Month: March 2022
6 Elements to Include On Your eCommerce Landing Page
The first thing you do when you arrive on an eCommerce landing page is start scrolling, sometimes even before the page has fully loaded. This is often an automatic, subconscious behavior.
The elements you see as you scroll, and the order you encounter them in, all contributes to your brand and buyer experience.
High performing landing pages all incorporate certain content pieces that inform, reassure, and encourage conversions.
In this article, we’ll cover the elements you should include in your eCommerce landing pages and why they’re so important for conversion, brand-building, and retention.
Landing pages: The what and why
Before we move on, let’s dig into what landing pages are and their purpose.
A landing page is different from your website’s home page. It’s a standalone web page created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign.
This is where a visitor “lands” when clicking through an ad or other piece of content from a third-party platform that redirects them to your website.
Unlike your website home page, landing pages are hyperfocused on a particular campaign or product and guide visitors towards a single call to action (CTA).
Most likely, your landing pages are product-specific, and the CTA is “Buy now.”
Landing pages are designed to drive conversion, while home pages and websites are designed for exploration.
Why use landing pages?
In eCommerce, landing pages are an important part of your sales funnel. They serve as the link between your customer seeing your ad campaigns and going to your online store to purchase their items. Outside of their obvious role in sales, landing pages can be beneficial to other elements of your marketing efforts.
According to BigCommerce, landing pages also:
- Drive higher ROI for paid traffic
- Are great for testing
- Target specific customer segments
- Are quick and easy to put together
That last point is especially important as we move on. Because landing pages are simple and fast to put together, it’s equally easy to overlook important elements during landing page creation that will help you achieve your goals.
Not all landing pages are the same, so you need to rely on your goals to guide development.
Personalized vs. one-size-fits-all
The ultimate goal of landing pages is the same: to increase sales. But savvy merchants know you have to sell differently to different targets.
Landing pages are key to the sales funnel, but they can also be customized to meet shoppers at various stages of the sales funnel to help move them along the buyer journey.
Top-of-funnel landing pages are designed to introduce your brand to new visitors. They’re first-impression pages, making it especially important to include content that demonstrates your brand story, presents your products and their benefits, and establishes credibility.
The middle of the funnel landing pages are designed for customers who’ve visited your site, but have not yet made a purchase. These pages are most commonly used in retargeting campaigns — hitting shoppers who are familiar with your brand and may have even picked out some goodies.
Content on these pages should focus on nudging them towards checkout. This can include content about specific products they’ve engaged with, social proof, or limited time to induce a sense of urgency that inspires quick action.
Often, a customer will add to their cart and maybe even go through the steps to buy, but fail to complete the checkout process. In these instances, you target ”bottom-of-funnel” customers through upselling campaigns that feature customized landing pages.
Upselling content works well on these landing pages because customers are already in a buying mindset, presenting you with the opportunity to sweeten the deal.
Some landing pages are designed to keep existing customers happy and inspire them to come back to your store to buy again. Reengagement and retention campaigns leverage them to boost customer lifetime value (CLV). These pages can skip over content about who you are and what your products are about to instead focus on delivering added value to your customers, such as:
- Customer loyalty incentives
- Sneak peeks at new products
- Early access to sales
What to include on your eCommerce landing page
Although some users will inevitably begin scrolling automatically upon arriving, it’s important to focus your efforts on the top of the landing page. This not only grabs your customers’ attention immediately, but also ensures you avoid burying the most important content at the bottom of your page where fewer shoppers are likely to scroll.
The best eCommerce landing pages draw customers in, answer their questions, and inspire them to take action.
To make yours the cream of the crop, keep the following items high on your page — with as much rich content above the fold as possible.
1) Clear, attention-grabbing headline
Writing eCommerce copy is a little different than writing typical marketing copy, but one thing remains the same: writing a great headline takes effort. A clear, attention-grabbing headline is critical whether it’s for a blog post or a campaign landing page.
Your landing page headlines should be:
- Short and to the point
- Clear about your main benefit
Because landing pages are an important component of your overall search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, implementing strong keywords is imperative. Including keywords in your headline helps improve your overall SEO and ensures you use words customers will recognize.
Another important element to include when creating your headlines is a strong message match. A message match occurs when the messaging on your landing page is aligned with the messaging shoppers originally clicked on.
2) Short, explanatory subhead
Headlines are intentionally short and sweet because they’re meant to pull in a customer and grab their attention. Meanwhile, your subhead, while still short, offers additional context and backs up the offer or promise presented in your headline.
The subhead should be three sentences or fewer and further explains how your product(s) will serve your customers and meet their needs.
3) Visual interest
The old adage is as true on landing pages as anywhere else: A picture is worth a thousand words. In eCommerce, photographs bridge the gap left when customers are unable to interact with your products physically during the discovery and shopping journey.
An intriguing and visually appealing image is important because people process images 60,000 times faster than text.
This means your customers can gain an idea of what your product is and how it will fit into their lives much faster by viewing images (or better yet, video) than by reading a long-winded product description.
And speaking of video — using explainer videos, product demos, or even liveshopping feeds is another great way to draw in your customers and boost conversions.
4) Social proof
It’s hardly surprising why influencer marketing has taken over: Consumers seek social proof at every turn. Social proof is a type of reassurance; we use social cues throughout our lives to tell us how we should behave, including our shopping habits.
In fact, nine out of 10 consumers read reviews before they decide to buy something. Prominently displaying reviews for your customers to see provides needed social proof to transform them from window shoppers into buyers.
Social proof can be demonstrated in a number of ways:
- Customer or influencer social media posts
- Quotes from reviews and testimonials
- Five star trust ratings
Be sure to highlight this content early on to establish trust from the get-go.
5) Clear, direct, and actionable CTAs
A landing page serves many purposes, from introducing your brand to educating customers, but the ultimate goal of each one is to convert. To improve conversion rates, you must tell your customers what action to take in a clear and concise manner.
The CTA button is a prompt to take the next step towards becoming a new customer or repeat buyer. It generally takes the form of succinct ad copy coupled with a graphic designed to entice visitors to click. CTAs must be easily identified and actionable on your landing page.
Messages like “Sign up for 10% off your first purchase” or “Buy now” tell your customers exactly what to do and communicate what they can expect when they click.
The CTA will vary based on your landing page type. Top-of-funnel landing pages should focus more on capturing customer information and building connections, while landing pages targeting leads further along their buyer journey should focus on closing sales or inviting repeat business.
6) Deal highlights
Do you have special offers available to your customers or unique offerings the competition can’t touch? Give this content central placement on your landing pages to further entice customers to act quickly.
Creating scarcity or proprietary offers is a great tactic for increasing purchases through landing pages. Stressing to customers that your product, offering, or special deal can’t be found elsewhere captures the customer’s attention quickly and boosts the likelihood of convincing them to act before you lose their interest.
Landing page best practices
Landing pages can serve different parts of the sales process and target customers at various stages of the buyer journey. However, all good landing pages aim to accomplish the same basic goals, especially with eCommerce competition stiffer than ever. Whatever content you include in your landing pages, make sure to consider the following:
Establish the message match by providing relevant information that aligns with the message the customer expects to see. In marketing, this is incredibly important. To make a message match, you need to be certain the content that inspired a would-be buyer to click through to your landing page aligns with what they find when they arrive. This content needs to be targeted to the needs and interests of your customer, as well as their unique point in the buyer journey.
For example, retargeting or retention messaging in advertisements should not redirect customers to top-of-funnel landing pages (a message mismatch). Instead, retargeting or retention landing pages should skip over the brand story and early-funnel content and focus on customers’ unique needs based on past behavior.
Logical content journey
If your customers arrive on your website and feel lost or confused, it’s unlikely they’ll scroll down or convert. This results in a higher bounce rate and lost sales.
Make sure your landing pages have a logical and sequential structure and flow. This leads visitors to scroll down the page and complete your intended action (sign up for a newsletter, add to cart, bundle for savings, etc.).
You can still have a CTA higher up the page. But it’s more important that the content flow is logical and makes sense as a visitor scrolls down.
Regardless of where they are in the buyer journey, all customers need to believe a product is right for them before they input their payment details. Landing pages should always be designed to answer the following question: How will this product fit into my life and/or help me?
For top-of-funnel pages, this answer might be woven into your brand story and commitment to customers. When it comes to a retargeting or retention landing page, perhaps it’s all about convenience — making it easier for your customer to buy through subscription offerings, discounts, or loyalty points or rewards.
Wrapping up — Use customized eCommerce landing pages to boost conversions
Landing pages can support your eCommerce marketing campaigns, create a cohesive buyer experience, and unify your messaging. When done well, they deliver relevant, compelling product and brand information as quickly as possible to inspire a desired action.
By including the right content and structuring your landing pages appropriately, you can boost conversion rates, expand your audience, increase customer lifetime value, and ultimately generate more revenue.
Customer-First Data: 9 Ways to Gain Customer Insights Without Relying on Third Party Data
We live in a data-driven world, and many brands rely on data to glean customer insights that help grow their business.
Most of what we see and do online is driven by our previous actions and the information we’ve shared, either intentionally or via our day-to-day activities.
For years, brands have relied on cookies to track website visitors, improve the web experience for users, and collect data that aids ad targeting. Cookies also enabled brands to learn what customers were up to online when not on the brand’s website. This practice chugged along until Google announced its plan to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome browsers by 2022.
The announcement was no surprise. Privacy has long been a hot topic globally as new regulations and laws cropped up limiting the use of third-party data and the sharing of consumer data.
So, what can brands do to maintain a personalized buyer experience while respecting customer privacy?
In this article, we’ll go over the basics of different type of data you can gather, and how to prioritize customer-first data.
What is third-party data?
Third-party data is information companies collect without having a direct relationship with the consumer. Gathered through a third-party data company, third-party data is always readily available, and its breadth and scope are typically greater than what you can collect in-house or directly from the customer.
It’s often purchased or obtained from third-party sources or websites and can include demographic information, buying signals, and more.
Before the internet, it was difficult to access third-party data. But once everything went online, the amount of data available exploded. However, to the chagrin of many marketers, third-party data is becoming harder and harder to access. The good news is third-party data isn’t the totality of consumer information. Read on to learn about zero-, first-, and second-party data and how you can collect and use them to supercharge your advertising.
The third-party data alternative: Customer-first data
Even the least savvy of consumers know their online behavior is tracked in some manner and that their behaviors feed the algorithms that fire ads and other content specific to their interests and activities. As privacy concerns continue to grow, brands must be more cognizant of the data they use and how they gather it.
While many marketers initially balked at the death of third-party data, the truth is that zero-, first-, and second-party data bring more valuable insights than third-party ever could.
Zero-party and first-party are also known as customer-first data, as it’s information a customer has shared directly with your business either outright or in the way they interact with your brand. Second-party data is one step removed from customer-first data, but is still an important avenue to know about.
Zero-party data is an incredibly powerful tool for brands to leverage. As previously mentioned, it’s information a customer has intentionally shared with you, like purchase intentions, personal context, and how they want the brand to recognize them.
Fatemeh Khatibloo, a former VP principal analyst at Forrester, notes zero-party “is gold” before expanding to say, “When a customer trusts a brand enough to provide this really meaningful data, it means that the brand doesn’t have to go off and infer what the customer wants or what their intentions are.”
Many brands rely on surveys and questionnaires to capture information directly from buyers. Don’t want to burden a customer new to your page? Simply ask what brought them to your website today: Are they looking for a gift? Shopping for themselves? Whatever you ask, keep it simple.
