What commonly happens behind online stores?
Of course there are more differences than commonalities, but given that most of us work with customers in the same geographic areas, the same state, and the same market, similar situations arise for online stores.
If you’re about to start a business or you’re just starting out and still don’t know exactly how to handle each challenge you face, today’s article comes with some common situations and ways to handle them that you can test yourself.
It’s ideal to be prepared ahead of time so that you can turn challenges into opportunities and avoid rookie mistakes.
Contents Common situations you encounter when owning an online store
- Stock management
- Customer service
- Online marketing
- Situations in the logistics process
- Use of technology
- Competition and prices
When you run an online store, there are various ways you can handle inventory. Some have their own warehouses, some use efulfillment services – outsourcing stock, some adopt a hybrid between own stock and dropshipping, and others work exclusively with stock at the supplier.
Regardless of which category you fall into, there are a few stock-related situations you may face:
Trends, seasonality or simply a certain change in behaviour can generate a much higher demand for your products than you expected.
When stocks run out faster than you anticipated, sales slowdowns and customer dissatisfaction can occur.
On the other hand, there are situations where you buy too much stock and overestimate your demand.
If you can’t sell your products in time, your money and resources get tied up in inventory, storage costs increase and the risk of devaluation of your stock increases.
Human error, theft, damage to products, etc., can all lead to inconsistencies between reality and what your management system tells you.
You need to keep an accurate record of your stocks, so you need to take into account the possibility of these errors.
Seasonality of products
For some products, demand varies according to the season and trends.
It’s vital to predict these changes and prepare for them in advance, so that you get maximum sales, but also adjust your stocks to avoid over- or under-stocking.
Delays in delivery and other supplier errors
Sometimes stock situations can neither be foreseen nor prevented. When suppliers change delivery times or delay the delivery of products, it can affect you directly because you fail to keep your promises to your customers.
When such moments occur, it is important to communicate quickly with the customer and be 100% transparent. The chances of them understanding you and waiting are higher when the customer knows what is going on.
Products that go out of trend quickly
In IT and technology, for example, many products quickly become outdated due to the speed at which trends change. Or look at the children’s products industry, with toys, for example.
Problems arise when you have too much inventory for products that are no longer in demand.
Returns and defective products
How clear are your policies on returns and damaged goods? These lead to additional processing costs and inventory adjustments.
So consider and create policies on products that need to be repaired or replaced.
Multichannel / omnichannel inventory synchronization
When selling products across multiple online and offline channels, one problem can be the synchronization of inventory.
Situations arise where you don’t know you’re selling the same product twice – and management lets you do that, or you don’t have enough stock in your various outlets.
The more products you have, the more variants you have, the more stock you have – the more storage costs you incur. You will have to find the right strategy for you, so that you have an ok stock level and optimise the costs associated with storage.
How well does your inventory management system work for you?
If it’s not right for you or is outdated, it can cause problems in tracking and managing stock efficiently.
Read if: Structuring your business, from chaos to controlled planning
2. Customer Service
Perhaps one of the most dynamic elements of an online business, the customer service side of things generates everything from the comical to the frustrating.
Here are some of the situations that can arise in this department and things to watch out for as an entrepreneur:
Communication can be limited depending on what channels you use – live chat, email, phone, etc. You see, your responsibility is to adjust your strategy depending on what channels your customers prefer.
It may be cheaper and easier for you to use live chat or email, but if you’re dealing with middle-aged consumers who prefer to talk on the phone, you’ll have to adapt.
Although you have all the information on the website (ideally), sometimes customers have various questions or queries about products, choices, the ordering process, deliveries, returns and so on.
So, you need procedures for handling these requests efficiently. And related to customer support, perhaps the most important thing is speed of reaction – to respond to people with ok solutions, in the shortest possible time.
Returns and exchanges policy
Returns and exchanges are always time consuming and costly for you and your customers.
So you need clear policies for these situations to ensure a smooth experience for customers who want to make returns or exchanges.
Damaged or lost goods in transit
What happens if parcels are lost or damaged in transit? You need to collaborate effectively with your transport service providers and ensure that customers get replacements or refunds as quickly as possible.
Customer dissatisfaction, even if it’s not your fault, will still reflect on your brand.
Poor / bad reviews
Your store’s reputation is as valuable as it is easily damaged.
You need procedures to handle negative feedback and poor reviews tactfully, quickly, so that problems are resolved in a timely manner and don’t turn into image crises.
It is extremely important to constantly update the information in your store and on your channels. Because incorrect or contradictory messages end up frustrating the customer, who will vocalize their complaints very visibly.
Pay particular attention to information about prices, product features and delivery times.
Long waiting time
As I said above, the slower you respond to customers, the more problems you will have. You need to ensure that you provide assistance as quickly as possible, so that the shopping experience is a satisfactory one.
Too many customers
There are periods of high demand, such as Black Friday or around the winter holidays. And along with product demand, the volume of questions or inquiries increases.
Have you made a plan to manage customer support during these periods?
Customers with unusual requirements
Sometimes it depends on the information you put on the site, but very often customers’ decisions are irrational. So you may find yourself with unusual expectations that can escalate into conflicts and threats.
Think about strategies for dealing with customers with unusual demands and develop your team’s communication skills.
Read also: Customer Support Ensures Memorable Experiences
3. Online Marketing
In commerce and eCommerce, no marketing without marketing. But promotion is not a piece of cake, since you are operating in a market where there are many other players with whom you compete directly or indirectly.
So, let’s look at some of the marketing challenges you may face as an entrepreneur:
You may have heard of the blue ocean concept before – creating your own space in the marketplace through unique products, services or approaches. But most online stores are still selling into a red ocean full of competitors.
The activity of these competitors leads to increased pressure on pricing and marketing strategies used to attract customers.
Limited budget for promotion
It’s especially a problem for entrepreneurs with small or start-up businesses. It’s normal to have a limited marketing budget in these situations; extensive or large campaigns quickly become too costly for you.
The solution is to find alternative methods of promotion or to choose and maximize a single channel for your business.
Changes in marketing platform algorithms
If you have even a little experience in the field, you know that social networks come with changes almost on a daily basis.
Algorithms are changing the way they organically display your content, and platforms you used to rely on to bring you customers for almost free are soon turning into money-spinners – especially when you go guessing.
So you have to be adaptable and find ways to adjust your strategy on each channel you use.
Finding the right channels
You have plenty of marketing channels and tactics you can use for your business: social media marketing, content, SEO, PPC, email marketing, influencer marketing, affiliate marketing, etc.
Choosing the right channels for you can become a challenge. That’s why it’s so important to test, to see what really works for you.
Low conversion rate
What’s your store’s conversion rate? Most businesses in Romania have an extraordinarily low rate, somewhere between 1 and 3%, but it depends a lot on the niche.
Basically, very few of the users of your website become paying customers. And there are many factors that influence your conversion rate.
My advice is to analyze your data and come up with hypotheses to test for optimizing your website experience, pricing and credibility.
Your relationship with your customers and their feedback will directly impact your store’s reputation and strengthen or undermine your marketing efforts.
A store with positive ratings and reviews sells more. Aim to constantly improve your customer score and use it in your promotional materials.
Trends and rapid changes
To stay competitive, you’ll need to stay open to new ideas and embrace new technologies and tools that help you on the marketing side.
One of the latest is, just one example, the use of artificial intelligence in marketing and content.
There always has been and always will be backlash just for the sake of commenting. Your ads or posts can attract so-called trolls, those who leave reactions and comments designed to incite conflict or simply ruin your day.
My advice, personally, is not to give them any more energy than it takes to hit the delete and block option.
Read also: Online Marketing – Elements That Help You Increase Your Sales [Video]
4. Situations in the logistics process
Common situations you come across that affect the smooth running of your business are also those related to logistics.
So, if you want to create solid procedures that streamline your logistics activities, I invite you to consider the following issues:
Storage and warehousing issues
If you sell a variety of products and have a high volume of orders, you may face problems with storage and warehousing.
