Let’s face it, the idea of starting an ecommerce business is to sell, not to take back. But achieving ultimate customer satisfaction demands a fair and equitable way to appease clients if their purchase doesn’t fit their expectations, or worse, if it’s defective.
It’s not enough to have an informal, barely mentioned caveat referring to returns. Customers want to know upfront how you will respond to their decision to return what you’ve sold them. If you don’t have a clear, articulate, and accessible return policy available for them to read prior to purchase, you’re asking for trouble.
Keep in mind that whatever is a reasonable way for your business to handle returns, it’s essential to conduct research using figures and anecdotes from other vendors before writing up a policy.
It may sound like a sad reality; a necessary evil. But think of this: Your clear, fair return policy may actually keep a customer base and, better yet, drive sales.
Unfortunately, the escalating cost of shipping with all carriers is a critical factor. If you can’t afford to return items that are structurally sound but just not what the customer likes, you will have to spell that out in plain language. It could deter some business, but as long as the buyer understands at the outset that the purchase is permanent, you’re off the hook.
Uncle Sam puts the fear of God into just about everyone who receives income or revenues. When the Tax Man cometh, it’s not to be taken lightly.
Businesses are wise to prepare before launching when it comes to how to treat taxes on federal, state, and local levels. As you’re starting or upgrading an ecommerce venture, the pressure to focus on marketing and aesthetics is intense. But do yourself a favor and make sure your financial ducks are in a row.
If you can’t yet hire a professional accountant, pay attention to these basics of doing business. You will be liable for taxes on profits you make at the end of each business year. Typically, the formula for determining taxable revenues is this:
The government will collect taxes on your profits only, so make sure they are calculated accurately. Depending on the corporate structure you have chosen, you will experience asset protection and a separation of personal and business assets and liabilities. This is where an accountant becomes essential. You may be shortchanging yourself by overpaying taxes, and the IRS will not graciously correct your errors if it doesn’t benefit them.
It’s no surprise that ecommerce now represents the future of consumer buying. As computer use has become more widespread, and as large virtual retailers such as Amazon have paved a path, the natural result would be a proliferation of acquiring goods and services online. The explosive growth is so profound that economists have forecast worldwide sales revenues of $4.5 trillion in 2021 from online shopping – a hike of more than 240 percent over a 7-year period.
With opportunities like that down the horizon, the number of individuals and entities looking to enter the ecommerce sector will be equally grand. And while the playing field may not be level, there are ways to capitalize an ecommerce business from the ground up. Despite an obvious concern over a glutted market and competition, the number one factor causing ecommerce startups to fail is funding. Second to that is a lack of a tangible market.
Understanding scale, competition, risk, and creditworthiness, potential and new ecommerce merchants should conduct in-depth research on how to conjure up enough funding to launch a startup or pour more fuel on a fledgling business that hasn’t quite taken off.
The usual methods of financing a new or newer business are still there, although instability in world and domestic markets due to multiple factors in 2021 may temper those opportunities. Banks are still underwriting small business loans through government programs, and if you have success in that area, it’s a great option. But criteria have tightened because of constraints imposed during the global pandemic, making liquidity an issue.
Unique to 2020 (and now 2021) is the rush to provide stimulus relief funding that will salvage businesses after the Covid-19 pandemic threw a monkey wrench into the economy. A massive package from the spring of 2020 dispensed billions of dollars in grants and loans backed by or given directly from the Treasury and state governments. Despite widespread fraud, the next stimulus bill making its way through Congress will also offer funding help. Here are some details on how to apply.
Also in this category are venture capital investors targeted to ecommerce firms, and even ecommerce grants. Some examples of grant programs and other funding sources may be found here.
Private financing is a great deal—if you can get it. Typically an existing relationship with a banker is a prerequisite, but not always. Explore your options, beginning with connections you currently have.
The Year ‘Viral’ Gained New Meaning
Rounding the corner into the second year of a near-complete disruption in every facet of life, the COVID-19 virus is still on pace to wreak havoc. Nary an element of public and private interests has been shaken to the core, with forced quarantines and stay-at-home orders, business closures, pared down access to essential services, and education interruptions.
The good news is a recent release of long-awaited vaccines that experts say will begin to slow the spread in a significant way. The not-so-good news seems to reflect resistance among a substantive number of skeptics who, for one reason or another, may not partake.
Overall, we are heading in a good direction. And if you are engaged in online commerce, you should feel relieved to discover that the uptick in ecommerce business that began last year is likely to continue. Some smaller entities experienced a noticeable increase in sales, while major retailers and top brands grew exponentially. Market analysts believe the ecommerce industry is the most prolific beneficiary of the COVID-19 debacle, with penetration rates exploding from their current level of 15 percent to 25 percent by 2025.
This did not happen in a vacuum. As consumer habits and preferences have evolved over time, many have enjoyed the convenience of digital shopping. Not only has online commerce become more and more popular, but using a device to find and purchase goods has become one of the most popular activities conducted online. Ecommerce sales are projected to grow from $1.3 trillion in 2014 to $4.5 trillion in 2021. This increase can only be considered revolutionary.
A new year can't come fast enough, and while we're eager to put 2020 behind us, we hope everyone enjoys a wonderful holiday season.
Whether you're gathering with friends or enjoying a Zoom celebration with the extended family, peace, health and prosperity are our wishes for everyone.
Cennos looks forward to seeing you all in January!