First-party data is information you gather from users and customers through direct interactions with your brand on your owned channels. It’s the most valuable data for personalization, taken from a consumer’s behavior site-wide, in-app, and on-page. This includes a person’s clicks and in-depth behaviors like hovering, scrolling, active time spent, session context, and how the person engaged with personalized experiences. Other examples include transaction data like purchases or downloads.
First-party data allows brands to glean valuable information about an individual’s interests and intent. Because it’s collected directly from the source, first-party data is more accurate, relevant, and valuable to your business.
Finally, for the sake of giving you all the relevant information, let’s go over second-party data (not considered customer-first data).
Essentially, second-party data is someone else’s first-party data that you’ve purchased or otherwise obtained. The other organization or brand gathers this data firsthand from their audience, which can include activity on websites, apps, social media, in-store purchase history, survey responses, and more.
To access second-party data, you must have direct interaction with the organization that initially collected it. For example, if you’re an independent merchant who makes their own products and has them hosted on another eCommerce platform (e.g., selling through another merchant’s store), you could purchase customer data from your selling partners, and vice versa.
In any case, the purchase of second-party data happens directly between two organizations and the exchange or purchase must occur as part of a direct interaction with the party who has gathered that information first-hand. This differs from purchasing third-party data, where you would work with a data aggregator.
A second-party data arrangement gives you more flexibility in the transaction and ensures you receive high-quality data that allows you to build business relationships while simultaneously expanding your audience. You may also be able to negotiate your partner gathering additional zero- and first-party data, which can drive your marketing efforts and be exchanged within HIPAA, FCRA, FERPA, GLBA, ECPA, COPPA, VPPA, GDPR, PIPEDA, and other privacy guidelines.
9 Ways to gather customer-first data
Now that you know the different types of data, you need to consider how to begin gathering that information to use in your business.
Zero- and first-party data will help you achieve personalized experiences and better buyer relationships. You’ll be able to serve valuable content and relevant product recommendations adapted to your customers’ preferences and stages in the buyer journey.
Below are a few ways to gather that coveted customer-first data.
1) Ask for feedback
The easiest way to get information is to ask for it. You can request feedback directly from your customers to learn what they’re interested in, what they like and didn’t like, and how they’re using your products. This is a straightforward way to capture data and reap actionable insights for your business.
To help you gather this, we suggest framing it to showcase how providing that feedback will benefit your customers. For example, in a survey you might say “your answers will help us prioritize releasing new products that you’ll love.” Or, in an email, you could say “we read every response to fine-tune the deals and discounts we send you.”
2) Use session monitoring tools
A big part of first-party data is understanding customer behavior on your owned channels. To capture this information, session monitoring tools are key. Session monitoring shows you how your customers interact with your channels from their perspective, giving you the information you need to understand how your channels are performing.
These tools can reveal important information about a user’s scrolling, clicks, and time spent on-page, and give you insights into their buyer journey. You can use this information to retarget those customers later, for example, if they spent time on a particular product page, scrolling and clicking on content, but didn’t buy.
They also help you understand where and why customers drop off their journey. This allows you to optimize your pages and improve your customer journey flow.
3) Leverage content marketing and newsletters
Content marketing strategies are a win-win for eCommerce brands today. A great way to learn what kind of content to serve your customers is to ask for their newsletter preferences.
When users opt in to your newsletter or other marketing activities, you can instantly gain access to important preferences and information about them. For example, you might ask for a checklist of what information they are most interested in before signing up, or you can list the different types of newsletters you offer and allow them to choose which list they should go on.
The type of newsletters your customers opt-in to will reveal much about their preferences. In addition to delivering more personalized content, you’ll understand whether a shopper is interested in children’s clothing, mens or womens outfits, outdoor gear, and more. You can draw insights from these preferences to further tailor your communications.
Similarly, you can glean insights from your newsletter open-rates and click-through rates (CTR) to discover their interests and hobbies.
4) Incorporate pop-ups, surveys, and quizzes
Surveys and quizzes are fantastic methods to capture zero-party data. You can use these powerful tools in a number of ways, depending on your brand and your goals.
A pop-up on your home page could ask what kind of products your customer is looking for. Based on their response, you can then recommend product pages instantly to deliver a personalized and optimized shopping experience.
A fun quiz as shoppers browse can help them discover the right products for their preferences. For example, the makeup brand Il Makiage offers customers a quiz to find their “perfect match” for makeup. Once they’ve been matched with the right shade, the brand recommends other products that complement both the shade and the product type as part of an upsell/cross-sell strategy.
On your order confirmation page, you can invite a customer to participate in a survey sharing their preferences and feedback. An incentive to fill this out could be to get 10% off the next purchase, or instant access to a newly released product.
Using pop-ups or quizzes early in the customer journey offers you a two-fold benefit: First, it can boost engagement and conversion rates, which drive up your revenue. Perhaps more importantly though, it also delivers valuable data to further optimize your website, improve the customer experience, and target your customers more effectively.
Seeking feedback at the end of a customer’s journey, whether at the checkout confirmation stage or via email after the purchase is complete, also benefits your brand in several ways. Beyond collecting more data about your customer, it demonstrates to your customer that you care about their feedback and thus can breed customer loyalty.
5) Loyalty or rewards programs in new customer onboarding
When a new customer comes onboard, inviting them to your loyalty and/or rewards program enables you to collect valuable data about them, like their shopping habits, preferences, and interests.
These programs can run the gamut from points per dollar spent to insider information and early access to new products. In any case, the information your customers share during this onboarding process helps you target them with content they’ll find relevant and exciting.
6) Watch for cart abandonment trends
Your cart abandonment trends deliver important information about your customers and buying experience. These trends demonstrate important thresholds concerning customer tolerance for fees and help you uncover customer behaviors.
For example, some customers add products to their carts and then abandon them because online shopping is a habit or way to kill time — they have no intention of checking out and completing a purchase.
With the appropriate data, you can deduce insights about who your audience is, what they are interested in, and reduce your cart abandonment rates.
7) Utilize NPS scores
Net Promoter Scores (NPS) is a customer loyalty and satisfaction measurement derived from asking customers how likely they are to recommend a product or service to others. It operates on a scale of 0-10. From this score, you can identify Detractors, Passives, and Promoters. This score will show you who your biggest fans are, and who you need to work on.
Customers who rate your product or brand from 0-6 are “detractors.” This means they’re unlikely to recommend your brand or product to others and probably won’t stick around for a repeat purchase. Worse, they may even discourage potential customers!
Customers who rate your product or brand a 7 or 8 are “passives.” These customers are not actively recommending your brand, but are unlikely to damage it. Passives are very close to becoming promoters and can be won over. This is a space you should investigate and see what it takes to convince them.
“Promoters” are customers who rate your brand and products a 9 or 10. These enthusiastic and loyal customers act as brand ambassadors to enhance your brand’s traction, increase referrals, and make repeat purchases.
Capture NPS via website surveys, in-app surveys, or email newsletters and use these scores to target and retarget your customers. For example, if you have happy customers, you might want to invite them to leave a review or join your referral program.
8) Leverage customer service integrations
Customer support is one of the few places customers volunteer information to your company. You can analyze the wording in the tickets you receive to watch for trends, and segment your customers based on the type of tickets they send in.
For example, if someone sends in a question about auto-replenishment, and they aren’t a customer yet, you can mark them as interested in the program and potentially open to more information about it.
Many customers value additional support during their online experience. Making customer support easily accessible can help you identify needs more quickly so you can take action and customize the shopping experience for them in real time (or close to it). Customer service integrations like livechat capture real-time information about a customer’s experience and journey for your records.
9) Analyze your CRM for insights
Your CRM is full of information to glean actionable insights from so you can improve your customer outreach and marketing efforts.
For example, depending on the type of information you capture and store, your CRM can segment your customers by characteristics like profession, title, family data, the number of times they’ve visited your site, newsletter preferences, and more.
This data can then inform your future ad campaigns and marketing efforts; for example, displaying baby products to customers who’ve perused items for newborns and including baby content in their newsletters, or giving incentives to customers who visit often and fill carts, but don’t purchase so they’ll head to the checkout page.
Wrapping up — Leverage customer-first data to remove reliance on third-party data
Customer insights are critical for any business seeking to retain their customer base and make smarter decisions. As third-party data becomes more difficult to obtain and customers demand more in the way of both privacy and personalization, eCommerce professionals need to get serious about sourcing the right customer insights.
At first glance, it may seem like the loss of third-party data is detrimental to your business. In reality, it’s opened the opportunity for you to lean into zero-, first-, and even second-party data sources to uncover actionable insights that deliver more value and drive your business forward, faster.
Remember, the more direct information you receive, the more relevant and valuable the data is to your business. Collecting feedback and digging into customer behaviors and actions on your channels will uncover the strongest insights that allow you to make the right decisions for your business.
How to Sell on Walmart Marketplace
The Walmart Marketplace is a robust online selling platform. Backed by Walmart’s widely recognized brand, it’s appealing to businesses looking for additional sales channels or those who want to try their hand at eCommerce.
However, there are some initial steps to complete before becoming a Walmart Marketplace seller. To help you out, we’ll discuss them in detail and share some tips so you can hit the ground running.
What is Walmart Marketplace?
Walmart Marketplace is Walmart’s eCommerce arm and platform where both Walmart and third-party merchants can sell items to consumers. It boasts a curated community of professional sellers that offer high-quality products and customer service.
To become a seller, you have to go through an intricate application process. But once you pass, Walmart will handle all fulfillment and customer service responsibilities for you. The Marketplace also features integrations, programs, and partners that can help you grow your business — all of which we’ll discuss further below.
Why sell on Walmart Marketplace
Although relatively young compared to others, Walmart Marketplace has several advantages that make it a strong contender among eCommerce platforms.
1) Greater brand exposure
Broaden your brand’s visibility with Walmart’s nearly 120 million unique monthly visitors. What’s more, these visitors frequently buy online:
- 99% make at least one online purchase per month
- 67% make at least one weekly purchase
- 20% make at least one purchase daily
Walmart’s brand already possesses a massive, loyal customer base. An astounding 90% of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart store, and those who are Walmart customers keep coming back:
- 32% of the brand’s shoppers continue to buy on Walmart.com because they’ve always shopped at Walmart
- 33% do so because they’re familiar with Walmart’s products and stores
2) Diversified income streams
You can implement a multi-channel approach by adding the Walmart Marketplace as one of your income streams. This diversification also decreases risk for your business.
For example, let’s say you have three sales channels. You then discover one of them is failing. The two thriving channels will cover for the losses of your third as well as allow you to eliminate it completely. If you relied on a single channel though, your losses would be more severe.
3) Increased revenue
Accessing a large and faithful consumer base and diversifying income streams naturally leads to increased revenue. As Shopify reported, businesses with multiple sales channels generate 190% more revenue than those that use only one.
You also get to tap into Walmart’s outstanding eCommerce presence. According to the company’s earnings report, by Q4 of 2021, Walmart’s eCommerce sales grew 1% and 70% on a two-year stack. Meanwhile, for the full year, the company’s eCommerce sales in the U.S. grew by 11.0% and 90% on a two-year stack.
4) Larger catalog support
- Easily add your items
- Control your inventory
- Set your prices
Whereas you might be limited to certain items and types on other marketplaces (for example, handmade, vintage, or craft supply items on Etsy), you can sell a broad range of goods on Walmart.com.
Tip: Be mindful of their policies on prohibited products and product limitations.
