It's the giddiest feeling for any online retailer - the moment a paid order comes in. Someone out in the world wants the product you provide, found your eCommerce store online (because if you use 3dcart, your SERP rank is right up there), and has spent her money on it. That's the name of the game, right?
Receiving a paid order, which is the final step in the marketing cycle, is step one of a whole new set of protocols you need to have in place for your online business to succeed. The "after the sale" part of etailing is often overlooked because so much of the focus is placed on standing out from the virtual crowd and getting customers to click on your site v. your competitors'. Fulfilling the order as placed and exceeding customer expectations are the most important parts of your business. At the same time you're considering your brand identity and building categories for your web presence, you need to be thinking about your supply chain, shipping, and customer service. All of these spokes, and more, are the framework that will keep the wheels of your venture rolling ahead.
How do you build the system to satisfy the order, exceed customer expectations, and turn a single sale into a lifetime relationship? It's not as daunting as it may sound, especially if you've done some planning in advance. If you have the order fulfilment and customer service pipeline ready, completing the sale should be a seamlessly integrated part of your business.
Depending on your merchandise and warehousing capabilities, you may have chosen to use a dropship partner like Amazon, in which case your shipping, packing slips, label printing, etc., will be handled off-site for you. For the purposes of this lesson, let's assume you are a one-stop shop, warehousing your product on site and shipping it yourself.
Step 1: The Order. Congratulations, you've got a sale!
The first order of business is to review the order completely and make sure you can fulfill the sale as the customer has specified. For some etailers, printing the order out and keep a physical copy is helpful.
Step 2: Confirmation Email
You may have this automatically preset with 3dcart, but whether it's automatic or not, you need to send a confirmation email to the customer acknowledging receipt of the order and reiterating your shipping method and turn-around time. You can include a paid invoice for their review as well. This is also the place to ask any questions you may have about the order, and invite them to email or call if they have any questions of their own. You can also suggest add-on sales of complementary items, if appropriate.
Step 3: Packing and Shipping
Is your product fragile, very large, expensive, or food-related? Any of these will require specific packaging and shipping solutions. Fragile products need support with air bags, bubble wrap, or packing peanuts. Expensive items may require insurance, and every state has its own guidelines for proper shipment of food items. We'll assume your item is stable, of manageable size, and shipping in a standard manner. As long as you use a good, heavy-duty shipping box or container, and proper interior materials, you'll be fine.
You also need to print a packing slip/receipt and labels. Both should contain your company logo and basic contact information. The packing slip needs to contain your refund and return policy, exactly as stated on your website, to remind the customer and eliminate confusion. Double check everything from the item ordered to the customer's address and proper name spelling before sealing and sending the order. Make sure your label placement is correct for the USPS or your shipper of choice, and have it ready to ship on or before the date you specified to the customer you would ship. A key component of exceeding expectations is to provide the customer faster shipping than expected.
Step 4: Thank Them and Entice Them Back
Your packing slip should say thank you, as should your confirmation email - but sending another email thanking her again for the purchase, and including complementary items for sale, and perhaps a discount for a future order, is another way to exceed expectations. It is not possible to thank a customer too much!
Step 5: If There's a Problem
The customer may decide to return her purchase. It is just a part of the game in eCommerce, and you need to be prepared for it. Your site contains your return policy, and you reiterated it on your packing slip, so as long as you honor your stated policy, quickly and efficiently, the customer will be pleased. Consider the return as another chance to exceed expectations. The product wasn't the right fit for the customer, but another product might be perfect and if you handle any issues with grace, and make it as easy as possible for the customer, she'll remember that and shop your virtual store again, confident that you will provide outstanding customer service!
It's very tempting in the eCommerce world to consider the sale complete at "cha-ching!" but successful online entrepreneurs know the sale is complete when the customer is satisfied and singing your praises to everyone she knows!