease or hide the purpose of certain questions, as applicable?
  • Will the respondent be able to answer it correctly? Or will it confuse the person or lead to inaccurate answers? For example, questions about events that happened long ago, or about things the respondent has no idea about, are unlikely to be answered correctly.
  • Will the phrasing of the question communicate the same thing to all respondents? If the question is phrased hurriedly or carelessly, it might communicate different things to different people, and elicit answers that are not comparable.
  • Does the question suggest a specific answer? If your goal is to get an unbiased answer, the question should not suggest any particular answer. For example, if you only ask the respondent: What makes you dislike this product? (probably a competitor’s product) it assumes that the respondent does not like it. If you want a true picture, you would phrase the question in a way that persons who like the product can give that answer.
  • Is the question too personal or embarrassing? Such questions might not be answered correctly, or at all. It could even lead to termination of the interview.

Questionnaire Presentation

A questionnaire with the following characteristics are more likely to be taken seriously, and answered accurately:

  • A neatly laid out document with plenty of white space, in addition to adequate space for answers.
  • Clearly and simply worded questions that leave no room for ambiguous interpretation.
  • Definitions and explanations of terms that might not be clear to everybody.
  • Additional instructions where needed to enable correct answering. These should appear close to the relevant question so that it is seen before an answer is given.

Test the Questionnaire

There are so many factors that could affect getting the right information you need. It is best to test the questionnaire on a small representative sample to check whether it generates the information needed by the research.This is likely to bring up problems you might not have observed. Only after any problems are rectified should you scale up the survey to a full sample of the audience.

Conclusion

Before you start framing market research questions take adequate time to get a clear idea of your business objective. The business objective will help you set the research objective i.e. the information you want to find out through the research. And the information you have to find out will determine the questions you have to ask.

Once the questions are listed, your next task is to work on phrasing presenting these in a way that makes it easy to get answers, and also increases the chances of getting correct answers. In this post we looked at the different things you can do to fine tune the questions. We concluded with a few resources for example questions.

Digital Commerce Explained – Business Models and Success Factors

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Here you’ll find digital commerce explained and a clear idea of what digital commerce success means and the issues that affect it.

Digital Commerce Explained

The term digital commerce explained – digital commerce enables customers to purchase goods and services through an interactive and self-service experience. That means digital commerce involves a purchase of goods and services, provides an interactive experience meaning that the buyer can control several elements, and that is also  a self-service experience with no salesperson interrupting the buyer.

The purchase could be a fully online experience, as when you find and buy a service online, which is then delivered online. Or it could be partly online and partly offline, as when you order a product online which is delivered physically at your doorstep by a courier. In practical terms, it is digital commerce if the marketing and order placement are done online. For example, you create a website describing your offer and accept orders at the site. Next, you promote the website so that it comes to the notice of those looking for your kind of offer.

Why Adopt Digital Commerce?

A business transaction involves a buyer and seller. If both of these parties receive a better experience by completing the transaction in a certain way, it tends to become a more preferred way. Let us look at the buyer and seller experiences under digital commerce.

Buyer Experience: Convenient, Personal and Private

Under digital commerce, the buyer can complete the purchase:

  • In the privacy of his or her home
  • Selecting what to buy and from whom, after browsing available choices and  prices
  • At any time 24 hours  a day, 7 days a week, depending on when the buyer is in the mood and
  • Pay for it in different ways – credit or debit card, net banking or even COD if available

The buyer can even select items and keep it in the digital shopping cart for days or months until he or she is ready to buy.

Seller Experience: Low Cost and Low Risk

The digital seller:

  • Doesn’t need an expensive outlet in the business district. Instead, the merchandise can be stored say, in a surplus shipping container for example
  • Doesn’t have to incur costs of salespersons, signage, display racks and such incidental facilities
  • Can even eliminate merchandise (and associated costs such as storage space and transport) by choosing the drop shipping business model (see next section)
  • Can sell to the whole world, particularly under the drop shipping model where the merchandise is shipped by drop shippers located in different countries

Important Digital Commerce Business Models

The Dropshipping Business Model

While starting a dropshipping general store business business sounds relatively easy, a generic business model works as follows:

  • You select a product that you can market
  • You find a supplier of the product who would be willing to ship it under your name and address. This is the “drop shipper” and you agree on the prices and  other terms with them
  • You promote the product in different ways say, by creating a website and using SEO, social media and email campaigns
  • If you are effective in your promotional efforts, you will get orders
  • You get payment from the customer and then pass on the order to the drop shipper, paying the price you have agreed with them
  • The excess of the price you get from the customer over the price you pay the drop shipper is your margin
  • If you sell in sufficient volumes, you can cover your marketing and other costs and generate a profit

There are several agencies that help you find marketable products, find drop shippers and help you create and promote a website for digital commerce success. So if you are ready to work at it, to go into all details and do all that is necessary, you can create a drop shipping business.