PANTONE® Color Institute Announces its 2021 Color of the Year
It’s tempting to see this as a piece of sardonic humor; a joke to cement the dire state of a twelve-month period unrivaled in recent US history. Most of us are hoping for a sunnier time head, but the realists at PANTONE® Color Institute—a commercial entity standardizing color tones—have made a selection for its color of the year 2021. And it’s a doozy.
But perhaps it makes total sense. It’s time to embrace gray with a little boost, and PANTONE®’s choice as the marquee shade duo for 2021 does just that.
For the first time ever, the showcased tone blends two independent existing shades, PANTONE® 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and PANTONE® 13-0647 Illuminating, a sunny yellow. The refined result reflects “a message of happiness supported by fortitude,” the entity claims. This hybrid gray-yellow tone is seen as adding vibrancy to an old favorite. That is inspiring.
A broad reach
PANTONE® serves as an essential gauge for navigating through design projects, which are most often settled in the home décor sector, but also spill over into textiles and clothing, as well as graphic design for digital art. Interior design experts delight in the additions to PANTONE® color banks, and this year’s contribution is in keeping with fashion trends.
Gray has become a household favorite in home design. As this decade’s newest fashionable neutral, it replaces the whites, creams, and beiges from yesteryear. More homes than ever before are treated to decadent shades of gray in wall paint, flooring, furniture, and artistic décor.
In selecting its color-of-the-year designee, PANTONE® takes into account developing color influences that arise in pop culture, industrial design, art, fashion, and overall lifestyles. The year 2021 marks a shade of gray due to its bridging of seasonal factors, popularity in all areas of design, and a forecast of how it will shape the future of color choices. Adding the uplifting yellowed tone may be intended as a mood lift for those of us who have waded through a difficult year, which is pretty much everyone. Or, it might just be a lot of fun for designers.
Seeing is believing
Here are some of the ways our friends at PANTONE® look forward to 2021 with hope of prosperity, joy, and some epic design trends:
Hands Up to commemorate the 2021 two-shade tone.
The design-forward shades sharing PANTONE®’s annual award mesh beautifully in all forms of interior design.
A retro vibe captures the dynamic blend of gray and yellow with modernizing effects.
Special effects drive home the captivating blend of PANTONE®’s blended 2021 Color of the Year.
As COVID-19 turned the world upside down, consumers resorted to social media to make connections in a socially-distanced environment. However, social media also serves as a strong platform for retailers to build trust with customers---and it has a significantly strong influence on buying decisions.
71% Users More Likely to Purchase from Social ReferralsWe all know the power of social proof, but the stats show exactly where the strongest influence comes from with social users.
For example, 71% of people are more likely to buy a product that’s based on social media referrals. This includes seeing ads from retailers or even from influences.
Influencer marketing is recognized as one of the most powerful ways to market products. This is especially the case for Twitter, as studies show that 50% of users made purchases directly because an influencer referred the product.
What Social Platforms Bring the Most Product Sales?Keep in mind that not all social platforms will yield the same results. You must consider the demographic and where your ideal customer most likely spends their time online. This is part of the bigger strategy of choosing the correct social platform for promotion.
Many product-based brands can find selling success on the following platforms:
Whether you're celebrating with family or hunkering down at home, we wish everyone a healthy, happy, and wonderful Thanksgiving this year!
Depending on your perspective, 2020 may be the most disastrous year to be in business, or it may be the best year ever to have launched an ecommerce store. Analysts include cyber-selling as one of countless sectors disrupted immeasurably by one of the worst global pandemics in world history—and certainly in the United States.
While life and health represent the primary collateral damage of Covid-19, it’s harder to escape the tie-in between economics and well-being. As states began to implement closures of non-essential businesses, economic figures from the stock markets to GDP reflected a devastating side effect. A fascinating byproduct of that was a shifting of commerce from in-person to home-based, creating the kind of climate making ecommerce businesses naturally flourish.
And they have. Coinciding with a general transition to convenient online shopping, the Novel Coronavirus looks to be a windfall for the most prolific digital seller–Amazon–with niche entities following on their heels. For its share, Amazon’s net revenues by in the second quarter of 2020 soared to a dizzying $89.1 billion. With the holiday shopping season approaching, that number could double for the third and fourth quarters.
As goes Amazon, so goes the rest of digital commerce. Second-quarter retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. climbed by almost a third from the previous quarter, to just over $211 billion.
If becoming a digital store felt overwhelming, what we’re about to discuss may make you sweat. Don’t. It’s an up-and-coming topic developing in the changing world of ecommerce merchandising. It addresses how to collect on what you sell, and how to make it easier for your customers to buy.
Dubbed “BNPL” for short, the concept of Buy Now; Pay Later offers payment plans for goods–something that was once only a reality for big retailers offered through proprietary credit cards, or by accepting bank cards. That’s still a way to go, but what if you could ease the pain of customers who really want what you have, but are constrained by a temporary financial shortfall?
In the era of a global pandemic, creative financing has taken on various forms; experts believe the shutdowns have advanced ecommerce developments by up to five years. As shopping online has exploded, strategic agreements with underwriters mean even small businesses can entice buyers with offers to pay in installments.
Flexible payment methods are attractive to nearly 60 percent of consumers who purchase online. Those numbers might incentivize your decision to explore the possibilities. Though not without limitations, it’s at very least a marketing tactic that accommodates tough times.
Offering payment flexibility requires a direct integration through your point-of-sale system, and that initial step is big. Some players providing this service include Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, and Quadpay. PayPal, perhaps the most prolific online payment platform, announced in August that it would begin a launch.
One study analyzed data of BNPL programs over a three-month period, reviewing almost a half-million transactions across more than 300 retailers. They included the above five platforms. Here’s what they found: