Lost packages. Late packages. Packages lingering in an unknown location within a postal facility. Welcome to ecommerce in 2020.
At a time when a global pandemic shutting down in-person commerce all over the country and even the world, one might think this is a golden opportunity for merchants conducting business online. And it is. With one exception.
Logistical wrangling related to a shakeup at the United States Postal Service have intervened to present a full-scale nightmare scenario for consumers, direct mail marketers, and especially ecommerce vendors of all sizes hoping to get essential and non-essential goods to customers in a better-than-timely manner. In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, delays were anticipated and experienced, but those leveled out as the USPS stepped up.
With the installation of a new Postmaster General in June, the directive is clear: cut costs and increase efficiency, even at the expense of a desperate public. The seismic shift has left analysts, public officials, and especially online shoppers scratching their heads. A provision in the US Constitution sets forth a postal service to be established and monitored by Congress. Its purpose back in the day was to transmit important correspondence from Point A to Point B at a time when planes, trains, and automobiles were more than a century away from reality.
After jockeying for the top spot as a favored shipping service, the USPS competed with UPS, DHL, and FedEx to curry favor. Enter ecommerce giant Amazon, the most prolific internet seller, and the picture changes with a contractual agreement. USPS is the most heavily used service for Amazon and other sellers of all sizes. Even its competitors use USPS for rural deliveries. Now its very future is in question.
The dog days of summer feel incomplete without a fully functioning Las Vegas Market Summer Market, a glitzy soiree where vendors, buyers, and ecommerce merchants gather to prep for a holiday season and the following year. This marquee event is especially intriguing as an example of West Coast marketing and commerce, and this year’s promises to be equally stellar.
With one exception.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has led to some changes, and understandably so. Gathering thousands in a venue even as large as this takes cautionary planning.
But the organizers of Las Vegas Summer Market 2020 are determined to put on a great show for those who just can’t stay away. Scheduled to kick off on Aug. 30, the event will feature permanent showrooms, as has been tradition. Temporary tradeshow presentations are not on the calendar.
If you haven’t yet attended an annual Summer Market fiesta, you’ve missed out. It creates a meeting point for designers and exhibitors to showcase their best products to buyers on a world-class, state-of-the-art campus in downtown Las Vegas. Cross-category entries in home furnishings, gifts, décor, and more create a delightful, even mesmerizing, experience for ecommerce sellers hoping to shape their inventory choices.
Just over two decades ago an entrepreneur near Seattle embraced the idea of using business owners to help pad the success of another business. He called it “friendship marketing,” and wrote extensively on it as a way to generate leads and brand familiarity.
That was in the pre-eCommerce days. The field now is far wider; the competition much stiffer. But the ideology remains, and it’s now known as “affiliate marketing.” Though not quite as personal, it’s a way to piggyback off of successful businesses to both generate and divert sales. For the most part, it involves allowing other businesses targeting the same audience to receive commissions from their willingness to refer out to you. Sounds simple.
It’s a bit more complex, but the possibilities are plentiful. The obvious big-time affiliates range from Shopify to Amazon Associates; from Ebay Partner Network to Coinbase; and from ClickFunnels Affiliates to Wayfair Affiliate Program. Each offers a varied payout structure and a different set of unique benefits. On the low end, commissions may amount to 5 percent of each sale. That said, individual arrangements may spice up the deal with kickbacks as high as 50 percent. Your mileage will vary.
For newer or smaller online sellers, it’s a way to get established as you are building what hopefully will be a thriving business, and earn revenues in the process.
It may sound counterintuitive to send business away, but consider this: if someone is already signed on to you as a seller, they will buy a product from you unless you don’t carry it. This is where affiliate marketing referrals kick in, earning you a slice of the pie.
Not that you needed more bad news to round out the myriad chaos surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, but it could throw a curve into your business. And in a very, very bad way.
For a multitude of possible reasons, mail delivery through the United States Post Office has hit a major snag. Formerly a reliable service with on-time deliveries, the mother of all shipping magnates is bogged down with complications from various factors including sheer volume, employee shortages, and political wrangling.
An internal memo leaked to the press reveals that carriers are instructed to avoid overtime and unnecessary delays by leaving some mail at distribution centers if it may cause them to spend more time on their shift. A baffling development for the hundreds-year-old icon of delivery, this new policy follows a series of high-profile changes and concerns.
We’ll leave the messy controversy over this administration’s newly appointed Postmaster General alone for now, saying only that allegations of attempted election suppression are not helping. But the upshot is that mail delivery is increasingly faulty and late, with packages delivered to wrong addresses, delivered late, or not delivered at all. Bad for ecommerce.
The US Post Office experienced a massive $4.5 billion loss in revenues after its second quarter of this year. The reasons for that are complex and varied. The government-contracted agency is forced to find cost-cutting measures. For obvious reasons, this is an unimaginable ecommerce nightmare. Doing your part as a vendor to market, lure, sell, and package merchandise is hard enough. Now knowing that your good faith attempts to get it sent to buyers may be in vain is more than you should have to accept.
