Neera received a big parcel from amazon.com on her anniversary. It was a surprise from her mother. When Neera opened the parcel, she saw that the microwave oven ordered by her mother, had arrived damaged. It was clearly the mistake of both amazon and the seller, who did not pack it safely. When she called the amazon customer care, she was told that the seller would contact her directly. When the seller did contact her, she realised that it would take her weeks before she gets back a ‘no-damage’ product from the seller’s end. She could not outrightly blame the seller, as the seller had put the onus on the e-commerce site citing the loss that he would have to incur on the damaged product and sending a new product in exchange. However, she could only hope and pray that she received the product without further delays. It was one herculean task to exchange the defective piece. She had to courier it back to the seller, who upon receiving and examining the same, would then send her a new piece. The entire process took two months. And, by the time, the new product arrived, Neera’s anniversary was way past.
Flourishing e-commerce world
While the online world is mushrooming with new sellers each passing day, there are a plethora of problems arising with them. In the above scenario, while Neera got a new product, it was not before she shelled out on the courier charges and packing charges of the product. Further, the seller, who would have made some profit by selling the product via amazon, had to shell out double the amount for sending a new product in exchange of the damaged product.
Selling online has its own pros and cons. And, as we said in our earlier post, one should weigh all the consequences before stepping into the online world. There are these minute details which a seller might not pay attention to while selling on an e-commerce platform, and that may result in him not seeing any growth and eventually dropping out of the platform. From poor pricing strategies, to improper product catalogues, poor delivery system, outdated lists, and weak backend system- problems are a plenty that can affect the seller and its customer base and overall, throwing the marketplace in a bad light.
Seller’s choice: E-commerce or own set-up
UP-based Tanya Ann Shah, proprietor of Vineyards- a clothing label, says that as a seller, one needs to be careful with the exchange of money, should always seek a contract before selling online and clear even an iota of doubt, if any. “I had a talk with a lot of websites but because I do not have a current act yet, it was not possible to sell. Further, the percentage of profit that these e-commerce platforms demand is too much. Though I was approached by a couple of ‘to-be’ launched websites, the trust factor was lacking there,” Tanya adds.
That a seller’s own set-up takes time to kick off cannot be denied, Tanya says, it is the clientele and the traffic that e-commerce sites have, which are beneficial to a seller, however, only if the terms and conditions are at par with the seller’s ideals.
Mumbai-based Shalini Girish, owner of LA Elegante- a jewellery label, says while the e-commerce platform can be the perfect place for people who have a passion to do something, it can be painstaking to manage it vis-a-vis corporate life.
According to Shalini, as a seller, the biggest and most challenging task is to have client seeking claims for damage. “There are instances when a client receives a product which they might not have liked for various reasons. If the store does not have a return policy for that reason, the client damages the product and then asks for a replacement. The way we spot them is when we receive such a request and we always say that we will replace it, however, the client denies and asks to choose any other product. The way I handle it is- 1) My refunds policy is very clearly published on the Facebook page 2) My efforts are to provide replacement only. I do not allow them to choose another product in lieu of the one which has been damaged,” Shalini adds.
Both Shalini and Tanya sell their products via Facebook page.
Problems faced by online sellers
E-commerce is a business with lots of ups and downs. While the customers have been able to extract loads of benefits thanks to the ‘cash on delivery’ mechanisms and easy return policies of various e-commerce sites, the sellers have been bearing the brunt, be it selling the product or exchanging or refunding the product. More often, it turns out that a seller has had almost zero profit in packing and selling the product first and exchanging or claiming the damaged products later.
In this post, we take a look at 10 challenges faced by the online sellers while selling on e-commerce platforms:
1- Selling on multiple sites: A seller selling on multiple e-commerce sites will encounter different challenges at each one of them. From generation of different invoices, to different requirements for listing of products, selling on different mediums means a seller has to have multiple formats of invoice, order numbers, address layouts, pickup lists etc. Not to forget, sellers have to often forego the prices in order to match the competitor’s. That the prices vary across channels, there arises the need to monitor them closely and update them in order to win in the competitive market. The need of the hour is certain tools that would help the sellers do that.
2- Damaged products or cancellations, logistical challenges: That the e-commerce policies tend to favor the buyers mostly, the buyers often misuse it to their advantage by sending back used products to the sellers citing damage or any other reason. Unfortunately, the seller still has to pay the commission charges to the e-commerce sites. Despite claiming for damages, the seller ends up paying for the return charges. Problems with receiving returned items that are damaged and in an unusable packing makes it arduous for the sellers to re-sell the product.
3- Having manual inventory using spreadsheets: As a seller, selling on multiple channels requires you have an inventory that’s in sync with your business. The fact that many sellers still use the old school book keeping format, in today’s age of cloud computing and apps control, it of course becomes a painstaking task to keep a track of all the inventories.
4- Volume of orders: A major problem that the sellers encounter is the number of orders to be shipped. The costs incurred by sellers in shipping a product becomes higher due to low volume of orders. Many sellers, who have tie ups with courier delivery, often see delays in shipment as the courier companies visit less often if the volume is low.
5- Payment settlements and taxation: Most e-commerce sites have a payment settlement period ranging from 8-30 days. Also, due to the generation of multiple invoice formats, there arises the problem of filing returns. Further, neither there are any proper rules or guidelines surrounding e-commerce taxation policies nor is it understood well by sellers.
6- Issue of price margins: The ever-increasing number of sellers on the e-commerce sites can take a toll on your products and their pricing. The competition is such that each moment, a seller will be competing to sell his product at a rate cheaper than the other seller.
7- Cash on delivery menace: In this, the payment is made once the customer receives the product. This process is cumbersome because a seller is solely dependent on the courier guy for handling of the cash. Further, it can take up to 15-20 days for the seller to receive the cash for his sold product.
8- Notorious buyers: There have been cases of customers refusing to pay once the product was delivered to their household. Then there are cases where the delivery boys are manhandled. It is cumbersome for the seller to handle such buyers and deal with the entire process of packaging and other logistical issues.
9- Fake reviews: In order to malign a seller’s image, there are sellers who often pose as buyers on the e-commerce sites and post fake reviews of the product. While most sites have now started identifying and responding to such fake reviews, it becomes a sellers’ nightmare to deal with anything bad mouthing about his product.
10- Bad photography: A seller has to learn the tricks of the trade by knowing the best way to attract its customer. A bad photograph of a product can ruin the chances of it being sold as well as being avoided for many other circumstances. Taking the help from professionals can help not only in getting better pictures of the product but also ensuring a positive image of the seller.