The Private Label Model

Many digital commerce businesses have a great idea for a product but they don’t have the resources or the capacity to manufacture those products themselves. That’s where the concept of private label comes in.

In this concept, the digital commerce business can give their idea to an existing manufacturer, let the manufacturer know about the exact product specifications and then label and sell the product under their own brand name.

Let’s take an example to understand this better.

Suppose, a salon owner sells different hair care products online on its website. All these products are from different brands. Now, he wishes to sell a product that is exclusive to his own salon. He can then contact a manufacturer, give them the exact specifications of this product that they produce in-house. The salon owner thus has a private label product (product that has his own salon’s name). He can sell this same product from the salon’s ecommerce store.

The benefits of this business model are:

  • The startup costs are minimal as you don’t have to invest in starting a manufacturing facility or gather that much labour.
  • When you get private label products manufactured, you can be more agile and react more swiftly if consumers start to demand new product features or improvisations.
  • You can have on-demand manufacturing so that you can test your product and quickly change things if you encounter problems with product quality
  • It’s a great way to test your product and target market before opening your own production facility.

Some ecommerce businesses that have made use of this business model are:

Flipkart

In 2016, Flipkart launched Smart Buy, its first private label brand. It deals with multiple categories ranging from household items to consumer durables. Flipkart’s subsidiary Myntra is also known to have its own private label fashion products. Just a few years back, Myntra stated that its private label brands have brought in a profit of 5%.

Amazon 

Amazon isn’t far behind in the game of private label. Under the private label AmazonBasics, it sells everything ranging from power banks to stationery, Solimo for dry fruits, Myx for women’s clothing, Echo is a smart speaker private label and “10.or”, a budget smartphone brand.

The White Label Business Model

White label products are those products that are manufactured by one company and sold by another company that puts its brand name and logo on the product. For example, you might have seen a lot of products under the Great Value Brand in Walmart. Are all those products manufactured by Walmart? Absolutely not. Various companies already provide those products but they are willing to put those products in Walmart’s packaging.

This type of business model is most popular in the beauty and wellness industries, electronic good industry, etc. As a white label ecommerce business, it’s critical to understand the demand for the concerned product as most suppliers set a minimum order quantity and you may get stuck up with large batches of unsold inventory.

LevelUp

They develop their own mobile payment and loyalty program application but they have also white labeled it for restaurants like Dig Inn and Sweetgreen so these restaurants can market and promote it as their own.

The Subscription Business Model

Suppose you joined a new organization. There’s so much work there that you just can’t get the time to go home and cook dinner and eat it. So you skip dinners every now and then. But recently you got news of a diner that delivers a healthy meal pack at your home for cheap rates. They have different plans ranging from weekly, monthly to half yearly. You can subscribe and pay for any one of those.

Wouldn’t it be convenient and so nice? That’s the power of subscription based business model. In fact according to a research done by McKinsey, the subscription economy has grown 100% year on year since the last five years. Subscription businesses can have relatively reliable and stable income streams. It also incentivizes customers to purchase additional subscriptions and encourages their contacts to subscribe.

There are many advantages to having this model like: planning inventory and delivery in advance, enjoying low inventory risks and high margins, maintaining high customer retention and loyalty and helping reduce cart abandonment rates.

Friction Free Shaving

When a customer signs up on Ffs, they receive new razor and replacement blades at regular intervals that can be chosen by the subscriber. They also offer their subscribers the ability to pause, cancel or restart at any time. The customers save, the company gains.

Blue Apron

This is a US-based meal kit service that provides high quality food ingredients regularly. All subscribers need to do is set their food preferences and then the Blue Apron team takes care of everything.

The Wholesale Business Model

Wholesaling as the name suggests means setting up an ecommerce store that offers products in large quantities at discounted rates. While wholesaling majorly used to be done offline, many ecommerce stores have adopted this business model in the recent years and done well.

You will require a lot of investment at the start because you’ll have to invest in the warehouse space, manage inventory, keep track of customer orders, shipping information and a lot more which will require a large investment in labour as well. But if all this and the marketing bit is taken care of, the returns can be manifold. Ecommerce stores like Laird Superfood have managed to increase their annual revenue by 550%.

IndiaMart

This is one of the best ecommerce wholesale platforms in India and has more than 3 million suppliers. It provides services to both B2B and B2C markets.

Tapping the Digital Commerce Business Opportunity

Considering the benefits to both buyer and seller, it would be safe to say that digital commerce is going to increase in volumes in a major way. It has become a great business opportunity for entrepreneurs.