5) Convenient payments
Walmart sellers enjoy a convenient method of receiving payments, with no setup or monthly fees. Walmart simply deducts a referral fee once a sale occurs on the Marketplace. Then, they automatically deposit your payments into your preferred U.S. bank account every two weeks.
6) Affordable marketplace fees
Walmart Marketplace also has some of the most competitive marketplace seller fees available. As of March 2022, referral fees ranged from 6% to 15% across most categories.
We’ll discuss the costs of selling on Walmart.com further below.
What is Walmart Fulfillment Services?
Walmart Fulfillment Services (WFS) is a program that gives sellers access to Walmart warehouses to store inventory and fulfill orders. Similar to FBA, WFS also handles customer support when related to shipping concerns.
You can choose from a flexible array of carriers, delivery methods, and shipping prices. We’ll discuss them in greater detail below, along with what WFS can do for you.
Seamless logistics and fulfillment
WFS lets you leverage Walmart’s established supply chain and team of experts. It provides end-to-end fulfillment, customer service, and seller support that’s available seven days a week.
With Walmart handling order fulfillment and the customer experience, you’ll be able to focus on activities like successfully scaling your business.
Improved brand awareness, visibility, and sales
WFS can take your brand to the next level by improving your customer experience. It has several features that can achieve this.
1) Two-day shipping, plus free and easy returns
With WFS, you can offer two-day shipping to anywhere in the United States. However, it’s not guaranteed during the peak season (September to January). You can also offer free and easy returns to keep customers satisfied with (and thus loyal to) your brand.
2) Free shipping opportunities for customers
WFS items are included in the Walmart+ free shipping subscription program, which helps customers save on delivery costs. Minimizing your buyers’ expenses can entice them to keep coming back.
3) Increased product visibility and conversions
Your WFS items will prominently display the “Two-Day Delivery” and Fulfilled by Walmart tags. Walmart claims this can achieve higher search rankings and Buy Box wins, which results in 30% to 50% more sales on average.
Lower shipping costs
WFS can reduce your business expenses through its Preferred Carrier Program, which helps merchants save on inbound transportation costs.
Compared to those shipping inbound themselves, early participants report an average of 50% lower rates on inbound shipping. WFS also charges minimal fees for shipping customer returns and inventory removals.
Business monitoring and metrics
WFS features dashboards and APIs that let you view real-time data on your sales performance. You can manage your inventory, shipments, and order tracking through Walmart’s Seller Center, direct APIs and third-party solution providers.
How to advertise on Walmart Marketplace
Walmart Marketplace has a premium advertising option from Walmart Connect known as Sponsored Products.
Sponsored Products ads are native, cost-per-click (CPC) ads that direct Walmart customers to the promoted products’ detail pages. They’re easier to discover since they’re given prominent placements:
- Search In-grid, which appears on the first page of search results
- Buy Box, where your product is displayed as the most relevant alternative on product detail pages
- Product Carousel, which shows your items on search, category, and item pages as a relevant alternative
These ads make your items more visible and help drive more sales for your business. Also, since they’re CPC ads, you only need to pay when someone clicks on them.
How to get started with Walmart Sponsored Products
Step 1: Make sure you’re eligible
- A monthly sales minimum
- Price competitiveness
- High Listing Quality Scores
Also, your products must comply with certain eligibility requirements:
- They should be in stock
- They must win the Buy Box
- Products must be base items
- For pickup and delivery eligibility, they should be published on Pickup & Delivery
To be eligible for Search In-grid placement, your items should also:
- Be in the top 128 organic search results
- Have a higher or equal ranking compared to their organic search
- Be under the same category as the search query
- Be of the same product type as at least one non-sponsored product in the top 20 results
Step 2: Fill out a form or get in touch
All you need to do is complete an interest form, then Walmart will pair you with an ad partner. That partner will contact you within a week, fill you in on the details, and help you with the onboarding process.
Your last option is to use a third-party AdTech platform. You can start by contacting any of Walmart’s four official advertising partners:
Step 3: Choose your Sponsored Products campaign
The Sponsored Products platform has two campaign types: automatic and manual. Determining which is the best option for you will depend on your goals.
Automatic campaigns are ideal for users who are new to advertising or want to expand their reach. They serve ads to all customers searching for items similar to yours, and offer three key benefits:
- Easy setup
- No need for keyword management
- High impression volumes
Manual campaigns are ideal for businesses that know their customers, have a history with Walmart, and want a targeted approach. This type presents your ads to customers based on the keywords they use, and you also get the following perks:
- The ability to select keywords
- Access to Walmart’s Keyword Analytics Tool
- Control over your campaign
How to sell on Walmart Marketplace
We’ve introduced you to the Walmart Marketplace. Now, we’ll discuss the application process.
It can take you 14 to 30 days to complete the whole process. To speed things up, we’ll walk you through the steps.
Step 1: Have your requirements ready
Here’s a list of what you’ll need before you begin filling out your application:
- Your U.S. Business Tax ID (SSN not accepted)
- Your U.S. business address and the address where your physical operations take place
- A W-9 or W-8 form and an EIN Verification Letter from the Department of the Treasury to verify item number 2
- Your planned integration method for your product catalog
- Your primary product categories, catalog size, and related information (how many SKUs you plan to sell, whether your items are used or refurbished, etc.)
Step 2: Fill out an application
Once your requirements are prepared, you can then complete Walmart’s application. It asks for your personal information, primary contact information, and information regarding the requirements mentioned in step 1.
Tip: Save each section as you go and remember to double-check the information you input.
Step 3: Wait for approval
After you submit your application, the approval process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, so be patient. The time varies from business to business and depends on factors like:
- The seller’s capabilities
- The size of their business
- How qualified they are
Once approved, you’ll receive a notification from Walmart. Then comes the fine print.
Step 4: Sign the contract
Congrats! You made it to signing Walmart Marketplace’s Retailer Agreement. The screenshot below shows what it looks like.
Read it closely before signing, as it’ll detail your duties as a retailer to ensure continued access to the platform and sales.
The Retailer Agreement outlines important information like:
- Your responsibilities as a seller
- Order and fulfillment processes
- Returns management
- Pricing details
- Walmart’s role and responsibilities
Step 5: Complete your registration
Now it’s time to complete your registration. You’ll need to create your seller profile and connect your payment account, for which you’ll receive a unique link via email. Click on it, then complete the following steps.
Your Walmart Marketplace account’s username is auto-filled based on the information you provided during the application process. Now it’s time to create your password. Keep it in a safe place and make copies.
You’ll use these credentials whenever you log in to the Marketplace and Walmart’s seller account management portal, the Seller Center, so make sure they’re secure.
To register your business, all you need to do is input its display name and corporate address.
Your display name is what Walmart.com customers see, while your corporate address is what you use internally.
For tax purposes, you’ll need to fill out a W-9 form. Required fields are:
- Your name
- Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)
Setting up payment
For sellers with a W-8 tax classification, be aware your only option is Payoneer.
Setting up shipping
Next is setting up your shipping options. You’ll need to configure your shipping model, pricing, transit times, etc.
Also, once you’re approved, you can set your standard processing schedule, shipping time zones, days off, and shipping policies in your settings.
Step 6: Complete Walmart’s onboarding process
After finishing your account setup, it’s time for onboarding. During this, you’ll choose your integration method and add your items. Below is a diagram showing the milestones you’ll hit throughout the process.
The onboarding process can take a few weeks, but it depends on how fast you can complete the order testing scenarios without problems.
Step 7: Request your launch
With the previous steps finished, all that’s left is to file a request for your store’s launch.
Walmart will conduct a final review, then release your account so you can go live and start selling.
Your merchandise will be published to Walmart.com, becoming transactable within a few hours and searchable within 24 to 48.
Walmart Marketplace seller fees
We mentioned Walmart only deducts a referral fee once a sale occurs. The cost is simply a percentage of your gross sales proceeds taken from the sale of each product.
The applicable rate varies according to each product’s category and the information provided at the time of the upload. They’re typically 15%, but certain categories have rates as low as 6%.
- 15% fee: Apparel & Accessories, Books
- 12% fee: Automotive & Powersports, Industrial & Scientific
- 10% fee: Plumbing Heating Cooling & Ventilation, Tires & Wheels
- 8% fee: Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics
- 6% fee: Personal Computers
Other category rates
Certain product categories have potentially lower referral fees depending on the total sales price:
- Baby: 8% for items with a total sales price of $10 or less, 15% if it’s greater than $10
- Beauty: 8% for items with a total sales price of $10 or less, 15% if it’s greater than $10
- Electronics Accessories: 15% for the portion of the total sales price up to $100, 8% if it’s greater than $100
- Grocery: 8% for items with a total sales price of $10 or less, 15% if it’s greater than $10
- Health & Personal Care: 8% for items with a total sales price of $10 or less, 15% if it’s greater than $10
Tips for Walmart Marketplace sellers
You now have the tools to get started on Walmart Marketplace. To finish it off, here are some tips to help you thrive as a seller.
Leverage Walmart’s Marketplace programs
Besides its TwoDay delivery service, Walmart also has programs designed to help you reach more customers and sell more products.
1) FedEx Advantage for Marketplace
The FedEx Advantage program lets sellers utilize the established and reliable services of the carrier. You can save on shipping costs with discounts of up to 50%, which are also applicable to international shipping (namely Canada and Mexico). The program also helps you perform consistently on the Walmart marketplace thanks to:
- Various shipping options with weekend delivery capabilities
- Marked discounts across multiple shipment methods
- Accurate tracking for all your orders
All of these perks come with a money-back guarantee, and you’ll have your $1 return label fee waived.
2) Marcus by Goldman Sachs
The Marcus by Goldman Sachs program gives eligible sellers a business line of credit. Goldman Sachs offers funding at flexible or fixed, yet competitive interest rates (5.99% to 14.99%) and transparent terms. What’s more, the program has a streamlined application process.
This is invaluable for sellers who may find themselves in a financial pinch, such as:
- There’s a sudden demand for your products, but you lack the necessary funding for more inventory and warehousing
- You need a monetary boost to conduct activities like marketing or advertising
Optimize your listings
Earlier, we mentioned the Listing Quality Score as a requirement for Sponsored products. It also shows how effective your listings are, reflected as a percentage (from 0 to 99) that appears at the item and catalog levels.
You can view it on the Listing Quality Dashboard, which also shares tips for improving your listings and attracting more customers.
This is more important than you might think; one Walmart seller, Big Red House, experienced an increase in sales after improving their Listing Quality Score from 17 to 78.
Minimize the cost and stress of product returns
To round out your role as a Marketplace seller, you should opt into Walmart’s Enhanced Returns program. With it, you can lower your returns processing costs: The service gives you access to discounted rates, so you can save on customer service and return fees. Along with easy label printing, you can also offer free returns and multiple returns options, making the overall customer experience more seamless.
All you need to do is select Walmart’s Returns Shipping Service (RSS) as your preferred option for label printing.
Marketplace ad programs at Amazon and eBay use a 2nd price auction method, which means if you win a bid, you would have bid the most, but you only have the pay the cost of the second highest bidder. This method helps to mitigate overpayment.
However, Walmart Sponsored Products uses a 1st price auction method, which means if you win a bid, you pay whatever you were bidding.
We suggest starting with a bid that’s 30% under what you’re willing to pay, monitoring results, and then slowly upping your bid price from there.
The good thing about Sponsored Products is you only have to pay for clicks, and you can set up different match types based on what your advertising strategy is (phrase, broad, exact, and auto). For example, you might go with exact match for your best sellers, and broad match if you’re looking to get more exposure for a new product.
