What are the essential e-commerce capabilities for MLM companies?

Seven in ten Americans browse, shop, and make purchases online – and the COVID-19 pandemic is only accelerating the continuing growth of e-commerce. To capitalize on the trend, what are the essential e-commerce capabilities for MLM companies? The answer is all about customer experience and expectations. 

According to IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, the pandemic accelerated the consumer shift to e-commerce by up to five years. E-commerce sales grew by 32 percent in 2020 due to a combination of first-time online shoppers and increased frequency among existing e-commerce consumers. And the growth rate is expected to continue as customers become more comfortable with shopping and purchasing online. 

For multi-level marketing (MLM) companies, meeting customer e-commerce expectations is no longer a nice-to-have option. It’s an essential component of an MLM’s customer experience – and essential for the MLM’s future growth. 

Replicated websites are the foundation

E-commerce experience starts with your MLM software. As the backbone of an MLM company’s technology strategy, MLM software enables you to create and deliver online experiences that meet customer expectations and make it easy for them to shop and purchase. 

As a baseline, your MLM software should enable you to provide replicated websites for each MLM sales representative. Replicated websites give independent sales reps a URL (web address) that’s unique for their business. Then, within branding, design, and content parameters set by the MLM company, each representative should be able to personalize her site by adding a photo and sharing information about her business.

Most importantly, replicated websites give representatives the ability to make online sales with integrated functions such as payment processing, sales tax calculation, shipping fulfillment, inventory management, commission payouts, and reporting. 

Today, replicated websites are the foundation of an MLM company’s e-commerce experience. But, keeping up with – and anticipating – rapidly evolving customer expectations also requires focused attention on the following essential elements of the e-commerce experience: the shopping cart, checkout, and mobile capabilities.

Shopping carts: Go beyond the basics

Shopping cart functionality can make or break an MLM company’s e-commerce growth. As the centerpiece of the customer’s online experience, shopping cart ease inspires sales. However, a complicated or slow shopping cart function can cause frustration, curtail additional browsing, and, worst case, prompt customers to abandon their carts and go elsewhere. 

The e-commerce shopping cart abandonment rate is high, averaging 69.8 percent. And, while there will always be customers who change their minds in the midst of online shopping, optimizing your shopping cart capabilities can significantly reduce your cart abandonment rate and increase the number of customers who complete their purchases.  

Your MLM software should offer plenty of options to make online shopping easier for customers. Optimize your shopping cart with cutting-edge features like:

  • Filtering and search: Make it easy for shoppers to find what they’re looking for with search functionality and user-friendly filter options like product category, price, or style. The quicker shoppers are able to find what they’re looking for, the more likely they are to explore other products and, ultimately, complete their purchase. 
  • Category: Consider adding curated category pages as an alternative way to bring customers into your shopping cart experience. Category pages enable you to group similar products, highlight key selling points, and invite shoppers to enter the cart by clicking a “shop all” category button, such as “shop all activewear” or “shop all sterling silver jewelry.”
  • Multiple images: One image may not be enough for today’s online shoppers who are used to having the ability to view a product from a range of angles and zoom in for a closer look. Check into what’s possible within your MLM software.
  • Product reviews: Another e-commerce staple is enabling customers to access and share reviews. Reviews provide authentic, real-life endorsements for your products and assist shoppers in making the decision to buy. Your MLM software should enable the option – and give you complete control over which product reviews to add with a designated approve or decline capability.  
  • Tags: Having the ability to tag products throughout your e-commerce site can have a measurable impact on sales. Tags can alert customers as they shop by identifying best-selling, new, and discounted items. You can also prompt purchases by using tags to let shoppers know when there are only a few of an item left in stock or by showcasing items available to pre-order.
  • Related products: Make sure your MLM software offers the ability to include “you might also like” or “people also purchased” product suggestions as customers add items to their shopping cart. 
  • End-to-end branding: Another effective way to enhance your e-commerce experience is to add your branding and marketing throughout the shopping cart and checkout experiences. Check to see if your MLM software provider offers the option.
  • Social sharing: E-commerce shopping can still be a social event. Make it easy for your customers to share what they’re buying with click-able social sharing buttons within the shopping cart experience.
  • Recruit while shopping: Your MLM software can also offer customers an option to enroll to become a representative as they’re making a purchase. In addition to highlighting the earning opportunity, you can also offer them an instant discount on the purchase they’re making when they complete the enrollment.

Checkout: Simplify and streamline

One in five shoppers abandons their online shopping carts due to overly complicated checkout processes. That makes leveraging best practices to help streamline and shorten your checkout experience a must for e-commerce growth. 

Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to checkout. Pay extra attention to the flow as customers move into the purchasing stage. Experts recommend making the process as transparent as possible by clearly outlining the steps the customer needs to complete and keeping the screen designs simple and clean. 

Check to see if your MLM software enables an “accordion” design, which is one of the most effective ways to organize your checkout experience. An accordion design allows customers to see all of the purchasing steps, with each section expanding for them to complete and then consolidating as they move to the next. It’s a simple way to highlight the simplicity and communicate exactly what the customer needs to do – such as selecting shipping and billing options, applying promotions, and payment processing.

Another best practice is to display an order summary as the customer progresses through the checkout steps. This way, they can see the changes to their total in real-time as they make shipping selections and apply discounts. 

Mobile: Create a responsive experience

Whatever you do, you must optimize your e-commerce experience so it presents effectively on smartphones and tablets. Today’s customers – and your sales representatives – are never far from their phones. As a result, an increasing number of e-commerce transactions are happening on the smaller screens of mobile devices. In 2021, more than half of all e-commerce sales will take place on a smartphone or tablet.

The upside of mobile e-commerce – also known as m-commerce – is that it gives customers the ability to shop anywhere, anytime. The downside is that shoppers are easily distracted as they browse, make buying decisions, and go through the checkout process. That makes your MLM software provider’s mobile responsive capabilities critically important. Look for mobile-friendly functionality such as simplified navigation, easy-to-read fonts and sizes, stackable designs that make scrolling easy, and streamlined checkout. 

To meet the expectations of today’s online shoppers, your mobile e-commerce experience can no longer be a reduced copy of your desktop website. Choose an MLM software provider who recognizes the importance of these e-commerce essentials and has a track record for delivering regular enhancements that ensure your company keeps up with ever-evolving customer expectations.

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