However, the entrepreneurs have to attend to several important issues to tap the opportunity successfully:

  • Compete on costs: Large sellers like Amazon, Walmart and Reliance can afford to organise merchandise in huge volumes and also save on incidental costs such as warehousing and logistics. A new entrepreneur will have to find some way to compete against them on costs.
  • Compete on quality: The entrepreneur can seek to source a niche product for which he or she has some unique advantage, such as local availability or innovative technology.
  • Build a reputation for dependability: Digital commerce has attracted its share of fraudsters, and buyers have become wary of buying from unknown sellers. A new entrepreneur will have to find a way to build and maintain a reputation for quality products and dependable delivery.
  • Effective marketing: The online seller is primarily a marketer. He or she has to build a brand name, a reputation for quality and dependability, and offer some unique value to compete against big players.

Effective operations: Sourcing quality products, organising the logistics involved in delivering orders at remote places and getting paid for all deliveries are other challenges that need attention and practical solutions.

Creating a Venture for Digital Commerce Success

A good option is to start with the drop shipping model. You will gain experience in marketing products effectively. For example, you will gain first-hand experience of:

  • Products that sell well, and the prices at which they can be sold
  • Creating a website that creates a desire for the products being offered
  • Promoting the website cost-effectively using say, PPC, Social Media, Ecommerce SEO, and Email
  • Providing the kind of support that makes customers happy

You will also become familiar with issues of:

  • Logistics of delivering the orders in a way to meet your promises
  • Getting paid for all the deliveries you make
  • Handling returns and customer complaints
  • Ensuring quality of the products

Conclusion

The experience, familiarity, and contacts will prove of superb value when you start your own venture for digital commerce success. On the other hand, if you invest serious money in a new venture without the above kind of familiarity, you could meet unexpected problems. And run the risk of losing your investment and more.

What is Market Research and its Advantages? – In-Depth Version

The key advantages of market research is that it could mean the difference between life and death for a business. Studies have repeatedly found that new ventures fail because founders neglect to look at the market before starting the business. Failing to look at the market can lead to problems like entering an intensely competitive market that does not allow new entrants to generate profitable sales volumes, copying a product or service from elsewhere without confirming that it has a market locally, and failing to build in functionality for the product or service to meet user needs and expectations. All of the above can quickly lead the business to the failed businesses club. What exactly is market research? And what specific advantages does it generate? In this post, we answer these questions as well as the benefits of market research.

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What is Market Research?

Market research is a formal exercise to look at a target market and gather data that is important for specific business decisions. The goal of market research could be:

  • Learning about the market like size of the market, competitors and their offers, customer expectations and dissatisfactions, how the product is used, etc.
  • Testing your business idea like testing different ad copy versions, different packaging, different prices and so on.
  • Using a focus group to test responses to your proposed product and its features and to identify the marketing messages that are likely to work.
  • Monitoring your performance in the market such as brand awareness, customer satisfaction and usage of the product.

In the next section, we look more specifically at the goals of market research in the context of a new business.

Market Research for new Businesses

The starting point of market research is a focus on customers. You are trying to find out:

  • What value does my product or service deliver to its users?
  • How many customers are looking for this value in my target market?
  • Considering the average purchase per customer, what will be the size of the market for my product or service?
  • What do users of the product or service expect in terms of functionality and features?
  • Who are my competitors in the target market?
  • How satisfied are customers with the offers of these competitors?
  • Are there any customer dissatisfactions or frustrations that we can meet and gain a competitive advantage?
  • How can I reach the customers in the target market?
  • What kind of marketing message is likely to click with the customers?

It is of course possible to jump into the business with a general idea about these. However, general ideas rarely lead to the kind of business results you are hoping for.

On the other hand, if you take the trouble to get into the field and gather authentic information, you will be in a position to come up with an offer that is likely to click in the market. And promote that offer in a way that resonates with prospective customers.

Let us look at the different ways market research generates business benefits.

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Advantages or Benefits of Market Research

To understand the benefits of market research, one has to understand that market research involves serious work. You have to clarify the purpose of the research before starting. Next, you have to design the research consciously to serve that purpose. And finally carry out the extensive range of tasks involved.

  • Why go to all the trouble?
  • What benefits can the business expect?

Actionable Knowledge about the Market

Knowledge is power, and specifically actionable when it is about your market.

  • When you know what the customer needs and expects, you can design offers that meet these precisely. 
  • When you know what your competitors are doing, you can develop a marketing message that differentiates you from them and presents your offer to your best advantage.
  • Meeting customers’ needs precisely and communicating that fact using a distinctive marketing message strengthens your position in the market.

Maximises Return on Investment

When you know the market as above, and can reach your customers with effective marketing messages, your efforts produce results significantly above average. The investment in market research will pay for itself.

On the other hand, if you have no clear idea about your customer needs and expectations, and about competitor offers and activities, you would be wasting a lot of money and effort on trial-and-error campaigns.