One other thing to note is that Walmart Marketplace only shows either organic or paid listings in search results, but not both. That means you have to be extra careful not to cannibalize your already-successful organically ranking listings with ads for the same items.
Leverage Sponsored Product ads strategically to align with your goals.
Wrapping up — Diversify to Walmart Marketplace
The Walmart Marketplace is a powerful eCommerce platform backed by the company’s strong brand recognition and massive customer base. It can take care of many headaches, but has several intricacies to joining and using. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with it first, but once you become a seller, the platform can drive major growth for your business.
How to Prepare For The West Coast Port Union Contract Renegotiation in July
Did you know the ports along the American West Coast are governed by the same union? It’s called the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and their current contract, which took effect in 2019, will expire on July 1st, 2022.
Not every contract renewal results in supply chain disruptions and ports being shut down. However, in 2014 and 2015, their contract with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which would keep the ports fully operational with enough manpower, expired without a new agreement in place.
According to a report from Jennifer M. Porter entitled West Coast Longshoreman Strike Synopsis—The Bad, the Ugly, and the Uglier, some of the effects of this delay included the following:
- There were 33 cargo ships anchored outside of Los Angeles-Long Beach terminals.
- It took an estimated three months to clear the backlog.
- 20% of the U.S.’s fresh fruit and vegetable crop exports were delayed almost a month.
- Retailers faced an estimated $7 billion in costs and losses.
- The U.S. meat industry lost approximately $85 million per week during the delays.
Taking a look at point two above, the ports cleared out their backlog after about three months. However, their backlog of 33 ships in 2015 pales in comparison to the over 70 container ships waiting off the Port of Los Angeles in February 2022.
The bottom line is that if negotiations stall port labor and operations, that backlog could get worse before it gets better. Even if the delay only lasts three months from July to September, that leaves merchants with a meager few months before Black Friday and the holiday sale season begin.
So, what can eCommerce merchants do to prepare?
How to plan your logistics strategy in 2022
The past few years have shaken up the eCommerce industry, 2022 included. Port union renegotiations, rising CPC costs, and the uncertainty of the supply chain will bring interesting challenges this year — and opportunities for prepared merchants.
Keep reading for our advice on how to prepare your inventory in 2022.
Get ready for Q4
Prepare your supply chain and inventory for Q4 as early as today. In normal years, merchants usually had quiet summers (unless you sell in a sports or outdoor category) and Q3s where they could prepare for Q4 sales.
This year, it’s difficult to rely on the ports along the West Coast for summer imports. If negotiations stall, the backlog could flow into Q3, then compound on top of current supply chain issues.
Get as much inventory as you can into local warehouses and FBA so you’re well prepared in time for holiday sales.
Tip: We noticed a boom in 2020 and a slow-down in 2021. If you saw the same, look at your 2020 and 2021 sales trends, split the difference, and use that estimate for your 2022 Q4.
Balance supply and demand
If you sell out on Amazon, even during a hot sales event like Prime Day or Black Friday, your listing will take a hit.
Running out of stock is bad for marketplace business because it loses you sales. Worse, once you restock, your listings don’t pick up where they left off — you have to climb your way back to the top.
Maintaining a healthy listing is much easier than starting from the bottom, so it’s important to keep an eye on your supply and adjust demand accordingly.
What does this look like?
- If you have low inventory for a marketplace listing, pause any campaigns driving traffic to it.
- When selling on your own website, utilize upsells and cross-sells to help customers find alternatives instead of depleting your stock.
- If you’ve overstocked an item, consider bundling it alongside your top sellers.
Utilize Section 321
Section 321 states that “De minimis provides admission of articles free of duty and of any tax imposed on or by reason of importation, but the aggregate fair retail value in the country of shipment of articles imported by one person on one day and exempted from the payment of duty shall not exceed $800.”
Essentially, this means that, with the exception of some countries, you can fulfill your DTC items from any international warehouse as long as the order is $800 or less.
This can alleviate supply chain issues to some extent, since you can fulfill a select order daily that meets all the parameters. Furthermore, this shipment is exempt from tariffs, making the sale even more lucrative.
Leverage alternative ports
A few other ports are open near the West Coast, including in Canada and Mexico. You can leverage storage, prep, and fulfillment centers near these ports when the ones along the West Coast are backed up.
The US also has ports in the Gulf Coast and East Coast where you can route orders in the meantime to preempt any delays on the West Coast.
Tip: Before you divert any shipments, check the capacities of your intended port to see if the backlog there is more favorable than on the West Coast.
Wrapping up — Prepare for more supply chain disruptions
No one can predict with 100% accuracy what will happen with the ILWU contract renegotiation. However, merchants should hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
To help you manage your inventory despite the many supply chain disruptions, follow our suggestions above, and be sure to work with reliable logistics partners with robust locations, services, and specialties.
Understanding Amazon Inventory Turnover and How to Optimize It
This is a guest post from Matthew Rickerby. Matthew is the Director of Marketing at Skubana, a leading solution for multi-channel, multi-warehouse DTC brands. For the past 10 years, he’s covered eCommerce topics ranging from SEO to supply chain management.
Measuring and understanding your eCommerce inventory turnover is critical to manage your inventory effectively and profitably. When you sell on Amazon, diving into your specific Amazon inventory turnover rate is key to optimize that channel.
In this guide, we’ll dive into what Amazon inventory turnover is, why it’s important to measure and track, and a step-by-step guide to calculate your Amazon inventory turnover. Finally, we’ll discuss what your ideal inventory turnover rate should be when selling on this eCommerce platform.
What is an ideal Amazon inventory turnover ratio?
Inventory turnover is the rate at which a retailer’s inventory is bought and sold over a given period of time. The ratio is generally expressed as a cost of goods sold to inventory held.
Similarly, Amazon inventory turnover refers to the rate at which your Amazon inventory is bought and sold. This measurement can determine whether or not you have the right amount of inventory on hand at any given time in relation to your sales performance.
Each time you replenish your inventory over a given period of time, you experience inventory turnover. This number will show you how your Amazon sales channel is operating and where you might have room for improvement in your inventory management.
You can visualize your Amazon inventory turnover using the following formula:
Amazon Inventory Turnover Ratio (ITR) = Total Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) ÷ Average Inventory During Period of Time
Sell-through rate vs. inventory turnover ratio
If you sell on Amazon, you’re likely familiar with the platform’s own version of an inventory turnover metric — your Amazon sell-through rate.
While these two may seem similar, Amazon’s sell-through rate is based on a rolling 90 days. Looking at the previous rolling 90 days, your sell-through rate is calculated based on the number of units you sold and shipped divided by the average number of units available across fulfillment centers at that time.
It’s important to note this calculation cannot replace your Amazon inventory turnover ratio.
Just getting started with Amazon? Read more about the key differences between fulfillment options when selling on this platform: Everything you ever wanted to know about Amazon FBM.
Why is inventory turnover important?
Calculating your inventory turnover ratio on Amazon is a key inventory KPI. This number allows you to analyze your inventory management and can determine if you’re falling prey to either of the following inventory issues:
- Not having enough inventory on hand: If you restock inventory too often in a given time period, you might not have adequate inventory on hand. This can cause you to lose out on potential sales and waste money on rush fees as you scramble to keep items in stock. If your inventory turnover rate on Amazon is too high, this may indicate you need to rethink the number of units you stock at any given time.
- Having too much inventory on hand: If your inventory turnover occurs too infrequently, you may be wasting cash flow on storing low-demand goods. This increases holding and warehouse costs while also preventing you from restocking high-demand items.
Your Amazon inventory turnover ratio can help you improve your restocking process and points to areas where you need to forecast better. Additionally, this ratio can inform your marketing decisions and determine what products you need to move.
How do you calculate inventory turnover?
Simply put, your Amazon inventory turnover ratio is the number of times your inventory is sold and replaced during a set period of time. Generally speaking, you should use a year-long period to calculate this ratio.
Use the following steps to calculate your eCommerce business’s Amazon inventory turnover:
Step 1: Determine your product inventory levels
A key part of your inventory turnover equation is determining your product inventory levels. This number will help you calculate your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). Depending on your Amazon inventory management setup, you’ll either need to determine inventory levels manually or use an automated system to pull real-time numbers.
Step 2: Calculate your COGS
Once you know your product inventory levels, you can move on to calculating your Cost of Goods Sold, or COGS. This number reveals how much you spend turning inventory into a finalized sale.
Use the following formula to calculate your COGs:
Beginning Amazon Inventory + Purchases During Period of Time – Ending Amazon Inventory = COGS
As a bonus, once you have calculated your COGs, you can also use this number when determining your gross profits.
Step 3: Assess your average inventory
The next metric you will need to pinpoint is your average inventory. To calculate this number, use the following formula:
Beginning Amazon Inventory + Ending Amazon Inventory During a Single Month ÷ 2 = Average Amazon Inventory
Step 4: Reveal inventory turnover ratio (ITR)
Now that you have these baseline numbers, you can calculate your Amazon inventory turnover ratio with the following equation:
Amazon Inventory Turnover Ratio (ITR) = Total Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) ÷ Average Inventory During Period of Time
Deciphering your ITR numbers
For most businesses, a good Amazon inventory turnover ratio should be between 5-10. This implies you turn over your Amazon inventory approximately every one to two months. But if you have an unusually low or high ITR, it could point to a few situations:
- You might be overstocking products that are in low demand. This can lead to a low inventory turnover and may even necessitate dead stock disposal.
- You might be understocking products that are in high demand. This can cause a higher inventory turnover.
- You might have pricing issues. Too high or too low of an ITR can indicate you’re pricing your products incorrectly based on demand and the current supply chain.
- Your marketing is not in sync with your product levels. An off-balance ITR might be due to marketing the wrong products at the wrong time.
Step 5: Days’ sales of inventory (DSI): Another way to calculate ITR
In addition to the traditional method of calculating your Amazon ITR, you can also gauge your inventory management through an alternative ratio called Days Sales of Inventory (DSI). This calculation measures the total number of days it takes for your inventory to convert into a final sale.
You can calculate it with the following formula:
(Average Amazon Inventory ÷ COGS) x 365 = Days Sales of Inventory
Meaning of DSI numbers
Similar to your ITR, a low or high DSI could be due to a variety of reasons: When this number gets too high, it could indicate your inventory is being poorly managed or that you have supply chain issues.
A low DSI generally means you hold on to stock for too long. This might be due to stocking products that are in low demand, missing out on marketing opportunities, or poor forecasting around inventory seasonality.
The ideal Amazon inventory turnover ratio
As you measure your Amazon turnover ratio, you should decide what a good inventory turnover ratio is for your business. While a good rule of thumb is 5-10, the ideal Amazon turnover ratio for your business might be different depending on your niche.
For example, lower ITRs are common in luxury markets, while higher ITRs are the norm in perishable markets.
Ideally, you’ll want to benchmark your business against others in your industry. Tools like Ready Ratios are a good place to start, but you should also analyze your own data. The more consistently you track your inventory details, the better you can understand what ratios result in your most profitable periods. This can help you pinpoint the ideal Amazon inventory turnover ratio for your business.
How to improve inventory turnover ratio
Once you have calculated and analyzed your inventory turnover ratio, there are a number of ways to improve your inventory turnover ratio.
First and foremost, it’s important to review your forecasting techniques. If your business can better forecast its customer’s demands, this will reduce your inventory levels and, in turn, increase your inventory turnover ratio. In addition, this improved forecasting will allow you to focus on your business’s top-selling products. Eliminating the products that have a lower turnover ratio, will help to improve the overall inventory turnover for the business.
However, forecasting can be easier said than done. In the instance that you have an excess of slow-moving stock, you can use product bundling to get them off the shelves and out the door.
Finally, you can improve your inventory turnover ratio by increasing sales. Revisit and formulate your marketing strategies to reach a wider audience, increase demand and push sales.
How to optimize your Amazon inventory turnover
When using Amazon as a selling channel, the first thing to do is choose an Amazon inventory management system. This system should provide you with real-time insights into inventory levels so you can calculate your inventory turnover ratio more accurately.
From there, you can optimize your turnover using a few methods:
- Sync your sales and marketing data with your inventory data: If your marketing and sales teams operate in their own silos apart from your inventory management system, you’ll inevitably suffer from inventory issues. Make sure your marketing teams plan their campaigns around real-time inventory data and work with sales to better understand inventory turnover ratios. This can help keep everyone working toward the same ITR ratio goals.
- Use smarter automation: When you use a sophisticated inventory management platform, you can rely on automation to forecast your inventory needs intelligently. This, in turn, helps you avoid inventory mistakes, such as over or understocking.
- Use product bundling to move inventory: An effective method for moving stale inventory is to provide product bundling suggestions. This allows you to pair low-demand items with high-demand ones and thus move inventory that’s eating away at profits due to holding fees.
Want to learn more about moving stale inventory? Check out this guide: How to boost eCommerce conversions with giveaways and contests.
Inventory management is complex, and it becomes even harder to navigate when you open up new sales channels. If you’re looking to utilize Amazon as your next selling platform, or are concerned about how well you’re managing your existing Amazon inventory levels, consider implementing Skubana.
Skubana’s inventory management system allows you to track inventory in real time. Using this data, you can identify which inventory is moving slowly and which is being depleted too quickly. You can swiftly understand your inventory turnover and use that data to achieve a better ratio. If you’re interested in learning more, schedule a demo of Skubana today.
How to Optimize Your Checkout Process
As a business owner, you’ve (hopefully) spent a lot of time thinking about the design and functionality of your eCommerce site. The overall flow of your website impacts how satisfied your customers are, and that includes the checkout process.
This is a critical stage in the buying process, as the average cart abandonment rate across all industries is just shy of 70%.
Creating a positive eCommerce checkout experience for your customers will improve your conversion rate and reduce checkout abandonment. Yes, there is a difference between cart abandonment and checkout abandonment.
Checkout abandonment is when customers leave the payment process after starting it. These customers are a loss because you invested in marketing, operations, and development to get them to that point.
Leading factors of checkout abandonment
A customer can abandon the checkout process for many reasons — even simply needing to get back to another task. More commonly though, potential buyers leave the checkout process because it turned them off for one reason or another. Although you can’t eradicate every customer turn-off, you can pay attention to specific elements of your checkout process and make tweaks that can encourage customers to complete their purchase.
Some of the most common reasons people abandon the checkout process are easy to rectify. Consider these factors when creating your own checkout and read on to learn how to optimize for each one:
- Surprise costs or charges: Unexpected fees added at the time of payment can deter your customer and have them second-guessing the value of the purchase. These can include taxes, shipping costs, etc.
- Forced account creation: When you demand customers sign up for an account to proceed, you add a hurdle to the process. This slows down their checkout and can stop them from buying altogether.
- Limited shipping options: Customers expect speedy delivery options, and when they’re not available, they’ll go elsewhere.
- Complex or cumbersome process: Online shopping should be convenient, from browsing a site sans pants to the seamless checkout process. Offer fast checkout experiences to avoid losing people halfway through.
- Security concerns: With fears of fraud now commonplace, it’s understandable customers want to be certain your payment process is safe and secure.
- Performance issues or errors: If your checkout process has slow load times, crashes, or consistently experiences errors, your customers will jump ship faster than you can say “lost sale.”
Best practices for a seamless checkout
After you’ve channeled your hard work into attracting visitors to your site, the next step is turning them into paying customers. After all, the main purpose of your online store is to close sales, so you should prioritize your checkout process, as it’s the purchasing finish line.
Remember, not even the greatest digital ad can overcome a bad checkout experience. Think about these solutions as you optimize your process to increase conversions and drive business growth.
Showcase fast, free shipping
If costly and slow shipping is the main reason for cart abandonment, offering free and fast options will help convert. Prominently display these promises in your checkout to encourage purchase completion.
We suggest adding it to your cart review page as an additional line item to make it crystal clear that shipping is free. You should also highlight a delivery timeline estimate on your address input page to set expectations for speed.
Think mobile first
As with all elements of your eCommerce site, thinking mobile-first is imperative when setting up your checkout process. More than 230 million American consumers own smartphones, and almost 80% of those have made a purchase online using their device in the last six months. In 2018 alone, almost 40% of all eCommerce purchases were made online during the holiday season.
Mobile users also have the highest abandonment rate, coming in at a whopping 85.65%. Don’t be a part of this statistic — make sure your site and especially your checkout process are mobile friendly.
Allow guest checkout
Gaining recurring customers and fostering retention is an important component of growing your business, but you don’t want to discourage first-time buyers by forcing account set-up to proceed to checkout. Allow one-time buyers to put in their email and continue with their purchase via a guest checkout.
You can always prompt them to create an account easily after they complete their purchase.
Enable social or Google sign-in to expedite the process
Any time and steps you can save your customers will improve their experience, which, in turn, will motivate them to return to your eCommerce site. Allow customers to sign up, register, or sign in using their social media or Google accounts to expedite the process and verify their identity. This saves your customers time registering for an account and inputting their data.
Keep it short and sweet
Almost 20% of eCommerce cart abandonment takes place at the checkout stage due to a lengthy or complicated process. Keep it short and sweet when it comes to form fields and the information you ask of your customers. Collect only the information you absolutely need, and streamline the process. If possible, capture customer email addresses as early as possible, as it’s the one piece of information you need to be able to follow up.
When customers are presented with too many forms to fill out — especially if the information seems redundant or unnecessary — they may grow tired and simply abandon the process.
Remove unnecessary distractions
By the time your customer has made it to the payment stage, you’ve invested heavily in their purchase power through marketing and operational costs. Now’s the time to funnel them towards converting by removing any additional distractions. These include the header or footer, pop-ups, menu buttons, additional items to purchase, or anything else that might slow down the process.
One exception to this rule is a pop-up live chat option to help customers complete their purchase, especially if they’ve been idle for any length of time.
Provide multiple payment options
Multiple payment options makes your store more accessible to shoppers with different payment preferences. This helps encourage purchase and checkout, as consumers can choose their most convenient online wallet or credit card.
However, there are costs associated usually with each payment option. If budget is a consideration, prioritize the most popular payment methods (i.e., Visa, Mastercard, Paypal) and expand options as your business grows.
Be transparent about costs and fees
Unexpected costs can make customers second-guess their purchase and leave your site. You don’t want this to happen when they’re ready to buy, as this can lead to abandonment. PDisclose as many details as possible up front, including the subtotal, and any applicable taxes, shipping fees, duties, or other fees.
ASOS does a great job of this, offering a special FAQ section that details any additional delivery fees customers may experience. This is especially important for merchants who sell internationally, as duty fees can be a concern for consumers.
To counter this, ASOS offers some international customers discount codes (validated during the checkout process by confirming the shipping address) to help them get past these additional fees. Although this may not be an option for you, you can still be transparent and include messaging that tells your customers what to expect before they reach the checkout page.
Highlight security seals or badges
In the past two years, eCommerce has taken off exponentially, but so has fear of fraud for both consumers and eCommerce professionals. According to a 2021 fraud report from Marqeta, four out of five people surveyed said their amount of online shopping during Covid-19 increased, but they also felt more susceptible to fraud. What’s more:
- 65% of respondents said they’re more concerned about fraud since the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
- 67% of consumers surveyed said they think shopping online more during COVID-19 has increased their risk of being victims of fraud.
- 58% of consumers who responded feel the risk of fraud makes them less likely to try new forms of payment online.
Show customers you’re serious about protecting personal information by prominently displaying your security badges or seals. Some examples of these can include the certified organic label, or money-back guarantee. These badges should be featured throughout the checkout process so customers have confidence in the quality of security your business provides.
Use form validation and error notifications
Is there anything more frustrating than filling out a form only to receive a vague error message and having to scour every field carefully to find your mistake?
Typos happen, though, and this, unfortunately, is not uncommon for customers.
Real-time form validation can help your customers input their data accurately, as well as let them know when data can’t be accepted. Form validation integrations show your customers in real time when the data they’ve inputted is or is not acceptable. These integrations can even offer smart suggestions for addresses.
This means your customers won’t miss a step, and all data they input is correct and complete before they try to submit the form.
Make it easy to ask questions
Providing customer support at the right time can mean the difference between a completed or abandoned sale. Of course, customer support should be available at every opportunity throughout the entire shopping experience to build brand loyalty, increase sales, and ensure customer satisfaction.
Offer a knowledge base, call center/dial-in support, and live chat to give customers the communication methods they prefer.
Show a progress indicator
If you’ve ever had to endure a succession of online forms and wondered, “how many more of these are there?” then you know how important progress indicators are.
A progress indicator can be helpful in your checkout process, regardless of whether your platform uses a one-page or multi-page/-step system.
It usually looks something like: Shopping Cart Review > Shipping Address > Payment and Billing Address > Confirmation
This shows your customers where they are in the process, what steps they’ve completed, and which are yet to come. A progress indicator helps customers gauge how much time is left in the payment process, a perk they may find convenient as it guides them through the process.
Auto-save cart contents when abandoned
Sometimes your customer has to leave before they’ve completed their checkout. This can be for several reasons, including those that have nothing to do with your checkout process. When a customer leaves items in their cart unpurchased, ensuring those items persist in their cart until they return is a great strategy. By making it easy for your customers to pick up where they left off, you can increase the likelihood they’ll complete that purchase at a later date.
Further, if you capture the customer’s email address, you can send a friendly reminder email that their items are waiting for them.
Send post-payment order confirmation and updates
Repeat after us: The checkout process does not end at “payment complete.” When your customer arrives on the order confirmation page, they should also receive an email with their order confirmation within minutes of completing payment. This email should include:
- Order number
- Order details, including products purchased, cost, subtotal, taxes, applicable fees, and the grand total
- Date and time of purchase
- Returns/refund information
- A link to your customer support page or customer support contact details
- Next steps
In addition to this email, it’s important to keep your customer informed about their shipment. Be sure to communicate milestones reached throughout the fulfillment process. This can include notifications that an order is being prepared for shipment, the order has shipped, and especially any circumstances where the regular timeline has been disrupted.
By keeping your customer in the loop after their payment has gone through, you’ll continue to build trust and establish touchpoints that improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. This, in turn, will bring them back to your checkout page in the future.
Wrapping up — Optimize your checkout process for more conversions and happier buyers
Follow the tips we’ve shared above to ensure your checkout experience is as quick and seamless as possible. You want to prioritize convenience for your customers, which will lead to conversions for your business.
Best Practices For Building a Mobile Responsive Website
Our mobile devices are practically an extension of our bodies. According to Statista, mobile accounts for about half of web traffic worldwide today. Every third mobile user searches for answers to questions on their device, and more than two-thirds are likely to buy from or recommend an eCommerce site that’s mobile-friendly. With this in mind, the need to build a mobile optimized website isn’t just important — it’s absolutely necessary.
