The past few years have been tumultuous for many. Despite the hardships, the eCommerce industry has grown immensely and is expected to grow, up to 2027, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.7%. Forced to stay indoors, many people turned to online shopping, sales soared, and business boomed.
However, this meant new challenges for online retailers. Those challenges range from international shipping logistics to small retailers competing with big brands in terms of costs and meeting rising customer expectations.
Here are the top five eCommerce challenges that we’ve identified for 2023 and our proposals for how to overcome them.
Shipping and order fulfillment
Shipping and order delivery have become more challenging since fuel surcharges have skyrocketed. International shipping is even more challenging, with ocean container freight rates above $2,400 compared to pre-pandemic rates of about $1,500. We should still be happy because they declined from a peak of over $8,000 per container. These soaring shipping prices have created challenges for businesses that have led to high product costs, delayed deliveries, and reduced margins for retailers.
To overcome this challenge, consider shortening your supply chain by using local production facilities to make the process more efficient. If that’s not possible, optimize routes and loads, consolidate shipments, and conduct proper demand forecasting to reduce your costs for carrying inventory.
Meeting rising customer expectations
Today's customers expect quick deliveries, quality service, value for their money, and flexible return policies. They won't hesitate to move on to your competitor if you can't meet those expectations.
Although meeting these ever-rising expectations can be daunting, it’s an opportunity to build customer loyalty and increase revenue. Offering personalized experiences builds lasting customer relationships and boosts loyalty.
For instance, customers expect to see brands taking the lead in sustainability. A clear majority, 66%, of consumers take a hard look at sustainability when purchasing and are willing to pay more for sustainable products. You can meet those expectations with environmentally friendly packaging, by using sustainably sourced raw materials, and by utilizing renewable energy.
Other challenges store owners face include understanding customers' wants and offering consistent experiences on all channels. Overcome this by improving customer experience, developing a customer-centric approach, and personalizing your services.
According to the Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate across industries is 69.99%. This means that for every 10 shoppers, around seven won't make the purchase. Instead, they'll abandon their carts midway through their shopping.
When potential customers leave before completing the checkout process, it negatively affects your store and significantly impacts your bottom line. The cost of cart abandonment is more than lost revenue. Stores with a high abandonment rate experience high acquisition costs, inventory management issues, loss of customer lifetime value, and high retargeting costs.
You can tackle this challenge by finding out why your customers are abandoning their carts.
Is the checkout process complicated? Are you offering enough payment methods? What about shipping costs? Are they too high? These are some of the reasons for abandonment. To fix them, consider the following;
- Provide full disclosure on shipping costs and taxes. If possible, offer free shipping with a threshold to reduce abandonment and increase your average order value.
- Offer multiple payment methods.
- Offer guest checkout for shoppers who don't want to create an account.
- Optimize your site's load speed.
- Show them how much they will save at checkout. You can also create limited-time sales to create a sense of urgency.
- Make navigating between the cart and store as easy as possible.
VR technology in eCommerce
Virtual reality (VR) technology is reshaping the retail eCommerce industry by creating a virtual shopping experience that simulates the in-store experience. VR offers an immersive visual experience. In eCommerce, this can be anything from 360-degree videos and product demos to photos or the more advanced VR headset with connected hardware devices.
Retailers can use this technology to simulate in-store shopping digitally. This not only provides a unique experience but also provides your customers with a real-time context for the products they're considering. For example, customers can try on clothes to see how they fit. They can also see how a piece of furniture will fit or look in their home.
As exciting as it sounds, it also comes with its fair share of challenges, such as:
- VR requires expensive hardware on both the customer's and retailer's side, such as headsets and peripherals.
- You will need AR/VR skills, such as 360-degree video production, translation, and voice-over to complete the narrative
- Your target audience may not be ready for VR.
Despite the challenges, VR is disrupting the eCommerce industry, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to provide such an exciting experience. Offer a virtual test drive. Let buyers try on clothes in your virtual dressing room. You’ll need to invest in hardware and VR skills in-house or by outsourcing. Just ensure you start slow, provide the experience your customers expect, and continuously measure your ROI.
Customer data and cyber security
In 2022, a total of 4,145 data breaches were publicly disclosed worldwide. Data security threats are expected to increase in 2023, making it an issue for every eCommerce store due to the sensitive nature of the data they use and store. This data includes customers’ personal information and payment details. Even a minor breach can cause immeasurable harm.
eCommerce security threats include:
- Financial fraud, like credit card fraud, fake returns, and refund fraud.
- Malware that steals, moves, and wipes data or, in the case of ransomware, threatens to do so.
- Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks make your store unavailable to your customers.
The cost of a data breach on your site can be catastrophic. It can result in financial loss in the form of the expenses incurred by patching up the vulnerability and compensating the victims. You may also lose customer trust that took years to build and damage your reputation.
Protect your customers' data by:
- Choosing an eCommerce system that offers some level of built-in security.
- Obtaining an SSL certificate.
- Securing your servers and payment gateways.
- Using antivirus and antimalware software.
- Educating customers and staff on handling user data and using your site securely.
Besides data security, also look out for these commerce frauds.
Have a clear action plan to tackle challenges
Online shopping has been growing at an incredibly high rate, and so are its challenges. Every new technology solution, process, and strategy comes with difficulties you must solve to survive and thrive.
The most common and ever-present is competition. But today, other challenges, like data security, shipping and fulfilling orders, and rising customer expectations, are the urgent problems you can't overlook.
Have a clear action plan to tackle them, and you'll be on your way to success.
Geoff Whiting is the Senior Writer for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce 3PL focused on supporting heavy, bulky, and high-value products. He has more than a decade of experience covering eCommerce, technology, and business development. In his free time, Geoff enjoys exploring new cuisines and music, and trying not to get too lost listening to podcasts while walking in nature.
Published March 21, 2023