The campaigns can fail to generate sales in volumes because your offer falls short in meeting user needs and expectations. Overall return on investment in the business could be seriously affected.

Meaningful SWOT Application

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Businesses use SWOT analysis to identify their internal strengths and weaknesses, and external market opportunities and threats.

  • If you are in close contact with the market through continuing research, identification of market opportunities and threats become quicker.
  • Market research can also reveal your strengths and weaknesses as compared to competitors.
  • The whole SWOT analysis becomes a meaningful exercise and you will be in a position to develop highly effective business strategies.

More effective Control

Control is exercised by:

  • Setting targets
  • Measuring actual performance
  • Comparing performance against targets and
  • Taking appropriate actions based on the findings

Setting realistic targets for sales is a challenging task in most situations. The insights generated by market research makes this an achievable task as you gain insights into market conditions, and also about the conversion rates of different types of marketing campaigns.

Branding and Customer Loyalty

With the insights into customer needs and preferences, and offers that meet these, your brand gets associated with a great image in the minds of customers. They become loyal customers who might even pay higher prices for your product or service. Competitors will find it hard to take business from you.

With such major benefits of market research, it is something businesses cannot ignore. Considering further that without market research, your business runs a high risk of failure, the case for doing it becomes even more critical. How do you carry out the market research exercise? We look at it next.

Market Research in Practice

Broadly, there are two types of research, primary research and secondary research.

  • Primary research involves going into the field and collecting original data.
  • Secondary research involves gathering needed data from published sources, where the original research has been done by others.

Data Collection

Primary data collection is done using questionnaire, conversations and observation. Questions in a questionnaire must be consciously designed to serve the purpose of the market research. For example, if research is being done before starting a new business, your primary focus will be on understanding customers and competitors. There are certain best practices for designing a questionnaire. For example, questions that provide information through YES / NO answers are more effective. Once the questionnaire is ready, you can use the following methods to get answers:

Interviews

Interviews involve meeting people and getting answers to the questions. Face-to-face and even video interviews are great for getting real insights. You can learn a great deal from facial expressions, tone of voice and other physical cues.

Surveys

Surveys involve delivering the questionnaire through a text chat interface or email. There are several tools to run online surveys and it is easier to use these than set up interviews. Instead of a formal questionnaire, you can use “moderated” conversations to gather data.

Focus Groups

A group of people selected to represent the company’s target customers is assembled. A moderator then guides a conversation around the product, user experience and marketing message for example. If done skilfully without being influenced by any kind of bias, these conversations can generate high-value insights.

Observation

The researcher observes a user using the product in a real life context and takes notes that can be invaluable in designing the product. The observer can note down where the user faces difficulties and try to minimize these, for example. The methods mentioned above come under the category of “primary market research.” In primary research, you get into the field and gather original data. You can conduct secondary market research to gather valuable data. Secondary research involves referring to published data to gather the information you need.

Government Sources

Government publications such census reports, departmental reports such as labor department reports and reports published by development agencies such as Small Business Administration can provide data about demographics and much much more.

Commercial Sources

Trade publications of specific trade associations could provide just the kind of data you need for your business.

Universities And Educational Institutions

Business schools and others might have reports published under different research projects. These might be available in their journals (available for a price).

The World Wide Web

Most of the publications above would be available on the web as online publications. Additionally, you also have social media and competitor websites.

  • On social media you can listen to people talking about everything, including products and companies. Listen to them.
  • Competitor websites can provide you a great deal of information, such as details of competitor offers, prices, marketing messages and performance.

Analysis

The data collected as above becomes meaningful only when it is analysed and interpreted. The data can be quantitative data, such as the number of people who consume say, bottled water. Or it can be qualitative data, such as their feelings about the quality of the water. The data collected is classified and analyzed using appropriate statistical methods. Familiarity with statistical techniques is important for market researchers.

Conclusion

We have looked at what market research involves and the key advantages it delivers. One of the important benefits of market research is that it provides us with insights needed to compete effectively in the market. It might even tell us not to enter the market at all.

Payment Gateway for Ecommerce Businesses – Tips and Providers

Your eCommerce business sells online. If you don’t accept payments also online, the business is unlikely to prosper. In these days of many online payment options, buyers tend to have their favourite options. Unless you allow them to shop with their favourite payment gateway for eCommerce, you could lose significant volumes of business. In this post, we look at different payment gateway for ecommerce businesses.

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How Do Buyers Buy Online?

At eCommerce sites, a buyer:

  • Browses an online product catalogue that includes descriptions, pictures, and prices of the products they want
  • Selects one or more products and adds these to an online shopping cart
  • When the selection is complete, goes to the checkout page and pays for the items in the shopping cart
  • And waits for the products to be delivered through a carrier to his or her house

It is the checkout page mentioned above that is our focus in this post. The page can offer Cash on Delivery (COD) option where the buyer pays cash to a carrier when the purchased item is delivered.

In that case, the payment processing involves keeping track of cash due and arranging to collect it against delivery (and sending the collected cash back to the seller). However, in most cases, online buyers pay by:

  • Credit or debit card
  • Internet banking
  • Payment wallets such as PayPal
  • Carrier payments as when you pay using the balance in your phone account

In these cases, a lot of online processing takes place at the back end.

How Sellers Get Paid Online?

Online sellers use “payment gateways” to accept and process such payments. “A payment gateway is a technology used by merchants to accept debit or credit card purchases from customers. The term includes not only the physical card-reading devices found in brick-and-mortar retail stores but also the payment processing portals found in online stores.” – Investopedia.

Payment Gateway in a Traditional Brick and Mortar Store

If you walk into a brick-and-mortar store, you can pay by cash or by your credit card. If credit card is used, it initiates an electronic process involving:

  • Swiping the card in a Point of Sale (POS) machine
  • Entering your PIN
  • Waiting for approval from the bank that issued the card
  • Receiving approval or rejection from the bank
  • Completing the purchase if bank approval is received

When you swipe the debit or credit card, you are entering a gateway, the electronic payment gateway, where a lot of things happen:

  • The details of your card are read by the machine
  • Your authority to use the card is verified against the PIN you entered
  • If the verification is okay, details of both the card and the transaction are sent to a payment processor used by the merchant’s bank
  • The payment processor forwards the details to the card issuing bank
  • The card issuing bank checks the validity of the card, availability of funds, and other things, and either approves or rejects the payment request and informs this status to the payment processor
  • The payment processor sends the status to the merchant’s bank
  • The merchant and customer see the status
  • If the status is “approved,” the merchant can activate a “transaction clearing” process
  • The clearing process results in the issuing bank transferring the funds kept “in hold” (when they approved the payment) to the merchant’s bank, thus “settling” the payment

The payment gateway attends to all the above tasks over a “secure” network.

Payment Gateway for Ecommerce Businesses

If the purchase transaction takes place online, there is no swiping machine. Instead:

  • The card number and some authentication details (such are card expiry date and a CVV number) are entered on a secure web page of the eCommerce site
  • The payment gateway encrypts the data before sending it over the Internet to the payment processor
  • Steps similar to those described above happens in the gateway
  • The responses are displayed on the secure web page, instead of on the swiping machine screen
  • Usually, two-step authentication is also involved with the card issuing bank sending the cardholder a one-time password (OTP), which is then entered into the page to complete the transaction

The goals of the whole process are:

  • Check that everything happens between authorized parties
  • Privacy of the data is maintained so that it does not fall into the wrong hands
  • The data passing through the network is not tampered with by hackers

Setting up a Payment Gateway for Ecommerce Business

A payment gateway for ecommerce businesses can be set up or integrated:

  • They can go for an in-house payment gateway, which will involve working with a bank offering payment gateway services, and creating a secure checkout page on their site or
  • Outsource the complicated processes to third parties by redirecting customers to the secure payment pages of these processors

Let us look at these options in a little more detail.

In-house Payment Acceptance

Ecommerce stores that prefer to accept payments at their own site will:

  • Work with a bank that offers online payment processing services
  • Create secure checkout pages at their site and
  • Link these to the payment gateway using API’s (Application Programming Interfaces) provided by the payment processor

All major banks provide needed services. If you bank with one of these, you can discuss the arrangements with them. Let us now look in some detail at secure web pages.

Secure Web Pages

Payment gateway for ecommerce businesses uses the HTTP protocol by default. These are not very secure and hackers can steal the data transmitted over the web by such sites.

On the other hand, HTTPS (with the S standing for Secure) pages encrypt all data before sending them over the Internet. The encrypted data can be decrypted back to the original only by a recipient who has a “key” to do it. Hackers will not be able to make sense of the encrypted jumble passing over the network.

In addition to protecting privacy as above, secure web pages also ensure authentication and data integrity.

  • Authentication involves getting a certificate that can be checked at the client end to ensure that you are dealing with the genuine party, and not someone posing as the real party
  • Data integrity ensures that the data sent from the origin is not altered along the route to the destination

By making your eCommerce payment acceptance page into an HTTPS page, you can ensure that details, such as credit card, bank account and OTP entered on the page are safe from theft by hackers. The authentication and data integrity features add to the authenticity of the dealings between you and your customer.

Creating an HTTPS Page Involves

  • Getting a set of private and public keys that are used to encrypt and decrypt data sent by the customer to you
  • Getting certificates to help the customer ensure that they are dealing with the authentic you (and not someone posing as you)
  • Using Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol for the client server connection

Working with Third-Party Providers

If you decide to work with third party providers, you can save a lot of trouble. You can simply redirect customers to the secure payment pages of the third party provider, who will attend to all the complicated processes and transfer the sales proceeds, minus their processing changes, to you. Some might even allow you to create a payment page that looks like your own page thus enhancing the online shopping experience.

Major Third-Party Providers

PayPal

PayPal is an online company providing financial services. It allows you to pay for the items with a secure account. All you need to do is add your bank account, your debit card, and credit card details when you make the payment using PayPal. Paypal offers 2 types of payment methods for transferring your money internationally and both of them have their own fee structure. Whenever you send your money directly to another PayPal account, PayPal charges a five percent transaction with a minimum fee of $0.99 and a maximum fee of $4.99.

Stripe

Stripe is a financial service company. It is an online payment gateway processing for internet businesses. It supports payment processing in more than 135 currencies thereby allowing you to charge the customers in their native currency when receiving your funds. The Stripe pricing starts at 2% for cards issued in India and 3% for international cards.

Google Pay

Google Pay is an online payment system. It is a digital wallet platform developed by Google and is one of the best ways to send and receive money.

Amazon Pay

AmazonPay is an online payment processing service and is owned by Amazon. It does not add any fees to your international transactions. Your purchase incurs to no membership fees, no transaction fees, no fee of currency conversion, or any other fees.

Payment Gateway for Ecommerce Businesses – Summary

Online payment acceptance must be offered by eCommerce sites if they wish to prosper. This can be done by creating an in-house payment gateway interface at your own site. Alternatively, you can outsource it to specialist providers who will attend to all the complexities involved.

What is 5G and its Impact on Retail?

Many retailers can’t wait to start exploring different opportunities that come with 5G. However, there are others who dread to think about whether we need more computing power. Different management consultation providers collaborate to understand the 5G impact on retail, omnichannel, and m-commerce. This article is an introduction to the 5G impact on retail and therefore should open the door to those seeking answers about how best to apply 5G technology in their retail operations.

Table of Contents

What is 5G?

With more available bandwidth as well as the advanced antenna technology, 5G guarantees a substantial increase in the number of data transmitted over wireless technologies. Estimates here vary and usually start at about ten times as strong as 4G in 5G.

In some instances, estimates go right up to 100 times as high. 5G provides network management in addition to enhancements in speed, efficiency, and latency. There is something unique within network slicing, which enables mobile operators to build several virtual networks beneath the umbrella of any single physical 5G network.

Network slicing indicates that the network connections can theoretically be sold as necessary. Consider an example – a Google mobile self-driving car might require an incredibly fast connection with extremely-low latency for navigating in real-time.

The touchscreen in Samsung refrigerator in a relationship with Amazon pantry will not need similar efficiency. As such, network slicing would provide a much more tailored approach. Beyond the kitchens and the vehicles, you should also start thinking of actions like “download”, “install”, and more.

Impact of 5G

Market analysis shows a positive response to 5G. The Research and the Markets announced in September 2019 that in 2020, the worldwide market for the 5G technology would be estimated at $5.54 billion and has been projected to hit $667.9 billion by the year 2026. The forecast represents a possible 122.3 percent raise from 2020 to 2026. 

As of January 2019, as part of a trial phase, several cities launched 5G through various telecom operators.

The launch did cover a few significant markets across the U.S. for gaining insights into how 5G would work in regions with populations rich in enterprises and saturated with the consumers. Gartner estimates that even more than half of the organizations will adopt 5G by the end of next year, but with a provision that could slow progress.

According to Gartner’s research, the new service is still not widespread enough yet to support most desired business use cases, an obvious problem that is likely to force on through the year 2022. Various solutions include the core slicing, redevelopment of a radio network, and edge computing, which is a tough technical challenge that is definitely beyond the expertise of the eCommerce leaders.

The best response to this problem is to collaborate with specialists, explicitly dealing with mobile and the 5G technologies, to discuss specific business concerns before extending 5G-centered plans. Yet remain awake and conscious: delays are no excuse to ignore how 5G becomes an essential part of mobile retail.

Advantages of Adopting 5G

Latency

5G’s potentially most apparent advantage will be a reduction in the latency – the period between both the user’s issuance of the command as well as the receipt of a response. The delay is about 65 milliseconds with the 3G, whereas it is shortened to 40 milliseconds with the 4G. 5G can run only one-millisecond delay for task-critical applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and in 4 milliseconds for the mobile broadband networks.

Capacity

5G would provide high network capacity to expand in the new technologies – especially the millimetre waves – enabling the user to use higher frequencies. When using 4G, the reliability of the user experience depends on the amount of other mobile devices connected to your vicinity. Consequently, whenever you’re in any football stadium, with thousands of others attempting to connect to the internet, due to the limited capacity of 4G, you’re not likely to get much done. 5G will have a much higher headroom and will be able to scale its coverage to the needs of consumers, making the network a hundredfold more effective.

Speed

Technology experts generally acknowledge that 5G may reach 10Gb/s speed, which is 100 times better than the 4G. If 3G allows downloading the full HD movie in more than a day, and the 4G in 7 to 10 minutes, 5G would allow people to download the same video in 4 – 40 seconds.

Impact of 5G on Retail Ecommerce

Adobe Digital stated that 5G would raise international mobile e-commerce sales by $12 billion. 5G is not only used in making the online shopping experience more accessible, businesses also use it to provide an engaging customer experience.

Flexibility

5G is transforming the ecommerce journey from beginning to end: product marketing, product purchase, and finally, product support as well as feedback. It is quite impossible to determine exactly how the 5g impacts on retail industry. However, it’s safe to assume that the retailers need to prepare themselves with either the appropriate tools to adjust to the unpredictable trends in digital commerce that 5G is going to throw up. Whether its emerging markets, unpredictable shopper actions, or disruptive technology, retailers need to be able to talk to their customers and take orders in a variety of ways to understand their potential.

Artificial Intelligence

Enterprises are increasingly utilizing customer service platforms driven by artificial intelligence throughout the context of chatbots and the virtual personal assistants on ecommerce platforms. They mimic the experience of having a specific shop assistant for assisting you with any of your purchases.

Multiple Device Shopping

The speed and convenience 5G brings to the ecommerce experience, combined with the increasing abundance of mobile and web-connected devices, would enable online transactions to be performed utilizing tools apart from mobile devices and computers.

The examples of 5G impact on retail and other industries are the cars that can browse the web utilizing 5G, watches that will enable the transactions to be still made whenever, wherever, and the refrigerators that immediately put in orders to restock them when they feel they run short on certain products.

How 5G Enhances Digital Commerce?

5G impact on the retail industry is expected to all be tremendous. The commitment of higher speeds, lowest latency, excellent reliability, and enhanced bandwidth seems to have retailers vying to cash in for the opportunities to enhance the mobile eCommerce experiences.

The faster speeds and lower latency variables allow smooth retail shopping experiences. The 5G networks are also expected to raise the data speed for up to three times the current 4G / LTE rate. Each fraction of a second count in a world where consumers abandon their cart after a two-second page load waits.

A glance at the Cyber Week 2019 shows how strong the mobile experiences have become: as demonstrated by Adobe and SharePoint, 65 percent of all the eCommerce orders come from a mobile device on Black Friday. With smartphone sales of $2.9 billion alone. 5G arrives on stage just in time to help online merchants meet and exceed the expectations and demands of their customers.

Speed is crucial to winning the eCommerce sales, but that’s essential to get as much information as possible while heading all out to retail on 5G. Be aware of the problems surrounding the introduction and the development of technology to prevent expensive mistakes.

Does 5G Expansion and Adoption need Work?

The expected rapid rates and decreased latency promise several launches and adoptions of technology. Moreover, speed alone may not support the smooth use of Virtual Reality (VR) / Augmented Reality(AR), IoT, and AI innovations. Most companies lack the resources to sustain such exciting new scenarios, so that’s a tough sell to seek to invest in an even more complicated version without guidance.

With the 5G speed available, developers would have a healthier environment in which to test the developing technologies while improving the existing infrastructure. The future is coming quickly upon us. It just needs a little more time.

Several key issues and concerns are surrounding 5G implementation and expansion:

The Large Scale Cyber Security Issues

With proposed extended 5G deployment, many companies are eagerly awaiting the addition of new providers to the systems. But any piece of this unique puzzle may be unpredictable. Cybercrime has to be a top priority for the retail leaders desiring to contribute 5G to the tech stack at the company.

The vulnerability of Network Coverage

A Wired report showed the particular weakness tied to the 5G network extension itself. Some 5G flaws allow “downgrade” attacks when manipulating a user’s phone connection to downgrade to 3G or 4G service. That is an easy way for hackers to conduct cyber attacks using unresolved vulnerabilities in older networks.

Consumer Security Concerns

The 5G security issues are growing after the researchers at the University of Purdue and Iowa found 11 flaws in next-generation cellular networks. Among the risks found in a research study are “stingrays,” which pose themselves as a cell phone tower for the users that spy on a system that occurred on the previous 3G and the 4G networks.

These are to be seen as a sign of caution, not a sign of stopping. The effort is worth 5G, but not without the due diligence and the research. The retailers, who comprehend where the 5G is now, would remain in the lead of the mobile retail race, as much as they understand wherein the technology is going.

