Setting up a live chat widget on your business site provides you with a fast and effective way to communicate with your customers. We’ve previously discussed the ways live chat can help you with customer service, sales, and even marketing your business. But different companies have their own specific needs, especially when you consider the dramatically different business models that are possible on the modern web. Even narrowing the focus solely to the realm of ecommerce, there are at least a half dozen distinctly different ways to do business, each with their own particular challenges. Fortunately, every single one of these business models can benefit from live chat.
In this article, we’ll look at a few of the business models identified and detailed by Shopify in their recent blog article: From Dropshipping to DTC, Here Are the Most Popular Business Models for Ecommerce. We’ll identify some common live chat techniques that are useful across different ecommerce business models, as well as drilling in to focus on particular strategies that help address the challenges of dropshipping, the maker industry, and wholesale selling.
Dropshipping is an ecommerce option that is rising in popularity because of the low cost required to get started. A dropshipper maintains a storefront and markets and sells products, but then transfers those orders directly to a manufacturer or another retailer in order to get them shipped to a customer.
Dropshipping eliminates the need to physically hold on to inventory, which makes it a much more accessible form of online retail, but as a result dropshippers have little control over things like product supply or quality.
Standing out from the Competition
Shopify’s blog identifies “high competition” as one of the biggest challenges for the dropshipping business model. Because the barrier to entry to dropshipping is low, and you won’t be selling anything unique or of especially high quality, it can be difficult to give customers reasons to go with your store rather than another one.
Live chat can be that distinguishing factor that sets your business apart from others. If there’s little difference in price or product availability between the available dropshipping companies, satisfying and accessible customer service via live chat can give you the edge over the competition. If a potential customer has a question and you answer immediately via live chat while your competitors take six hours to answer an email, that could be all the edge you need to earn a customer’s business.
Reduce the Cost of Customer Service
Another one of the main challenges with the dropshipping business model, according to Shopify, is that it’s a low margin business. The low cost of entry and low operating costs come hand in hand with relatively slim profits. Dropshippers typically make their money over the long term or by scaling up their operations – but if you aren’t careful, scaling up can easily mean increased costs that make your already narrow profit margins disappear.
Live chat platforms are good ways to reduce customer service costs, which can help you to scale up your business while still keeping customer satisfaction high. Live chat can save you money by replacing pricier phone support, and you can save even more when you use a live chat platform (like Formilla) that incorporates chat bots as well.
The “maker movement” refers to the growing culture of DIY crafting and construction. The modern online area has made the tools and knowledge needed for individuals to make things themselves more accessible than ever, while at the same time making it more possible for those individuals to then sell those items to anyone who is interested.
Many maker-driven ecommerce shops start as a single person making and selling their goods, but they can expand in size and complexity over time if the products appeal to enough customers.
More Free Time
Many makers are used to doing things themselves, so being your own live chat customer service agent might seem like a good solution. And while a live chat platform makes this simple and easy to do, it might not be the best fit for your maker business. If you’re also the one running the store, making the products, and packing and shipping orders, hopping online to chat any time anyone visiting your site has a question could be a recipe for overloading yourself, in which case your business will suffer.
So what’s the answer? One technique is to place a customer service chat bot on your storefront that’s equipped to answer the most common questions site visitors have. Use this bot as a filter between you and people who visit your site, and you can still provide the convenience and speed of live chat customer service without constantly having your other work interrupted.
Program your chat bot with some basic starter questions about your business, and you can either get involved right away if someone has a more complicated question or you can have the chat bots direct people to an email address in order to contact you, and you can respond at a convenient time when it isn’t interrupting your actual “making.”
Scale As Needed
Makers love flexibility, and the Formilla live chat platform gives you the tools you need to customize and “DIY” the customer service experience you provide. If you just want to add chat bots to your store as described above, that’s easy to do. If you want to answer some customer questions directly yourself you can do that with ease, even from your mobile device.
But it’s also simple to bring on a dedicated live chat customer service agent to help as your business grows and customer demands increase. You can easily start with a part time agent working remotely, handling questions live during your busiest hours, before scaling up to a full time employee when the workload demands it. At each step along the way, you’re expanding the customer service side of your operations only as much as is necessary, without costing yourself more money than the workload can justify.
A live chat platform makes customer service flexible, scalable, and modular, and those are terms that will appeal to any successful maker.
Wholesaling involves selling your products in bulk, usually to other retailers. You can sell your products directly to consumers as well, but the advantages of wholesaling usually come from low operating costs and a lack of marketing spend made possible by the power of selling established products. You don’t need to convince businesses that the big name brands you sell are worth buying, since they’ve certainly heard of them before – you just have to provide the products at a good price and with solid customer service.
As discussed above in regards to dropshipping, live chat can be a great tool for helping your business stand out in a crowded market of similar offerings. By its very nature being a wholesale seller means you’re selling products that are also available elsewhere, but if your store is the place where potential customers can quickly get their questions answered via a friendly live chat customer service agent, that’s a strong reason to choose your store rather than the alternatives.
When you have a chance to score a business client that could become a regular customer of yours over the long term, doing what it takes to answer their questions and close the deal up front can mean big rewards. We’ve covered the importance of rapid response times for big potential customers previously on the Formilla Blog, and that is just as true with the B2B wholesale industry.
Inventory Management and Negotiation
Juggling inventory is one way in which the wholesale business is more difficult than dropshipping. You’ll likely be dealing in terms of minimum orders and volume discounts, with the usual ecommerce goal of keeping your on-hand aging inventory low while also not running out of stock of popular products. Live chat can be helpful here because of its underappreciated power as a sales and negotiation tool.
One of the keys to success as a wholesaler is to keep your inventory moving, making sure you’re syncing up the stock you have coming in with the demand from new customers and regular re-orders from existing customers. Sometimes during this inventory churn process you’re going to find yourself in a position where it will absolutely make business sense for you to offer significant discounts on products to customers willing to buy a certain volume. And while some of the time you’ll be able to predict these issues and do actual marketing around these special opportunities and offers, other times that just won’t be possible (or cost efficient).
So what do you do? Try using live chat to pitch these offers to your customers in dynamic, flexible ways. You can set up in-app “Smart Messages” within just a few minutes to start letting site visitors now about limited-time promotions while they are available, and even target these messages to particular accounts you know might be interested. A returning customer to your wholesale site might not be in the market for cleaning supplies right now, but if they learn that they can save a significant amount if they are willing to place an order today rather than waiting a few months, that could easily change their mind – and you’ll have an opportunity to move inventory in a way that’s most profitable for you.
Live chat also makes the sales and negotiation process easier and more immediate than alternatives like email or phone calls, giving you the ability to condense the sales funnel. Depending on the size and scope of your wholesale business, it can be useful for you as a business owner or decision maker to actually hop into live chat and start negotiating directly with customers browsing your site. If you are strongly motivated to either convert a new customer or move some aging inventory (or maybe even both), you can make that pitch directly to the prospective buyer via live chat. This would be unusual for some other forms of ecommerce, of course, but when you’re dealing with wholesale products and the B2B world, negotiating deals is commonplace.
You can sign up for a free trial of Formilla today to add live chat to your existing ecommerce site. Whether you run a small maker storefront on Shopify or are looking to grow your wholesale business into an empire, if you sell products online, live chat can help you get things done. It’s a rapid and satisfying customer service tool, a flexible way to market on-site, and offers the ability to talk directly to potential customers on your site in order to help convert them.