Where did my online sales go?

Creating your own web store is an exciting time in your life.  You built the store, marketed it, and eventually had some online sales wander in.  You accepted them, nurtured them, and loved them deeply.  You watched your online sales learn to climb. It seemed like every month they would climb higher and higher, and you proudly wondered if there was any limit to their potential.

Then one day you decided to take a break from your busy schedule and check on your monthly online sales.  But this time something was wrong.  Some of your online sales had left, vanished, without saying a word.  Optimistic, you decided to shrug it off, assuming they carelessly got lost and would find their way back next month.  However, a month later, not only did they not come back, but more had left.  Followed by even more the next month. It was hard not to show your disappointment, or even anger, at the ungrateful acts of betrayal.  After all you had done for them, how could they just pack up and leave without even leaving a note?  And where did they go?

What’s to Blame?

You are not alone in seeing sales decline for seemingly inexplicable reasons.  What you are experiencing is likely a buying shift.  One that is moving buyers away from standalone eCommerce sites and toward marketplaces.  Over 60% of buyers now begin their search for items on a retail site and not a search engine. And more often than not, it begins on sites like Amazon and Walmart.

There are a couple main reasons for this shift.

Free/Expedited Shipping

Most marketplaces offer free shipping, and often it is expedited.  With Amazon Prime, with a yearly fee of course, members receive free 2-day shipping on thousands of products.  And now on Walmart.com, you can now get free 2-day shipping on thousands of products without a yearly fee.  There is a stigma nowadays to have to pay for shipping.  Consumers are much more likely to buy a product that costs $10 with free shipping than a product that costs $5 with $5 shipping.  But it is hard for smaller retailers to offer free shipping while keeping a competitive price.  Because of the shipping rate discounts that large retailers can negotiate based on their volume, they are able to keep their prices the same or lower than smaller retailers.  That is hard to compete against.

Selection

Amazon carries a lot more than books now.  In fact, you can find almost anything that an average consumer will be looking for.  This selection paired with a good search experience makes it faster to start on Amazon than a search engine.  And search engines is what many smaller retailer rely on to get found.

Reviews

Most people like to know that the product they are buying is a quality product, and no one does reviews better than Amazon (I often will use Amazon just to look up reviews on a product that I am buying elsewhere).

Brand Trust

Companies like Amazon and Walmart have built reputations for having low prices, carrying a large selection of products, and having a good return/customer service experience. They are confident that they will receive a great customer experience on a marketplace they have grown to trust.

What can you do?

Despite the buying shift toward marketplaces, there are steps you can take to get your online sales climbing again.

Offer Free Shipping

This is easier said than done, but it is a must.  Excessive shipping costs is cited as the #1 reason that customers with intent to purchase abandon their shopping carts.  You do not need to offer free 2-day shipping – most people will accept any free shipping level.  Even if you have to raise your prices to compensate, you will more than likely convert more visitors to customers with a free shipping option.

Create loyalty through distinction

In order to lure customers away from marketplaces, you need to do something better than them.  You don’t have to do everything better, but there has to be a distinction that has value to your customers.  Whether it is exclusive sales, superior customer service, or helpful content and resources, try to find that area in which you can go above and beyond to woo your customers.

Go to the dark side

There is perhaps no better solution to a threat like marketplaces than to participate in them.  Since marketplaces allow businesses to sell their products on their sites, you can simultaneously list your products on Amazon as well as your online store.  There is no shame in adapting to market trends, and some marketplaces will even advertise your products on search engines for you, which is a nice perk.

As hard as you have tried to create and nurture your online sales, the market is changing and online sales are beginning to leave home to explore the world of marketplaces.  With the right mix of improvements to your own site and participation in marketplaces, you can make the best of this change and continue to increase you online sales.  Adaptability is key in the ever changing world of eCommerce.

Wondering where to start?

Contact us today to explore your options for eCommerce and marketplaces!