Pres. Trump has suggested the USPS triple or quadruple shipping prices. While some don’t take that seriously, it implies an intent to adjust pricing, at very least. That will impact your bottom line.
Meet Shoploop, Google’s latest toe-dip into creative digital selling. It’s been called everything from a “Tik Tok for shopping,” to a new version of an old idea, to the next hottest thing in the future of online buying. Some even liken it (for better or worse) to telemarketing for ecommerce.
Somewhere in the middle may work. It goes without saying that the younger generation of consumers is already fully on board with video. They’ve cut their teeth on it, be it through large-screen gaming to Instagram feeds. That captive audience is fruitful, but older shoppers are also taking to the medium in large numbers. The upshot is an intriguing way to personalize and expand your marketing.
The Google surge to dominate online buying explores the spiking reliance on video to entertain and inform, turning the tables and using it as an ingenious way to offer detailed visual and audio product information. Shoploop is under the Google “Area 120” umbrella, which explores ways to expand its reach into ecommerce. Unlike close competitors and platforms, its video services come grouped, eliminating the need for multiple apps.
At rollout, its focus is on the obvious sectors such as clothing, cosmetics, and skin care. Expansions are inevitable as the trend catches on.
Big business may not be on the radar screens of small-time ecommerce merchants, but there’s one that should grab your attention if growth and prosperity is a goal. Bolt, a simply-named checkout technology platform formed in 2014, just received a massive cash infusion of $50 million in venture funding.
What does that mean for you? Likely a more efficient, secure, and seamless way to process sales transactions. The recent spike in online sales attributed to the Covid-19 global pandemic has led to shifts in industry trends, and Bolt was solid enough to sway investors.
Bolt is offering a free trial, and if you’re so inclined, this is the time to get in. Their beefed-up resources mean even more attention to serving you as a customer, so you can serve your customers.
The San Francisco-based firm brags of an impressive annual growth rate for ecommerce merchants using its service. Uptime is also admirable, ensuring reliable access. Its checkout speed is estimated to be nearly 50 percent quicker than what competitors offer. And the best news of all? The costs are low. Very low.
True to trending consumer behavior, the company is focusing on mobile transactions, which account for a skyrocketing proportion of online sales these days. Its improved platform reduces the number of fields customers need to complete their purchases, which is a huge selling point that pares down cart abandonments. More important, it helps avoid drop-offs by offering post-checkout registration, instead of forcing buyers in mid-sale to commit to creating an account.
As Bolt is a cloud-based platform, it offers a combined service bundle of checkout, payments, and integrated fraud protection--guaranteed by the company to be zero— in a single product. All major payment providers are compatible. The upshot here is that retailers using Bolt are better equipped to compete with the giant Amazon.
Ecommerce partner opens up no-cost opportunities to rev up your store
Rifling through the Good News file for ecommerce merchants, one entry stands out as a legit reason to be intrigued. The mega e-tailer is offering free access to its product listings service that corresponds with user searches.
This rolled-out feature first appeared in late April 2020. Apparently the company is pleased with its results and has decided to make it semi-permanent—or as permanent as anything in the digital universe may be.
This is a boon for mobile marketers, especially, as it allows them to show off their inventory to customers in a hurry to buy. Website traffic from closed brick-and-mortar vendors who have jumped on board to recapture plunging revenues is promising. For its own purposes, Google reports a figure close to 400 million shoppers worldwide every single day.
As we continue to face unknowns and unfathomables in this era of Covid-19, the need to stay focused on recovery for both patients and businesses becomes critical. The devastating impact on people’s lives and health are indisputable. But the toll on economies, and businesses, is also the basis for crisis management strategies.
If there is a silver lining for ecommerce merchants struggling to survive 2020, it’s a surprising increase in potential customers from a demographic they thought was unreachable: Boomers. Older consumers are understandably less comfortable with conducting financial transactions online, but that has changed rapidly over the last few months as shuttered retail stores and empty shelves have driven them to digital shopping.
Will it last? No one knows. Some industry analysts believe that as storefronts begin to reopen, older shoppers will abandon the idea of buying over the internet. Yet others think there is an opportunity for ecommerce vendors to capture a decent share of this market – if they play their cards right.
It’s interesting to note that nearly 75 percent of online shoppers have shown a willingness to try out new venues during the Covid era. That demonstrates an active desire to explore the benefits of remote purchasing, and it could benefit your business. Among consumers surveyed, 76 percent of those over age 55 say they would try a new brand or venue if they were to be enticed with an online coupon or discount.
Muddling through an unprecedented time of global disruption has been devastating for businesses, and yours may be in the crosshairs. Although closed physical retailers have increased the volume of ecommerce business, it’s still a crapshoot to take full advantage of this shift. It may be time to expand your horizons, and explore alternate selling platforms beyond the big names of Amazon, eBay, and Google.
To be clear, any exposure is good exposure, for the most part. Once you capture a loyal customer from a third-party platform, you hold the cards in your hand.