For eCommerce professionals, considering the mobile shopping experience for prospective customers has never been more critical. Techjury predicted almost 73% of all eCommerce would be powered by mobile commerce by the end of 2021, and 2022 could prove to be even bigger.
To appeal to mobile users, you have to create a mobile responsive site that meets the unique requirements of these devices. Read on to learn the best practices for mobile responsiveness and to understand the implications of a mobile-first design on your business.
What is mobile-first design?
Chances are, you’ve heard the term “mobile-first” before. Mobile-first design is a design philosophy that prioritizes the user experience by focusing on mobile screens at the beginning of the design process. When you design a website for mobile, you can assure your users a seamless experience on any device.
By designing your website with a mobile-first approach, you ensure an optimized web visit that considers functionality, load times, and even the look and feel of the website for all visitors .
What does mobile responsive mean?
Mobile responsiveness refers to whether or not a website is optimized to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing on devices of different sizes. In essence, mobile responsive means the experience of visiting a particular website on an iMac is similar if not the exact same as it is on a Samsung Galaxy.
You might be wondering what the difference between mobile-first design and mobile responsiveness is. While both have the same goal of a seamless and positive mobile experience for users, there are some key differences.
Mobile-first design is, as mentioned, a design philosophy. Mobile responsiveness, on the other hand, is a technical approach. Think of the former as the blueprint and the latter as the physical construction.
In the past, websites were created to be viewed via desktop. This meant a wide and expansive screen for viewing content. But with the advent of smart devices, new viewing requirements forced companies to adapt.
Why eCommerce sites must be mobile responsive
With the growth in both mobile visitors and purchasing, it’s imperative your online store is set up for mobile success, even if you don’t see high mobile traffic currently. Consider this: 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. If prospective customers have a difficult experience on your site when browsing via mobile, they may be less likely to visit on their desktop too.
What are mobile web design best practices?
As more and more consumers rely on their mobile devices for their online activities, it’s crucial for merchants to commit their time and energy to building excellent mobile experiences.
We’ve compiled some of the best practices below for you to consider as you optimize your eCommerce site for mobile customers.
Deliver an omni-channel experience
Mobile continues to rise as a major player in the omni-channel experience. One of your biggest priorities when building your eCommerce site is to ensure your customers have a seamless experience whether they visit on desktop or mobile. This involves the general look and feel of your website, of course, but it should also include cart syncing, especially when users are signed in to their account.
Perhaps a customer is browsing items and adding them to their cart via mobile while taking the train home from work. They intend to complete the checkout process when they arrive at home, on their desktop computer or laptop. If they’re unable to see their cart items on their desktop (or vice versa), the experience quickly becomes frustrating.
You can rely on apps and other integrations to ensure your cart persists across devices and over time to support device-hopping shoppers’ needs.
Consider the navigation with your thumbs
The best mobile experiences are designed with thumbs in mind. Consider your own mobile device habits — perhaps you opt for one-handed scrolling with your thumb, or two-handed, double-thumb typing.
About half of mobile users interact with their phones using one hand, particularly when they’re on the go and moving around, with 15% using both hands more often than not. Also, roughly 10% of the world is left-handed. With this in mind, your mobile responsive website’s design and navigation should take into account user accessibility using that standard single handhold with the thumb for navigation and clicks.
Position CTAs carefully
Calls to action (CTAs) should always be carefully and strategically positioned, but more so when designing a mobile experience for your users. Considering once again thumb-driven actions and navigation, the position of CTAs on a mobile site must be optimized for mobile viewing.
An effective mobile website design needs to have an obvious set of CTAs. However, too many on a small screen can overwhelm users. Like so many things, achieving balance here is key.
Your CTA buttons are some of the most important elements on your site. You want CTAs to be visible within one to two seconds to allow customers to quickly understand the actions they can take. Follow these tips to position your CTAs correctly:
- Go light on the copy
- Fewer is more (don’t give too many options)
- Use white space
- Stick it to the page
- When in doubt, size up
- Remember the thumb zone
Avoid lengthy content
When it comes to content, short and snappy is best for mobile. Aim to keep paragraphs within five lines of length and avoid long text blocks that can be difficult to read on small screens.
Always use clear, legible typography and keep text size in mind too — anything too big is overwhelming, but anything too small is a cross-eyed headache waiting to happen.
- Use bullet points
- Use subheaders
- Ensure you have high-contrast text against background (dark text, light background)
- Break up text with images for a more visual experience
Simplify your navigation
A simple navigation is always a perk on any website. Who has time to wade through multiple pages to find what they need? This is especially true for mobile websites, which are already trickier to traverse with smaller screens and often hidden navigations.
Many mobile websites are only 720 pixels wide in portrait mode. This means it’s extra important to keep all labels and headers as short as possible to ensure they fit across the screen neatly while still being legible.
Because your users don’t have a lot of time (and don’t want to waste it trying to navigate your pages), list the most important pages first in your navigation.
Whenever possible, provide anchor links throughout your site to help users jump to the page they need to access.
Make the search function a critical part of your navigation. Why? Because mobile users consider it to be. For a great example of search as an effective navigational function, look to Amazon.
Make your navigation intuitive for users. Use simple language and symbols to demonstrate whether a menu item drops down or has additional options.
Offer guest checkouts
Generally, in eCommerce, allowing guest checkouts is a good practice. Guest checkout removes barriers for prospective customers to make a purchase by eliminating the need to create an account. Easier is better, especially for the mobile experience.
No matter how dexterous they are, mobile users are restricted in typing; they simply don’t have the luxury of a full keyboard. As such, a lengthy account sign-up process could spell disaster when customers try to check out. Collect the minimum amount of information required to complete the purchase and invite your customers to create an account in your purchase confirmation email instead.
Upsell and cross-sell
Upselling and cross-selling are two basic strategies to sell more and increase your revenue. When it comes to your mobile site, these strategies can have a huge impact on your users’ behavior; by finding similar or complementary products to purchase so they don’t have to, they’re more likely to add extra items to their carts.
Optimize images for mobile
47% of users expect a maximum loading time of two seconds for websites, and the usual culprit for slow load times just so happens to be large file sizes. For eCommerce stores, beautiful, high-resolution images are a requirement, but it’s also important to optimize them for mobile. Make sure your images not only load quickly (i.e., appropriate file sizes), but also render properly on any screen size so your customers can see your product properly.
To optimize your images for mobile, be sure to:
- Resize images
- Compress images
- Choose the correct file format
Optimize video for mobile
Did you know? A survey of U.S. consumers found that 92% view videos on mobile with the sound off, and 50% of consumers said captions are important for that very reason. When creating video for your eCommerce site, make sure it can be consumed and enjoyed without audio.
It’s also important to make sure the size is correct and that your videos don’t autoplay. Sudden music or a video that takes up the full mobile screen is often an unwelcome intrusion for mobile shoppers.
Kill the flash and pop-ups
Have you ever visited a website and immediately been bombarded with pop-ups, opt-ins, and “special offers”? They interrupt the browsing experience and cause visitors to leave.
Because of this, Google has cracked down on websites with invasive pop-ups and ads. If these features create a bad experience for users, Google is less likely to show your eCommerce website in the search results.
While it’s great to grow your email list and present customers with your latest deals, on mobile, less is more.
In addition to Google’s crackdowns, these annoying pop-ups can send your traffic packing. Skip the flash and pop-ups on your mobile site and allow your customers to navigate “quietly.”
Link your logo back to your home page for ease of navigation
When users need to return to your home page, getting there should require almost no thought. Clicking your logo is one of the most intuitive and easy ways to allow your customers to get back to the main page quickly.
Ensure contact info is easy to access
Your customers should never have to hunt for your contact information. In fact, it’s possible they’re visiting your mobile website specifically for this information so they can find your brick-and-mortar location or reach out with questions.
Tip: Make “Contact Us” a sticky CTA at the top or bottom of the page so no matter how far customers scroll, they’ll be able to find your details easily.
Location-based technology allows you to segment consumers and offer them personalized, relevant content. When combined with other data like explicit preferences, click data, or past-purchase behavior, you can give customers mega value by delivering content tailored to them.
Test and test often
Once you’ve built your website, test it out on a variety of devices and screens. But don’t stop there. Continue to test your site after any changes or updates to ensure everything renders properly and your users get the best possible experience when they land on your page.
Wrapping up — Ensure mobile responsiveness for a seamless shopping experience
Mobile is increasingly becoming consumers’ chosen portal for eCommerce shopping. With so many potential customers doing research, browsing listings, and comparing products from their phones, every merchant must invest in a fully responsive mobile website to enhance their buyer experience.
How to Expand Your Brand’s Content Creation Engine
Your organic content — be it social media posts, email marketing, blog articles, or something else — is the fuel for all your acquisition efforts.
Organic social media posts that receive glowing engagement can be boosted as paid social media ads. Clever landing page copy drives ad campaign performance and inspires people to take action. eBooks and other downloadable resources can fuel your newsletter sign-ups. Meanwhile, your newsletter acts as a re-engagement tool that reduces churn.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Before a customer buys from you, they go through a series of stages. Moving from awareness to consideration and, eventually, conversion. At each of these stages, your brand content provides opportunities to engage these leads, show off your value, and guide them towards becoming loyal customers.
In this article, we’ll explain how you can expand your brand’s content creation engine to maximize its potential and reap the rewards.
1) Start with a strong foundation
The foundation of your content creation strategy is fundamental to its success. Having a strong base will support your marketing’s resilience — making sure your brand reaches the right people in the right places and gets them to take the right actions.
Before you start crafting content, you need to know what topics and formats will perform best in your industry, niche, and audience. These will then form the foundations of your content creation strategy.
Your customers are always the best place to start when establishing your content creation strategy. Speak to your customers to find out what makes them tick — and what ticks them off. Establish their needs and pain points, then consider how you can make content that addresses these needs, positioning your brand and products as the perfect solution.
To analyze the foundation of your content in a technical manner, we recommend using an analytical tool such as Ahrefs. With Ahrefs, you can analyze keywords on a more nuanced level and develop a solid understanding of what content types work well within your industry and niche.
On the other hand, never underestimate the power of a simple Google search. Entering your keywords into Google can return streams of valuable information. You can glean information on which businesses take the top spots in search results, find out what related questions people also ask, and gain insight into your customers’ thoughts and queries.
Working with an experienced content strategist in your industry can also reveal your audience’s content needs and where to find success. Alternatively, you might already have a strong notion of where you need to start thanks to your own previously collected data.
2) Engage partners for co-marketing
Who said you had to go it alone? Leveraging brand partnerships for co-marketing is a powerful way to strengthen the impact of your content creation engine.
When you engage partners for co-marketing, you double your reach and expertise — all of which translates to doubling your results.
Consider which partners will add value for your customers. When choosing brands, you may want to ask yourself:
- Does this potential partner align with my brand niche without being a direct competitor?
- Would this brand’s audience be interested in our products?
- How does this brand add value to our audience?
- What other benefits would result from this partnership?
Engaging a brand partner that’s well-aligned with your niche and industry will expand the topics you can cover while tapping into their audience to grow your own community. If you partner with someone who’s an expert in their field, they can also bring more credibility to the table.
Some of the ways you can partner with other brands on content creation include:
- Newsletter swaps
- Blog exchanges
- Social media takeovers
If your brand already produces content, it’s likely you have existing pieces that could be repurposed or refreshed as part of a partnership. For example, do you have a high-performing blog post that could be delivered as a podcast with a brand partner?
Be strategic with your partnerships. Select brand partners wisely and work together to create content that stirs your audiences to action. Do that, and your co-marketing will start to drive more sales.
3) Repurpose your content
You don’t have to start from scratch.
Just like you can repurpose content for brand partnerships, you can also turn it into different mediums within your own channels.
Review your best-performing content across various formats such as webinars, blog articles, and social media posts. Then, explore how you can repurpose this content in a new medium.
Repurposing content is a valuable tactic that brands often overlook. But by refreshing old content, you can escalate its potential returns.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can repurpose content to generate more traffic and sales.
Webinars don’t have to be a one-off event. You can expand the shelf-life of your webinars by transforming them into new content formats.
If you recorded your webinars, you could upload them to YouTube, LinkedIn, and other social media channels. These can be full-length videos, or you could make shorter snippets that pinpoint the webinar’s key takeaways.
Bite-sized content is a great way to turn one long-form content piece (e.g., a webinar) into dozens of smaller ones (e.g., short snippets) that are shareable and easily consumed.
You could also turn your webinar into an audio recording for a podcast. In the U.S. in 2021, there were approximately 120 million podcast listeners, making it a powerful acquisition channel. Turning your webinar into an audio recording for a podcast is a great way to tap into a new marketing stream and reach even more people.
You could also transform your webinar into written content. Write a recap of the event on your blog, including a link to watch the video on demand.
Finally, a webinar makes a great lead generation tool. Use your old webinar content to capture more newsletter subscribers by offering the slides as a downloadable resource when they sign up to your newsletter list.
Don’t neglect blog posts once they’re published.
If a blog performs particularly well, you could compile other posts on a similar topic. Then, combine these blog posts into an eBook full of valuable insights.
Another way to repurpose your brand’s blog content is to turn key ideas into organic social media posts. Think quote graphics and informative carousels on Instagram, Twitter threads, and live videos for Facebook. The organic social media possibilities for repurposing blog content are nearly limitless.
You could also use the topics discussed in your blogs to answer relevant questions on Quora. This demonstrates your value and positions your brand as a potential solution to a challenge consumers face.
Blog articles can even be used as part of your paid ads strategy. Not all ads need to be sales-focused; some serve to point consumers in the right direction. Link ads to your blog posts to focus on satisfying the needs of customers who are still in the early stages of decision-making.
This is a win-win situation, as you’ll be able to help these customers solve a problem with your blog post and retarget them with sales-focused ads.
Six hours on Facebook, 15 minutes on Twitter, 48 hours on Instagram, 20 days on YouTube — the lifespan of a social media post is short.
However, you can bring high-performing posts back to the top of the feed by boosting them with paid ad spend. Boosting posts is a smart way to get your best posts back in front of your target audience.
If an organic social media post has produced a storm of interest in your audience, consider pitching it to brand partners as a webinar topic. Alternatively, offer to write a guest post for their website on the same topic. These are two great ways to expand the reach of your organic social media post, broadening your content engine.
Social media is social. It’s a place to establish and strengthen relationships in your industry and community. Leverage your social connections by asking industry experts about their insights into a topic you recently discussed on social media. Then, turn this into a round-up post to distribute across your blog, email marketing, and social media pages.
You could also turn your organic social media posts into podcast episodes. Go through your best-performing posts and make note of which topics resonated with people the most. Then, look at developing podcast episodes on these topics, or see how you could turn it into a happy-hour chat with other industry experts.
Outside of your own social media posts, look at posts your customers shared. This user-generated content (UGC) is a goldmine of social proof. Leverage UGC by resharing customer posts on your social media feeds (with permission, of course.)
4) Build an engine that scales
If you want to expand your brand’s content creation engine, it needs to be scalable; this is pivotal to the success of your eCommerce content strategy.
Rather than creating content on the fly, develop a process that identifies your best-performing content and how you can take advantage of it across your other channels. Having a well-defined process for content amplification means you can strategically improve the potential of high-performance content without wasting your team’s time.
You can’t amplify every piece of content, nor should you. This is why it’s key to be strategic. Develop a list of KPIs that you want to measure and use social media insights and website analysis tools such as Google Analytics to identify what’s performing well against these metrics.
When looking to scale your content, you can use Ahrefs to do preliminary research into which content topics have the best potential to rank. From there, you can work with your team to develop a strong distribution strategy that works towards achieving your goals.
The not-so-secret ingredient of many content powerhouses is they know how to tap into outside resources who bring unique skills, points of view, and insights to their content machine.
Partnering with content strategists and creators who are experts in your field will provide credibility, boost interest, and ultimately amplify the success of your content. These individuals can help you maximize content performance and amplification without needing to build an entire in-house content team.
First, identify the gaps within your current process. Then, outsource these skills to specialized freelancers, contractors, or agencies. This lets you produce high-caliber content efficiently and expand your brand’s content creation engine.
Wrapping up — Broadening your brand’s content creation engine
Content is powerful.
By getting smart about your content creation process, you can expand the lifespan of your content, foster deeper connections with your audience, and widen your reach.
When you invest in your content creation efforts, you invest in your customers and act as a beacon of light that guides them along every step of their buying journey through to purchasing.
Doubling down on content creation also helps offset the rising cost of social media advertising.
The higher cost of advertising is due, in part, to increased competition in the paid ads space. So, if you really want to make your eCommerce brand stand out from the crowd, you need to ramp up your organic content creation efforts.
Expand your content creation and output and watch it boost customer acquisition and loyalty.
AR in eCommerce: How AR Impacts The Future of Online Shopping
Have you ever shopped online and wished you could physically download the items you’re browsing to see how they look in the real world?
Well, now you can.
Augmented Reality (AR for short) is taking the eCommerce world by storm. Much like how virtual reality headsets allow people to enjoy an immersive gaming experience, augmented reality offers online shoppers an immersive shopping experience from the comfort of their own home.
Keep reading as we explore how AR impacts the future of eCommerce for both customers and brands.
What is AR versus VR?
Augmented reality is an interactive experience where computer-generated digital elements reside in the real world. These digital elements can span across visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory and olfactory stimuli to create multi-sensory engagement.
What differentiates augmented reality from virtual reality (VR) is the presence of computer-generated stimuli in the real world. By contrast, VR only exists in the virtual world, meaning it enhances a fictional reality.
In VR, the user is given the impression that they exist in another reality. In AR, the user is given the impression that virtual stimuli exist in the real world.
AR is dependent on data collection and analysis. The collected data is then used to create an immersive experience where the digital elements are perceived as part of the real-world environment.
eCommerce brands can use AR to promote their products and services, increase customer purchases, launch marketing campaigns, and collect unique customer data. But what does this mean for shoppers?
How is AR used in eCommerce?
For eCommerce stores, AR is bridging the gap between the personalized experience customers feel in a physical store, and their online shopping experience. With options such as virtual try-ons, filters on social media, and placement previews, the immersive AR experience allows customers to experience and preview products or services in the comfort of their own homes. This experience also assists customers in choosing the right product for them the first time around, thus helping to reduce returns and improve customer satisfaction.
How does AR affect the shopping experience?
Brands have several options to incorporate AR into their online shopping journey. These include recreating the in-store experience, or allowing people to try things at home through interactive elements.
Retail Perceptions found that 71% of shoppers would shop at a retailer more often if they offered augmented reality, and 40% of shoppers said they would be willing to pay more for a product if they could experience it through AR.
When shopping online, it’s estimated shoppers return 70% of the clothes they order. An augmented reality tool could help these shoppers make better-informed decisions by giving them the option to see how that particular clothing item looks. Trying on clothes virtually can result in fewer clothing returns from online shoppers.
Positive shopper responses to AR in online shopping
In 2020, online retailer ASOS tested an AR feature allowing shoppers to see what clothing items would look like on different-sized models. According to the reactions on Twitter, this inclusive sizing AR feature received a positive response from online shoppers. One Twitter user stated, “This is so long overdue,” and another one responded to the tweet saying, “Such a good idea!”
Another Twitter user asked people what they thought of AR for online shopping. In response, one user exclaimed she “[w]ould love to try this!” Another said they liked it when it actually works, but sometimes found it glitchy. This user went on to explain how AR had “sealed the deal” for some of their home furnishing and DIY purchases.
Online skepticism toward retail AR
Not all shoppers are optimistic about AR in eCommerce. On Reddit, some shoppers are skeptical of the power of AR in retail. When one user shared a Forbes article about the release of a “virtual dress,” responses were less than favorable. In response to the article, a Reddit user called the virtual dress a “novelty.” Another responded by saying, “I don’t see this taking off, at least for a while.”
If anything, these reactions showcase the importance of brands understanding their audience and making sure their AR technology appeals to their customers.
How does AR impact conversions?
As we can see, AR for online shopping is still in its early days and appears to have a mixed reaction from online shoppers. Getting AR right, however, could help brands to stand out from their competitors.
Recent research found that 52% of retailers feel ill-prepared to support emerging mobile tech such as artificial intelligence, chatbots and augmented reality. By getting to grips with these new technologies, retailers could transform their customer experience and give their brand a competitive edge. In turn, this could lead to higher sales and increased customer satisfaction.
One study found that the use of virtual fitting rooms on retail websites increased the likelihood of online shoppers’ curiosity in the product, intention to patronize and their intention to purchase. This shows how brands can use AR to increase both online and offline conversions.
Commenting on the launch of Snap’s new machine learning technology to create real-life virtual try-ons, Carolina Arguelles, said that this new technology is focused on “improving the realism of these experiences and how natural it feels to interact with them.”
When trying Snap’s new virtual try-on technology, brands like Dior have already seen a 6.2x return on ad spend (ROAS). This suggests that the AR technology is successful at encouraging users to try the AR feature and go on to make purchases afterwards.
5 Examples of brands using AR in eCommerce
More and more retailers are reaping the benefits of using AR for their online shopping experiences.
The eCommerce platform Shopify recently announced that they had purchased Primer – an augmented reality app that allows users to digitally preview tile, wallpaper, and paint changes at home. Shopify purchased this AR app with the intention of rolling it out to Shopify users. This AR roll-out will let Shopify retailers enhance their online shopping experience by giving shoppers the opportunity to virtually interact with products before making a purchase.
Furniture giants, IKEA, released an AR app called IKEA Place that lets online shoppers virtually “place” IKEA products in their home. This AR app is great for allowing shoppers to check products are the right size, design, style and functionality for their home before they click to buy.
In the fashion space, eyewear company Karün, offers a virtual try-on experience that lets online shoppers try different glasses online to see how they suit their face before buying.
AR isn’t just limited to showing shoppers products, either. It can also be used to create a community or experience.
Reebok used AR to create an interactive experience for children and teenagers. Reebok’s AR tool lets kids and teens create makeshift basketball courts wherever they are, using environmental features such as walls, fences, parking lots and alleyways. As part of a larger “Courting Greatness” campaign, this app addresses the accessibility issues of urban spaces. This creative campaign is a great use of AR for marketing and brand awareness purposes.
Similarly, LEGO also uses AR technology to create immersive experiences for customers. The LEGO Hidden Side sets let children combine physical and digital play by scanning colored disks in each play set with an interactive app on their phone or tablet. This app allows children to turn their physical toys into digital games that they can either play alone or with up to three friends.
5) Walmart Marketplace
In 2021, Walmart.com acquired Zeekit, a virtual fitting room platform, to expand their AR offerings.
