5 Shopify Apps To Fight E-Commerce Challenges During The Pandemic
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has already affected the way businesses operate. Not only that – it has significantly changed consumer habits and, very likely, for good. While thousands of brick-and-mortar stores have already closed their doors, many e-commerce merchants have been experiencing a boom in sales. As a result, it has also inspired many entrepreneurial souls to finally start their own online businesses.
Although the current situation kind of created a perfect ecosystem for e-commerce companies to thrive, it has also brought some new challenges, especially for first starters. When the inbox keeps filling up with requests, customer engagement requires a lot more effort than expected, and it feels like it would probably be nice to have a few extra hands to deal with shipments, it's not so difficult to mess it all up.
In this article, we will explore the impact of the pandemic on e-commerce sales over the past year and provide a brief overview of 5 Shopify apps that can help both beginners and e-commerce veterans deal with the occurring challenges while still driving business growth in 2021.
E-commerce 2020 in numbers
What's better than actual numbers to get a clearer view of how the e-commerce market changed during 2020? Let's start with some statistics:
- As social distancing and staying at home have pushed many people towards online shopping, there's been a noticeable global e-commerce site traffic increase, Statista reports. 22 billion monthly visits were generated by retail websites in June 2020 compared to 16.07 billion global visits in January 2020 (not to mention 13.87 billion at the same time last year).
- Shopify announced that there's been a 76% increase in sales between Black Friday and Cyber Monday worldwide. Shopify merchants alone collectively made $5.1 billion compared to $2.9 billion during BFCM 2019.
- Global search volume for the keyword "buy online" has increased from 18 100 (October 2019) to 22.2 thousand average searches per month.
- 96% of British consumers said they've purchased something online at least once since March, and half of them experienced delivery issues.
- Up to 30% of global retail sales will be made online during the 2020 holiday season, Salesforce predicts.
- Globally, 49% of consumers say they've been shopping online more often than before since the outbreak of COVID-19.
It's clear that the online shopping demand is increasing at an enormous pace which will likely shape the future of both e-commerce and traditional shopping. And when the competition is getting this fierce, customer expectations don't get any lower either.
How has COVID-19 affected customer expectations?
Various reports indicate that shoppers have become more mindful about their purchases. It means that more often than not, they're also looking for real value rather than just an okay price.
And real value in this context doesn't just describe the product or services themselves. It's the whole experience customers have with a specific brand that makes them stick, and it starts far earlier than some might think.
Whether you've just been recommended a company you've never heard of, noticed an ad on the web, or had the pleasure to talk to some customer support representative, all of those touchpoints shape an image about that specific business. With many shifting online, the pandemic has raised the bar for customer experience and made customers pickier than ever before.
They now demand full transparency about processes (e. g. delivery information, schedule changes, etc.), better (and faster!) communication, empathy and personalization, not to mention technical things, such as a mobile-friendly browsing experience or uninterrupted checkout process. To keep ahead of the competitors and achieve their goals, online business owners should be willing to take additional measures in the upcoming year, which brings us to the following.
5 Shopify apps to succeed during the pandemic
To meet those constantly growing customer expectations and keep up with e-commerce trends, here are 5 apps that every Shopify merchant can find on the Shopify app store. They were chosen based on their ability to serve different customers' needs that are crucial for e-commerce during the pandemic (e. g. fast and reliable customer support, great order tracking experience, marketing purposes, etc.) and can actually help to increase traffic to your store and boost overall business growth.
As people tend to spend even more time on their phones during the pandemic, SMS marketing becomes one of the best ways to reach out to them directly. SMS has one of the highest open rates of all the marketing channels and much lower chances of getting lost in the clutter of other marketing messages, meaning that text messages are actually read. Those are two of the main reasons why it's beneficial to equip your Shopify store with the Senderium app for SMS marketing (or, even better, as soon as possible) to spread your promotional messages and other updates in 2021.
- SMS and MMS marketing campaigns. The app guides you through the process itself, so it's easy to create, launch, and manage those campaigns even if you've never done it before.
- Bulk SMS. You can reach thousands of people at once by sending them bulk SMS in a few clicks.
- Automations are a proven way to drive more sales – Senderium can help to win back old customers, reward new ones, and help recover abandoned carts, which is one of the biggest e-commerce challenges in general.
- SMS scheduling. A great feature not only for those crazy about planning ahead. Scheduled SMS can work on their own, saving tons of time, and keeping you focused on other important things. Win-win.
- Analytics. Senderium tracks the results of your campaigns so you could easily watch your business grow or fix anything that's not really working.
Totally free for a limited time (+ extra 20USD to get started); afterward – option to pay-as-you-go (meaning that you only pay for what you use) or $9.99 for Premium subscription.
74% of customers make their buying decisions based on customer service, and this is what makes it crucial. Actually, two things that are especially important to shoppers about customer service are the speed (1st most important) and the quality (2nd), which brings us to the HelpCenter app that can offer that and more.
- HelpDesk ticketing system. HelpCenter collects all incoming inquiries from different channels (email, Facebook Messenger, or live chat) and centralizes them all in one location where they can be easily accessed and managed. This also speeds up the whole process quite a lot since customer support representatives don't need to jump between channels. The app also provides purchase history, comes with personalization opportunities, automated messages, convenient order management, such as order duplication, cancelling, or refund that allows you to improve the whole customer support process.
- FAQ builder. Many customers actually prefer to look for solutions on their own before trying to contact a customer support agent, so an informative FAQ page can benefit both sides. Allowing them to find answers to the most common questions will boost their experience and help the customer support team by reducing the number of repetitive questions.
- Live chat. With HelpCenter, you can also add a live chat to your store and let customers contact your business in real-time (or fill a contact form after office hours).
Free to use basic FAQ features. For more options and premium FAQ builder functionalities, you'd be billed at $4.95 monthly (or $48 once per year). A professional plan combines both FAQ builder and HelpDesk ticketing system (+live chat) and costs $29.95/month (or $288 with an annual plan).
Many people have faced some kind of delivery issues during the pandemic, yet even if everything's going according to the plan, some of them are not that patient. You either have to prepare your customer support reps for tons of "Where is my order?" questions, or give customers a tool to find the answer themselves – and this is where Trackr can help.
- Branded tracking page. Trackr allows you to pick specific colors, fonts, etc., to match your store design and lets customers track their packages right on your store.
- Real-time information. The app collects all the latest updates about orders from couriers worldwide, so customers can see where exactly their packages are.
- More than 900 carriers globally. It will be difficult not to find the right delivery option from such a long list of carriers (those commonly used for dropshipping, such as Cainiao, China Post, China EMS, 4PX, etc. included).
- Delivery status updates let your customers easily follow the journey of their order while keeping your business more transparent and trustworthy.
- Translation to other languages. Trackr can translate the main checkpoints to English, Spanish, French, or Italian to improve your customers' experience.
- Wide customization options. Besides the already mentioned tracking page that you can customize to your needs, you can also improve your emails by inserting the company logo, website, adjusting text and background colors, and use personalization.
For newcomers, Trackr offers a $9/month plan that starts with a free 15-day trial and comes with 400 free trackings (more are available to purchase separately). If you prefer an annual subscription though, there's an option that costs $4month (or $48/year) and allows 2800 free tracking requests per year (more can also be bought afterward, if needed).
4. FREE Traffic & Easy Ads by sixads
The importance of ads to site traffic is indisputable. Ads grab attention, inform, and give potential customers a nudge to check out what you've got to offer. By creating skillfully targeted, catchy ads, you can drive more people to your store, but, like everything, this also requires work and dedication. Another app on our list that can help simplify this process and is totally worth trying is Free Traffic & Easy Ads by sixads.
- Easy and quick ad set-up. Sixads is great with automating most of the routine tasks for you (such as uploading photos, videos, writing headlines, etc.). All you have to do is approve it with a click.
- Highly targeted ads. The app tracks everything that visitors do on your store and uses that information to target them with engaging ads at just the right time.
- Automated ad management. In case anything changes, e.g. titles, photos, descriptions, or you run out of stock, sixads update your ads automatically, not to mention that the app also creates updates for Google Shopping Feeds and Facebook Product Feeds.
- In-depth analytics. Sixads tracks the performance of your ads and lets you identify which ones are selling better on what platform (Facebook, Instagram, or Google).
Sixads offers a "forever free feature" that helps to drive traffic to your store, free of charge, but you have to display products from other stores in return. Other paying options vary based on your needs.
Social proof is an essential part of any product page or website in general. It can be customer testimonials, comments section, or ratings that show the experience other customers had with a specific brand. 87% of shoppers actually read them before buying, and 31% admit that they read even more reviews in 2020. A store that shares such experiences can earn the trust of its visitors and nudge them in the right direction since positive reviews (as well as negative) affect purchasing decisions. For this, Loox might be a good choice.
- Customer reviews with photos. The app automatically collects the feedback from users and nicely displays it on your store.
- Email campaigns. Loox allows to send customized emails to buyers and gather reviews on different occasions, for instance, after the item is delivered. You can also send review request reminders or offer a discount for photo reviews.
- Customizable display. The app allows Shopify merchants to choose how they would like to show the reviews to their visitors by letting to choose gallery style, product review carousels, pop-ups, review sidebars, etc.
- Incentives. Loox can encourage shoppers to leave reviews with photo review incentives and referral discounts.
- Many other benefits, such as multiple languages, the possibility to import product reviews from different sources, wide customization opportunities, etc.
Loox offers four different pricing options for different needs. It starts at $9.99/month for 100 monthly review request emails, the ability to offer discounts, various widgets, inline SEO, and up to 500 processed orders. Then every other plan comes with more advanced features and is priced at $29.99/month, $59.99/month, and $99.99/month.
COVID-19 has already left a profound impact on many different industries. Although e-commerce is one of those that actually boomed during the pandemic, it's still encountered some challenges that will affect how online businesses will operate in the future. Raising customer expectations for better communication, faster customer service, error-free shopping experience, and seamless delivery process encourage Shopify vendors to look for new ways to meet those growing customers' needs. The apps above can be just the right tools to ease the burden of occurring challenges, help drive traffic to your site, and boost your e-commerce sales in the upcoming year.