Secure eBusiness Solutions

Friday, 19 July 2013

What's waiting around the corner for your online business - Assessing Risk

Analyse risks to future proof your business with eCorner

As a business owner, or operator, every night that you go to bed you are not really sure what might be around the corner waiting for you in the morning. Operating any business has its risks and rewards. Most of us eagerly wait for the rewards but rarely do we manage the potential risks.

So in order to future proof your business and to sleep better at night you need to do some risk assessment and have a remediation plan ready if needed.

Why do online businesses fail?

  • Started for the wrong reason
  • Poor management
  • Insufficient capital
  • Wrong geographic or demographic targets
  • Poor or no plan or strategy
  • Over commit or over expansion
  • Poor use of channels
  • Lack of controlled execution
  • Failure in technology
  • Market changes negate business model
Strength Weakness Opportunity Threats analysis eCorner Blog
Some of these issues you can control but some you may not be able to control but, the key is to be prepared. So how do you go about doing a risk assessment for your company and identifying threats. Unidentified threats can cause a business to fail. You can always round table with your team a S.W.O.T or Strength Weakness Opportunities and Threats analysis. In undertaking that analysis you can identify potential risks and a way to mitigate the risk. The SWOT analysis can do a great deal more for your business and should be a method you use to get feed back.

The first step is to undertake a risk assessment and document as many of the potential risks to your business as you can think of and also share these with your team. 

You need to consider:
  • The risk - what is the risk and can it be avoided
  • Severity/priority - how might it effect the business
  • Action to be taken - what action can we take to mitigate the risk
  • How often to review - how often do we need to review this
  • Who is responsible - which person or organisation will be responsible

Some example risks to your business

Risk analysis eCorner bolgA key supplier cancels or disappears.

Core technology (e.g. website) fails.

You lose key staff.

Your office and equipment is destroyed.

Your stock or warehouse is destroyed.

A major customer sues you.

For each risk that you can identify you need to determine how you can handle that risk and there are four paths to take.

Accept the risk:

You have a potential risk that may occur but you can handle it is a part of the normal business processes.

Avoid the risk:

Put in place some action or process that means that this is no longer a potential risk to the business. This might be done by building in safe-guards or having alternative or replacement capabilities available.

Reduce the risk:

You see a risk but it can to mitigated so as not to cause catastrophic business failure or loss of revenues.

Transfer the risk:

This might be a risk that can be passed on to a service provider or to some other supplier to your business.

Risk Management Plan

Risk review and analysis eCorner
For each risk that you identify you can work through a risk management plan. It may be that for some of the risks that you find you do not have a control method in place. So you need to implement a way to mitigate that specific risk or to establish a recovery process in the event of failure.

As an example you might identify that there is high risk in large projects failing that would leave you exposed to litigation and you have no professional or product indemnity. To mitigate that risk you need to get professional or product indemnity insurance to cover the potential risk. Then you need to monitor that annually to ensure you have adequate coverage.

Business Risk Summary

In summary every business has some potential risks that need to be understood to avoid a catastrophic failure. There may be many risks in the business that will cause little concern and just be a troublesome management problem to solve. But whether catastrophic or minor it is better to know what the risks are and have a plan in the eventuality that one strikes when least expected.

By undertaking a SWOT analysis and then identifying the risks with your team then you will be in a better position to succeed and to grow. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Shopping Cart Abandonment and Customer Service

If you run an online business, well any business really, you should be aware of your sales conversion funnel. Why is it called a funnel? The answer is because more people will start at the top than end up at the bottom. The ones that drop off are lost opportunities or lost sales and what you aim to do is get as many through the funnel to the end as possible. When selling online we can collect a myriad of information about what people do while on your website via your web analytic's system. Some of this information is about tracking the shopping basket statistics (or basket funnel) and we often hear online store owners worrying about the "shopping basket abandonment rate" or the number of people who started a basket and didn't finish it.