In 2022, they announced they’ve integrated Zeekit with the Walmart app and Walmart.com, starting with a Choose My Model experience.
According to the Walmart announcement, the feature offers the ability to select from 50 models between 5’2” – 6’0” in height and sizes XS – XXXL.
“Customers can determine the model who best represents their height, body shape and skin tone to understand how an item will look on them. And we will continue to expand our model selection, with nearly 70 additional model options launching in the weeks ahead to offer an even wider range of sizes, skin tones and hair colors.” – Denise Incandela, Walmart Launches Zeekit Virtual Fitting Room Technology
Wrapping up – The future of AR in eCommerce
It is evident that AR is taking the online shopping world by storm.
If your brand wants to attract new customers, keep them engaged, and turn them into life-long brand advocates, you should be investing in new technologies and applications.
You should always be innovating your services and customer offerings to remain at the forefront of your industry. Augmented reality is just one way to increase customer interest and purchases for your brand.
At MyFBAPrep, we assist online retailers with Amazon FBA prep, direct-to-consumer fulfillment, kitting and bundling, and more. We are constantly innovating to provide the best experience for eCommerce sellers and their customers.
Published: August 24, 2021
Updated: March 7, 2022
Retail Arbitrage: Arbitrary Or a Winning Seller Strategy?
Merchants who sell online constantly need to find creative ways to do business, especially in today’s dynamic environment. With supply chain issues around the world and the booming growth in eCommerce, customer demand for new products at great prices has continued to swell at an often unsustainable pace.
For new sellers and established businesses alike, the challenge of sourcing products and finding new strategies to expedite business growth has compounded, too. This is where retail arbitrage can be a game-changer.
What is retail arbitrage?
Retail arbitrage takes advantage of a price difference between two or more markets by buying cheap and selling at a markup (in simple terms, reselling). Often, this means finding a discounted product through another retailer (online or in-store) and then selling that item at a higher cost.
Retail arbitrage is perfectly legal, provided you:
- obtained or purchased the product via legal channels (i.e., no theft)
- sell the item in an unchanged condition (e.g., if you buy it new, you can’t use it and then try to sell it)
For example, you walk into a store and see $20 hats discounted to $10 as part of a special promotion. Seeing an opportunity, you buy 100 hats at $10 and then create an Amazon listing for them, pricing the hats at $15 each. This is a 50% return on your investment while still being cheaper than the full retail price.
Retail arbitrage on Amazon
For many sellers, retail arbitrage is one of the paths of least resistance to selling on the Amazon marketplace. Thanks to Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service, merchants can sign up, send the goods they bought at a discount into FBA, and then make a profit once they sell.
When sellers combine retail arbitrage with FBA, it looks something like this:
- Source a bulk of products at a discount, possibly by buying in bulk at wholesale prices or catching a good sale at an outlet mall.
- Create your listing on Amazon to be fulfilled by FBA and set up your shipping plan.
- Send items into FBA and turn on your listing.
- Earn back your initial investment and profits as each item sells.
The benefit of retail arbitrage using FBA is that FBA provides reduced touchpoints and Prime shipping eligibility. The convenience of free and fast shipping on Amazon can convince online shoppers to make a purchase online instead of searching for the same discounts and deals elsewhere, like in-store.
Why does retail arbitrage work?
If you think back to our hat example above, you might wonder, “Why in the world would anyone spend more on Amazon than in the store?” Consumers could certainly have walked into the same shop and purchased the hat for $10 like you (theoretically) did. But it’s not so black and white.
1) Prices vary from place to place
From store to store and across geographic regions, prices can vary — significantly. Slow-moving products in one area might be hot tickets in another, so any retailer worth their salt will take advantage of this demand and price accordingly to turn a profit.
2) Shoppers love convenience
And they’ll pay for it. Amazon has redefined the shopping experience for people around the world. With services like Prime, customers are often willing to pay a little more to avoid the hassle of going to the store, searching for items, and waiting in lines. Plus, free two-day shipping (or faster in some places) means they won’t need to wait long for their items — brownie points for you!
How retail arbitrage compares to other sales methods
Retail arbitrage is a method of sourcing products that, when done correctly, can be an effective business model on Amazon.
Amazon sellers may fall into a number of business models, including:
- Private label: Also known as white label, this is when sellers purchase a product and sell it under their own brand.
- Wholesale (or 1P): Brands or manufacturers sell their products at wholesale prices in bulk to marketplaces or other buyers, who then sell them at retail price.
- Dropshipping: This is where sellers only order products from their suppliers once they make a sale; the supplier then ships directly to customers.
- Handmade: This is where sellers create their own unique products to sell online.
There’s no right or wrong answer as to which business model is the best. It often comes down to the individual seller, their goals, and their resources.
For new sellers, retail arbitrage can help…
- Lower your start-up cost: A 2021 Jungle Scout report found that one-third of sellers who chose arbitrage as a business model got started on Amazon for under $500, and nearly half did so for less than $1,000 (compared to over $1,000 for the vast majority of private label sellers).
- Get started more quickly: The same report found more than 40% of retail arbitrage sellers launched their Amazon businesses within six weeks (compared to a quarter of private label sellers who said the same).
If you currently don’t have a product to sell or the resources to buy items in bulk, arbitrage can be a great, low-risk way to get your feet wet.
That doesn’t mean it’s only for new sellers though. You can support your other sales methods and build upon them by applying retail arbitrage to your overall sales strategy.
To start selling with retail arbitrage, you simply need an Amazon seller account. Then, you can source your products, create your product listings, and begin selling.
One of the biggest challenges is that you can’t know when or what items will go on sale, nor set the market demand for those items. In some cases, items may be sold at reduced prices to clear them out because they’re simply not popular.
With this in mind, it’s important to weigh your risks and rewards before investing heavily in any product for resale.
Retail arbitrage rules and policies
No defined policy prevents or regulates retail arbitrage on Amazon. However, there are general rules of play — for example, not every product can be resold on Amazon.
If you’re not authorized to sell it, don’t sell it. Unauthorized selling of brands on Amazon led to Amazon introducing brand gating. This was their response to the growing need for brands and authorized sellers to protect their businesses by registering and “gating” brands on Amazon. Through brand gating, third-party sellers must obtain approval from both the brand and Amazon before selling gated goods.
Some additional rules to abide by include:
- If your products are listed as new, they must be in new condition.
- Keep receipts for all your sourced products in case they come into question.
- Avoid dropshipping through unfamiliar and untested brands and manufacturers in case they don’t fulfill the delivery.
- Don’t sell counterfeit products.
- Keep your prices competitive. If Amazon’s engine catches you selling the same thing on another marketplace for less money, you risk getting delisted.
As is the case for all Amazon sellers, it’s important you abide by the Amazon seller policies and code of conduct.
Where to source products for retail arbitrage
Sourcing products to sell through retail arbitrage on Amazon can feel daunting, especially if you’re new to it. The key is to find the best deal you can to turn around and make a profit while still delivering a competitive price to your customer.
Before you start sourcing products, have your Amazon Seller app handy so you can research products and determine your potential ROI.
Product ideas for retail arbitrage
Knowing the best products for resale can help you mitigate risk and execute a successful strategy. Whether you’re looking online or in stores, keep these categories top-of-mind:
- Health and beauty items, especially those in the below-$20 range that can be purchased in bulk for resale. Look for products that don’t expire quickly.
- Home goods like décor, accessories, and maintenance items are in constant demand and come with reasonable price tags at the best of times.
- Clothing and shoes are among the most profitable categories, as clothing is a fundamental human need. Constant demand, fast fashion trends, and frequent sales make clothing an excellent option for retail arbitrage. The tricky thing is hedging your bets when it comes to sizing and designs.
- Sporting goods are non-essential items, but they appeal to a wide audience, from kids to adults, casual athletes, and more. Sporting goods include hiking, fishing, camping, athletic wear, and general sporting equipment.
- Toys are an especially hot commodity around the holiday season, so smart sellers should carefully monitor discount patterns and take advantage of seasonality to get the most bang for their buck.
Retail stores to watch for inspiration
If you’re ready to start sourcing products like the ones above, it’s time to hit the stores, both online and in person. Don’t forget: Your local stores may have unique, regional promotions you can take advantage of, so check in regularly and always scour the clearance section.
Dollar stores like Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and Dollarama maintain low prices on all their wares and can be great places to source products for flipping. Check Amazon as well before buying up an inexpensive product; sometimes these items fall into the “gated” category and can’t be sold without prior authorization.
Be sure to hit the toys, stationary, party supplies, groceries, and even electronic sections of dollar stores for the best products to resell.
Malls and outlets often feature deals you wouldn’t find online or in metropolitan areas. These stores usually have hidden gems you can flip, and, in a mall setting, you can hit multiple shops across several categories in less time, making them an effective sourcing strategy.
Be sure to check out electronics stores, clothing boutiques, discount or ”factory” clothing/shoe stores, and the ever-famous As Seen on TV shops.
While not a common shopping destination for consumers, liquidation centers are ripe for the picking as retail arbitrage sellers. These stores often have web domains that let you browse their wares in advance to save you a trip to the store.
Think clothing, home wares, and even furniture or appliances.
Big box stores
Places like Walmart and Target already have their own marketplaces similar to Amazon, but there’s also retailers like Best Buy, Home Depot, and more to check.
Home Depot, for example, has a shockingly wide variety of products that expand beyond home improvement and maintenance, with frequent sales for things like gardening tools, home décor, and outdoor entertainment items. Check with the store manager for local deals to see the latest sales and discounts.
Don’t forget about other marketplaces. Purchasing discounted items on eBay to resell on Amazon is a great option for a savvy seller. Look for popular items in your preferred categories that can be purchased in bulk, and always cross-reference platforms to see what kind of pricing you can use to turn a profit.
Tip: Be careful about pricing on this front. If Amazon sees the same item available elsewhere at a lower price than yours, your listing may get removed in the interest of serving the best deals online.
Retail arbitrage best practices
In retail arbitrage, as with any other sales method, your number one priority should be to protect yourself, your brand, and your business. Here are a few best practices to sell through retail arbitrage while maintaining a strong brand.
1. Choose your products carefully and vet your sources well
The adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” holds especially true when sourcing products for resale. Keep a close eye out for stolen or counterfeit goods and steer clear of suspicious listings; these items can get you in big trouble if you knowingly (or even unknowingly) list them for sale on Amazon.
If you source products without seeing them in person, be sure to work with reputable sources.
2. Document every purchase you make
When you source products, be sure to keep track of those purchases and maintain an organized and easy-to-follow paper trail for each product. This can protect you down the road if your sourced products come into question by proving you obtained them through legal channels, as well as demonstrating their authenticity.
3. List items in the appropriate condition
If you bought an item new, you must resell it in the same condition. Be careful not to damage any products you purchase, and list them correctly. If a product becomes damaged, you can’t resell it on Amazon. Learn more about Amazon’s condition guidelines here.
4. Follow Amazon selling policies
Read and make sure you understand Amazon’s selling policies, and monitor your account for any red flags that pop up (no matter what kind of products you sell).
Wrapping up — Use retail arbitrage to expand your catalog
Retail arbitrage selling isn’t the best strategy for every eCommerce professional who wants to sell on Amazon. But it can be a great option for sellers looking to test new items and expand their business.
Remember, Amazon Marketplace has lots of tools available, as well as strict policies you must adhere to if you want your sales strategy to be successful.
If you’d like to work with a partner on your retail arbitrage business, use MyFBAPrep to get items ready for sale via FBA.