Future of 5G Impact on Retail Industry

Look out for two large numbers related to the 5G: $12 billion and the $80 billion. As per the latest report developed by Adobe Digital Insights, 5G would boost eCommerce sales by $12 billion by 2021, and Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2025 the combined virtual reality (VR) and the augmented reality (AR) industry would be valued $80 billion.

The various personal devices and smartphones would continue to drive innovation and growth in retail.

5G is spreading daily to more towns. Consumers seem to be eager for smarter, quicker mobile services, and the retailers have become increasingly reliant on technological advances as a way of boosting the revenue. Next, movers might not have each benefit in utilizing the 5G power of retail. The aim is to make a smart move that works best with your business.

5 Tips to Improve the Ecommerce Experience in 2021

With consumers relying on online shopping for so many things these days, it is no wonder that a research has estimated that 95% of purchases will be made online by 2040. But with competition growing in ecommerce, it’s important to focus on one part that not only brings more customers to your business but also retains the existing ones. That thing is providing the best ecommerce experience for your customers. After all, happy customers are the ones who keep your business running. Be it by spending more, purchasing often, leaving good reviews or by referring your business to their friends. We bring to you ecommerce experience improvement tips to achieve just that.

Have an Appealing and Easy to Navigate Site

This is the one ecommerce experience improvement tip that you shouldn’t miss out on. Why? Because as an ecommerce store, your website is the lifeblood of your business. The reason why this ecommerce experience improvement tip becomes so important is that your website is the place where your customers shop and where they’ll judge your business. A single typo could ruin your image.

Below are a few ecommerce experience improvement tips you should inculcate to have an appealing and easy to navigate site:

  • Your site shouldn’t take long to load which means you’ll have to do away with images that have excessively high resolutions or images that are not optimized for the web.
  • The search for a particular product should be hassle free. This would mean having a search button that is easily accessible. You could also add relevant categories and filters to aid the buying process of the customer.
  • Incorporate autocomplete in the search button so that shoppers can be assisted if they don’t remember the exact product name.
  • Make the checkout process simple. This would mean displaying the cart contents well, having multiple options for payment, making the payment secure and giving a tentative delivery date.

Have a coherent content strategy

Let’s suppose you bought a module of ecommerce experience improvement tips. Just 2 days after that, you got to read an article on that website about 10 different ways you can improve conversion on your website. Wouldn’t you be delighted? That’s what this ecommerce experience improvement tip about having a compelling and coherent content strategy can do. It helps educate customers and keep them coming back to you.

Here are three ecommerce experience improvement tips for content strategy to do that:

  • Feature stories from your customers on your website. Be it use-cases, their journey or innovative ways to pair your products with others.
  • Make sure every single piece of content you upload serves a purpose and evaluate if you met that goal.
  • Have a regular publishing calendar so that you don’t have long periods of time where you don’t publish anything.

Goop, a beauty brand, puts this ecommerce experience improvement tip into action by having categorized content on their homepage itself. A person can buy a skincare product and at the same time read an article about ‘Top 10 ways to get clean skin’.

Make use of Email Campaigns

Email campaigns can be a great ecommerce experience improvement tip if done correctly. Brands like Zomato are making the most out of this ecommerce experience improvement tip by having funny/witty email campaigns that they send to their customers. One such example is when Zomato sent its customers a witty Curriculum Vitae (CV) of Biryani to occupy the role of ‘Craving Executive Officer in your hearts’.

The CV went on to highlight the key qualities of Biryani like it is multi-layered, smells ‘yummazing’, comes in ‘handi’, etc. Even if funny/witty content as a part of this ecommerce experience improvement tip doesn’t resonate with your brand, here are three ecommerce experience improvement tips for your email campaigns:

  • Instead of sending out the same email subject lines that are ignored, keep experimenting and try to make them more personalized.
  • Measure the open rates of your emails to test the subject lines.
  • Make sure you include a clear and solitary call-to-action.

Have your Support Team Always Ready

A happy customer may refer your brand to their friends but a disgruntled or unhappy customer is more likely to do the same. They could leave a terrible review on your website, hate your brand so much that they discourage others to purchase from you and even upload posts/stories on their account encouraging others to boycott your brand.

Having a support team that listens and solves the customers’ problems is the perfect ecommerce experience improvement tip that helps avoid these problems. To get the most out of this ecommerce experience improvement tip, you need to:

  • Set the right customer support systems in place
  • Make it easier for customers to reach the support team
  • Hire the right people 
  • Train them well.

Add Customer Reviews

The first thing we do when we want to buy a particular product is we read the reviews. That’s the reason why this ecommerce experience improvement tip can work wonders. The reason being customers place more trust on feedback from fellow buyers who have bought and used the product than on advertisements or company-sponsored reviews. An effective review-generating strategy would help you get good reviews, get more customers, get more good reviews and so on.

This ecommerce experience improvement tip also lets customers know what products are selling best and they’d prefer buying more of those.