Basically, you need sufficient storage space and a well thought-out system for organising your warehouse so that you can easily find your products when you need to prepare them for shipment.
Each company and delivery method has its advantages and disadvantages. On top of that, you think about the costs. So, you have to go through a process to choose the right carriers for you, which does not affect your customers’ trust.
With this in mind, we at unosoft have created GShipments servicewhich allows you to work with multiple carriers, and for each order you have comparative options based on price.
Late deliveries or lost parcels
Sometimes it happens that you have late deliveries or lost parcels.
No matter how many precautions you take, no one can guarantee top-notch deliveries every time. But these situations lead to customer dissatisfaction, which affects your credibility.
Transport costs and their optimization
You see, transport costs can vary depending on distance, weight of parcels, size, etc.
And these variations sometimes lead to errors in the calculation, especially if you want to include transport costs in the price of products.
Sometimes products have to be returned to a different location than where they originally left.
Procedural return and refund processes can help you avoid dissatisfaction, high costs and miscommunication.
International taxes and customs
Do you sell cross-border? In this case, situations arise in the handling of customs procedures and international duties, which can lead to delays in delivery.
Do your logistics cope with Black Friday, Christmas, etc. campaigns? When the volume of orders suddenly increases, the situation gets complicated and delivery delays, errors and other unpleasant events occur. That is, if you don’t prepare in advance for seasonal fluctuations.
Take care to communicate current delivery information, especially during these times.
Sometimes people in the warehouse pack the wrong goods or pack them wrong, and they get damaged in transit. Other times, customers leave the wrong addresses because they are not careful.
In these cases, you’ll work extra hard to correct the mistakes and make sure people are satisfied with the experience when interacting with your business.
Managing AWBs when there are many suppliers
When you work with multiple courier companies or different delivery methods, sometimes situations arise when tracking order status. Fortunately, technology allows you to automate many of these tasks.
So implement systems to help you issue and manage AWBs.
Read also: What not to forget before opening an online store
5. Using technology
And while we’re on the subject of technology, it’s time to delve into a few situations related to it.
The use of technology is a must in eCommerce and can ease the burden of managing your business across multiple departments.
Technical problems on the website
Depending on the platform used and who is in charge of the technical side of the site, an online shop owner may face problems such as errors, slow loading speed, navigation or functionality issues.
All of these can discourage customers from completing the purchase process or returning.
It is vital to have extremely clear systems and procedures in place to protect customer data, especially card information. Any situation related to customer data leads to loss of trust in your store and legal problems.
Choosing the eCommerce platform
The market provides you with a lot of different types of eCommerce platforms, and if you don’t have experience, choosing the right one becomes a complex process.
That’s why my advice is to test the selected platform before using it and contact current customers of the platform to ask for their opinion and advice.
A good platform will help you grow in the future, be able to customize your store when you want and have someone to contact for solutions and answers when questions arise.
So I invite you to test the unosoft platform – you have 15 free demo days in which you can try out all the features of the platform. Our subscriptions start, during this period, from 1 euro per month.
Third party integrations
Your online store works effectively when it is also integrated with third-party systems. This can be solutions for inventory management, customer management (CRM), marketing, communication, site monitoring, payment processors, carriers, etc.
A SaaS platform, such as unosoft, shortens integration processes and offers solutions that take the burden of integration off your shoulders.
In other platforms, you have to handle these installations, if you have the technical expertise, or hire someone to help you.
SEO and search engine visibility
When searching on Google and other search engines, your website is only likely to attract customers when it is visible.
This is where SEO strategy – search engine optimisation – comes in – something you can take care of or outsource.
What you want is to keep customers in the store, maintain their interest and guide them, subtly, towards completing their orders. And then you want them to come back, buy again and recommend you to their friends.
To get these “rewards”, you need to ensure a satisfying customer experience on the site.
Trends in technology
Keep up with evolving technology and market demands. Sure, prioritize customer behavior and their adaptability to tech before you make implementations that mess them up more than help them.
