You did it! You have spent countless hours writing and perfecting your book, you’ve signed up for your ecommerce platform of choice, and you are now ready to put yourself out there and start selling directly to your audience… or are you?
Picture this: you are on a website intending to purchase something, but you have a question about the product first. Maybe you’re worried it won’t reach you before you’ll need it, or you have a question about the item’s color or size, but you can’t find out how to contact the seller. What do you do?
From a seller’s perspective, imagine a client receives a book from your store, but it was nothing like they expected. Maybe it has a few typos on the inside and they reach out to you for clarification. What do you tell them? Perhaps another customer doesn’t receive their order at all—then what?
Thinking about putting the finishing touches on your website to optimize customer experience may seem like a daunting task at first, but it doesn’t need to be. All it takes is some careful planning, time, and knowledge of your store’s products and ordering process. Let this be your guide to finalizing your website’s set-up so you are prepared to give the best online shopping experience possible.
Develop a Customer Service Strategy
Authors and creators often decide to start selling direct-to-consumer (DTC) so they can have a more direct connection with their readers and buyers. Part of selling DTC should also mean that you have a way for your customers to contact you directly. As overused as this phrase is, when it comes to customer service, communication really is key. In order for your customers to feel confident in their purchase and happy with your service, you’ve got to communicate with them and allow them to get in touch with you.
Make it easy to connect with you via email
While not completely necessary, use your own domain, if you can. Using your own domain name as opposed to a Gmail or Yahoo address will make your business look more professional, and will also help keep you organized by having a separate inbox solely for communicating with your clients.
Once you have established your contact email, it is important to make this email address easy to find on your website. Don’t make your clients dig through a huge blog post or scroll through multiple pages on your website to get in touch with you. A simple Contact Us or About Me page is a great place for your email address to live. Some ecommerce platforms have built-in forms that make it easy to add a contact page to your website, but it is fairly simple to create your own from scratch, as well.
Create an FAQ page
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages are not only helpful for your customers, but they also save you time spent answering the same questions repeatedly. Get ahead of the inquiries by answering them for your customers directly on your website in one convenient and easy-to-locate webpage.
If you are relying on third-parties to fulfill your orders, make yourself familiar with their business policies so you know how to best answer your customers’ frequently asked questions. If you anticipate customers will inquire about their orders (and believe me – they will), your FAQ page may include questions such as the following:
- When will my order ship?
- How can I track my order?
- Can I return my order?
- What is your refund policy?
- What should I do if there is an issue with my order?
- Can I exchange my item for a different item?
One of the great things about having your own website is that you are in control of the content on most—if not all—of the pages. If you find that your pre-answered FAQs don’t answer the questions your customers are actually asking, you can easily update this page with more specific questions and answers. Having some baseline FAQs already answered will make your website look professional, and will ultimately put you in a better position to handle questions as you receive them. Which brings us to…
Respond to inquiries in a timely manner
This really goes without saying, but who doesn’t enjoy instant gratification? Make sure you aren’t leaving your clients hanging, and if you can, try to aim for a 24-hour-or-less response time for any inquiries you receive. According to one study, 77% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with a positive online customer service experience. The more available you are to respond to a question, the more confidence you will inspire in your customer about their purchase and about your business overall.
Perfect Your Product
At this point, I know you are eager to release your work to your friends, fans, and family, but don’t let your excitement get in the way of putting the finishing touches on your products.
If you have multiple formats available, order one proof copy of each
People love variety, and adding different formats to your product line-up is a great way to appeal to more customers. If you decide to offer your book in paperback and hardcover, for example, it’s important to understand what both books look like when they are printed. Looking at your book on a computer screen is very different from holding it in your hands, so be sure to allow yourself time to order and review proofs of each format you plan to make available in your store.
Get a set of fresh eyes on your work
Having someone look over something that you’ve been staring at for ages can help spot misspellings or punctuation mistakes. It also offers a fresh perspective, as everyone reads and thinks differently than you. If you don’t want others to set eyes on your work quite yet, there are several strategies you can employ to give yourself “fresh eyes,” so to speak. Try changing the font, taking yourself to a different setting with your manuscript, or reviewing your work in a different format, such as on a tablet instead of a computer screen.
Finalize edits before publishing your book
Imagine the panic you would feel if your customers accidentally purchased your book before it was ready to be released to the world. Avoid this by double-checking that your items are not available for purchase in your store—even for pre-orders—until after you have made the final, approved files available.
Keep Your Orders in Check
If you’re like almost everyone else, receiving orders is the goal of creating your ecommerce business. Everything you’ve done leading up to this point has set you up for success, so don’t stop here!
Check your order flow
Before you open up shop, make sure your shipping options have been set up and that orders are connecting to your fulfillment partners’ products correctly. As the store owner, verifying that your customers’ orders will actually reach them is your responsibility, so take the time to place a few test orders in your account. This will also help you get acquainted with the way the order flow works. If you are shipping to multiple countries, try placing test orders with sample addresses to each destination you plan to ship to. There are many free address generators available online that can help you test this.
Regularly monitor your orders
Don’t allow your customers’ orders to sit in limbo! Check on your orders at least once per day to ensure nothing requires your attention. While automatic fulfillment is much less hands-on than doing everything manually, you will still want to check your store orders regularly to verify that no orders are being held up from proceeding due to an address or payment issue.
Utilize Your Resources
That’s what we’re here for, right? It is important that you understand the inner workings of your online store, and Lulu has a dedicated team to help clarify anything with Lulu Direct that you may be unsure of. If there is a portion of the fulfillment process that you are fuzzy on, let us know! We care about your success, so if you have any questions at all, our Ecommerce Team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kristen is an Ecommerce Specialist at Lulu. Her role focuses on helping clients utilize Lulu's direct-to-consumer tools to grow their businesses. She is passionate about giving everyone the opportunity to have their voices heard and believes self-publishing presents the perfect opportunity to do just that. When she's not at the office, Kristen is likely chasing her toddler or working on a DIY project in her garage.