How to Streamline Your Online Marketplace Operations

How to Streamline Your Online Marketplace Operations

Running an online store can mean big business, even when you start out small. Sales may take off quickly, exceeding initial expectations. But along with that growth and traction come big expectations from customers who want smooth and easy shopping experiences. If they have to put in a ton of effort, they’re more likely to abandon the purchase. Plus, those potential clients may warn all their friends to proceed with caution when considering your store.

Creating simple and pleasant online shopping experiences for customers isn’t something that magically happens. It requires setting up your back-end operations and workflows from a shopper’s point of view. Building high-quality back-end processes and workflows leads to top-notch front-end experiences and sets you apart from the competition. Below are some ways to start streamlining your online store’s operations.

Outsource Inventory, Shipping, and Delivery

As orders start coming in, you may find it challenging to keep up with all the details. One customer might request two items for delivery across state lines, while another buys 50 different products with overnight shipping. Multiply these requests by the hundreds or thousands, and you get a sense of how hectic order fulfillment can be.

By enlisting the help of a third-party logistics provider, or 3PL, you can streamline a critical part of your business. Managing inventory, shipments, and deliveries requires full warehousing capabilities and tight relationships with suppliers and shipping carriers. All it takes is one misstep, such as an out-of-stock product or delayed shipments, to create poor customer experiences.

A logistics vendor has the resources to ensure your store can deliver the products clients want on time. They manage everything from picking products and storing back stock to packing and shipping out each order. A third-party logistics provider already has established relationships with multiple carriers, helping you offer affordable rates and dependable delivery times. A 3PL company ensures fulfillment runs like clockwork, taking the weight off your shoulders.  

Simplify the Checkout Process

The more steps your checkout process has, the more obstacles you’re putting in a customer’s way. More often than not, people want to complete their online orders within minutes of saving items in their carts. If they’ve never shopped on your site, they haven’t created an account with all their personal details. Even if someone’s a repeat customer, they may have concerns about storing sensitive information like credit card numbers.

Research shows the top reason for abandoned carts is that people aren’t ready to buy. However, 24% leave online carts behind because a site requires an account instead of allowing customers to check out as guests. Shoppers have to take the extra steps to register, set up a username and password, and enter other details. Some online account setups also take customers through a series of questions and send them email verifications.

All these steps take extra time that tries some people’s patience. In all likelihood, they’re shopping online in the first place because they prefer an efficient experience. Offering guest checkout options gives this to them. You can suggest customer profile or account creation, but make the process short and simple. Only ask for the basics and offer alternative account verification methods like text messages or automated phone calls.  

Automate Emails for Orders

Unlike a brick-and-mortar store, customers don’t walk out with their items after they’ve made an online purchase. Without something tangible in hand, shoppers may get anxious about whether a site actually got their order. Typically, someone who’s exchanged credit or debit card information wants to know their items are on the way.

Sending confirmation and status emails lets clients know you received their request and you’re on it. Providing tracking numbers also assures shoppers their items are in transit and tells them when they can expect their order to arrive. However, manually creating and sending emails for each order is next to impossible. Automating these communications makes the process infinitely smoother.

Once customers check out, an automated workflow can send them a confirmation email. They’ll see the transaction went through and that the order’s in process. A separate workflow can send tracking numbers once items ship. Some online stores also send emails confirming delivery, including details about where the carrier left the package. This lets customers know where to look, especially if a shipper puts the order inside a locked mailbox.

Offer Online Help

An online store that doesn’t have live chat is like a physical store without any sales associates. No one is there to answer questions or help resolve issues that may cause customers to walk away from a purchase. While shopping is an independent activity, people want to know someone’s there to assist them when they need it.

Live chat and automated chatbots give customers the level of service they expect when shopping online. Maybe something goes wrong during checkout, and they need help understanding why. Shoppers could have questions about your store’s payment options and want reassurance that the checkout process is safe. They might also have shipping questions or need assistance with returning a purchase.

While FAQs and phone or email support may address some of these issues, customers often want immediate solutions. For 79% of customers, getting instant answers is why they prefer chatting with live reps. Offering support through live chat also improves conversion rates by 40%. Chat support and chatbots after hours can make the buying process easier for customers and may decrease abandoned cart rates.

Creating an Efficient Online Store

For an e-commerce site to run smoothly, back-end processes must be seamless enough to create obstacle-free customer experiences. Letting a 3PL vendor handle inventory and fulfillment and integrating live online chat are ways to improve efficiency. Making it simple for shoppers to get the products and answers they want increases the chance they’ll become loyal customers. You’ll also save yourself from more than a few headaches.               

John Norwood
John Norwood is best known as a technology journalist, currently at Ziddu where he focuses on tech startups, companies, and products.