Updates and maintenance
With the unosoft platform you have no problems with updates and maintenance. All updates are implemented regularly on all online shops on our platform, and the team takes care of the smooth running of each individual site.
If you choose, however, to use another eCommerce platform, the situation depends on your provider or developer and how they do things.
Read if: What expenses to expect for an online store
6. Competition and prices
We cannot discuss common situations in entrepreneurship without also talking about competition & prices.
Let’s see what challenges you may face:
The war for attention
Due to fierce competition, both directly and indirectly, you’re battling almost everyone for consumers’ attention.
Even if the customer is in the buying flow, they can always be distracted by a notification on their phone, a message from another company using SMS marketing, or a recommendation from the person in whose company they are in.
Although it’s a sure path to failure, price beating is adopted by many companies. Even your competitors can get you to start lowering prices – but that leads to lower profitability and lower perceived value of products.
It’s important to take into account market prices, competitors’ prices – but don’t base your pricing policy only on your competitors’ prices.
There are dedicated websites for price comparison, and customers can nowadays easily see the offers of multiple companies.
So there’s pressure to justify your prices by the differences in the value of each offer.
Affects revenue stability – prices can vary depending on the season, promotions, special offers, etc. Be careful when doing promotional campaigns; when the volume of orders is high, things aren’t always rosy.
Aim to make a profit as well, so you can grow further.
Defining pricing policies
Pricing policy involves the strategy for setting your prices and fees, starting from list prices, to discounts, freight charges, service charges and other costs.
Very important! Beware of third parties where certain policies are imposed, which you must abide by, whether you want to or not.
People prefer low prices for commodities, but low prices won’t always guarantee your purchase. Another crucial aspect for consumers is the quality of products, the value justified by benefits, perks, specifications, testimonials and extra added services.
A poor quality product is likely to be bought once. But not a second time, and not without automatically bringing back negative feedback, whether seen online or just said among friends.
Lack of customer loyalty
The market in which you sell has varied offers and numerous players. So, you need to have a solid program and strong reasons to make customers loyal to your brand.
Competitors may try or copy or imitate some of your products or strategies, especially if they have worked well.
Find that unique value, that USP that your company offers, so that you build a controlled and responsive perception of yourself in the eyes of the customer.
Differences in available resources
Every business has different human, financial or technological resources. Your competitors may have more than you do.
So you’ll need a strategy to face them consistently.
Read also: Why competition analysis is important in SEO [Podcast]
Last but not least, as an entrepreneur in Romania (and not only), you are faced with various situations from a legal point of view.
Communications on GDPR
This means a DPO, a clear policy on who has access to customer data and other issues.
Intellectual property rights
As far as possible, try to create your own content for your online store. Copyrights, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property can be challenged or infringed.
Take care to respect the rights of others while protecting your own content.
There are different tax requirements depending on the legal form you adopt, and depending on the areas you sell in (if you also sell internationally). Research them and make sure you comply with them to avoid problems.
Labelling and consumer information
You must provide customers with clear information on products, their features, prices, delivery and return policies. Omitting this information from the website can lead to penalties.
Laws related to advertising and marketing
In addition to the legal requirements of the area in which you are selling, you must also take into account the regulations of the channels where you choose to market and advertise. You cannot use any kind of form or any kind of information transmission.
Protection of underage consumers
Add your procedures for processing data related to underage consumers to your site’s policies, and if you sell products in special categories, such as alcohol or tobacco, make sure you have activated all legally required notices and restrictions on sales.
Legal regulations by niche
If you sell food or cosmetics, for example, you have certain safety and quality standards that you must meet. You will also interact with various state institutions, from which you must receive approvals.
I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on this, given the changes of late, do I?
Read if: How do you open a business to sell online – the necessary steps [Podcast]
Your job as an entrepreneur involves a lot of situations you can run into, and roles to play.
Today we’ve mentioned the most common of them, applicable to almost any business.
If you’re getting ready to open an online store soon or already have one in the beginning and want to be ready for what this adventure will bring, use today’s information as a guide.
You’ll recognize situations you find yourself in faster and react more quickly to move through challenges more easily.