Let me suggest a totally different view of shopping cart abandonment.

If you have every worked in a retail Bricks and Mortar store then you will know that customer service is the key to conversion. In Face to Face sales customer interaction and handling objections is the key to success. When we turn to online sales then objection handling has to be done by your content and online store in the first instance. We know that you need good content to get a result in organic search but does that same content answer the key questions that your potential customer might ask you.

The sales process whether on-line or off-line follows some time proven principles.

There are distinct parallels in individual behaviour that exist between bricks and mortar (Face to Face) and Online. For example:

Visit the front page = looking in the shop window
Walking in the door = moving to another page (not exiting from home page)
Browsing the categories = walking the isles
Asking about a specific product = search
Taking a product off the shelf = looking at a product detail page
Putting a product in a bag or basket = add to cart
Walking to the checkout = checking out, providing personal details, credit card etc etc...
There are many more parallels that you can figure out for yourself. So these interactions are not actions that first happened online they have been happening since retail existed. 

The problem that exists online is that we believe we invented the sales or checkout process - not true. We modeled it after what we knew to work in traditional retail. But the bit that is missing is the personal interaction.

Free Shipping Makes a Difference?

Many online stores offer free shipping as a means to improve the basket conversion rate. It is seen as a competitive advantage but it can also be a business killer financially. 

With bricks and mortar for small items there may not be a shipping cost involved, i.e. take it with you, but for larger items there will be. It is a normal process to discuss shipping cost in store and explain why and come to the correct and agreed shipping method and cost. It all revolves around what the customer required and not what the online store process does. 

Most online stores fail to explain the shipping cost and process and leave it up to the customer to price compare. The more information that you can provide to the customer about shipping, and also options for shipping, the more it can help the ultimate goal of a sale.

Again it comes back to customer service. Think about what the customer might need and offer a solution rather than thinking about what you want and forcing the process with no options. But do not over complicate.

So whats missing online?


The key to great customer service is communication and personal contact so always consider the options that you offer your customers to enable them to communicate with you.

Even online stores like Amazon with their neat single click checkout really have not invented anything new. The concept of account customers where you kept their information and billed them later has existed for a very long time. So we know that people, enter a store they trust, want to grab a product, wave at you at the checkout, then get on their way. Trusting you will do the billing stuff accurately later.

The Key Issues

Am I telling you anything that you have not already considered? Up to you to decide. There are ways to engage with your customers while they are online. It is also not so hard to do. 

The keys parts are;

  • Good converting content - build content to assist sales conversion and not just SEO,
  • Customer analytics - make sure you have and use the information about what your customers do on your site,
  • Obvious methods of contact - give your customers an easy way to contact you quickly,
  • Explain the tricky parts well - if it is confusing then either simplify it or explain it,
  • Tell customers what to expect - don't leave them guessing about what happens next,
  • Offer personal contact and advice - be prepared to personally communicate and offer assistance,
  • Follow-up after the sale - check with new sales that they got what they wanted and that the process went smoothly.

Live chat is a great and easy way to communicate to customers online. At eCorner we introduced live chat on our sites a year ago and have halved basket abandonment. Online stores and stuff around them are complex and need personal explanations and advice. It is not much use having live chat if no one is there to respond.

So there you have it I will argue with anyone that basket abandonment has little to do with technical process, price or even shipping cost - it is primarily about customer service.

By placing a greater emphasis on customer communication and interaction you can improve your overall results. It requires you to look at your content and methods of communication from a customer perspective.

Yes I can hear some saying - "oh but times have changed, demographics are different, online is different" - in the most part I don't think so. What I think is different is the effort made by online shop owners to offer customer service. The good ones get it right. If you are running an online business you must be ever bit as committed as if it was a bricks and mortar business. Set and forget just will not work.

So remember - the first rule of good business if your want to be profitable and grow - is Customer Service. It is far more cost effective to get a return customer to buy than to go find a new customer. So look after the ones that you have.