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The Last Mile, As Important As Your First Impression

As eCommerce remains to be the fastest growing sales channel globally (20% as per www.statista.com) so are online shoppers’ expectations of last mile delivery (LMD) services.

According to Wikipedia, last mile is used in transportation planning to describe the movement of people and goods from a hub to a final destination. In eCommerce terms, it is the delivery of sold items to the customer. Simple enough? Maybe, but please don’t underestimate its importance to your eBusiness as it is the only time your customers will come face to face with a human being in this purchase, which may change soon, but that’s for another post.

In Lebanon, you have a number of companies to chose from: Aramex, DHL, Wakilni, Hop ‘n Drop, Rapid, Al Bostaji and others covering domestic and international orders.

So how are you going to chose? For starters, international orders are really only covered by Aramex and DHL. For domestic orders, this is what you need to consider when choosing:

Technology: knowing a little about what kind of tech your prospective LMD provider uses can tell you a lot. Good IoT and data collection technologies help you (the retailer) and your customer know where the delivery is, its movement and when it will arrive. It allows LMD providers to have better loading/unloading from end to end, better routing considering weather and traffic in the interest of better and more efficient deliveries. These technologies allow last mile companies to identify certain inefficiencies and unnecessary costs in an attempt to do better work which reflects positively on your brand and improves your chances of repeat orders and good word of mouth. Believe me, no one is going to say I love brand X but they were unlucky in their choice of LMD! Bad LMD reflects badly on your brand, period.

Reviews: before choosing your LMD partner, check out their reviews on social media or Google. If you can’t find any but still feel they are a good fit, check out who their clients are on their website and be sure to call one or two of them, especially if you know them. Don’t call a direct competitor as it might be awkward but choose someone with a similar nature of business.

Risk vs. Cost: Do you choose a larger legacy brand that has been around for a number of years and is solid or do you choose one of the new upstarts that could offer you cheaper and faster service? Always think of your customer, your brand’s image and then your bottom line.

Fleet: One of the biggest problems facing all roads in and leading to our nation’s capital is traffic. Large vehicles cover areas outside Beirut but in the city are not suitable to avoid traffic jams and will not move until they have a full load which will result in longer delivery times. The majority of LMD providers use scooters bikes to make their deliveries which allows you the luxury of offering same day delivery but you must be weary of the driver’s overall appearance in this case. Also, how large is their fleet? Do they cover all of Lebanon? Or just Greater Beirut? Check where the bulk of your local business comes from and make sure you are well catered to.

Finally, after reviewing the above and choosing an LMD provider, follow up early orders: track progress, call customers to make sure they were satisfied ensuring, it will reflect positively on your brand, as will that phone call. Good luck, work hard, but don’t forget to have fun.

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The Gateway to Your Financial Freedom

So you decided to take that plunge; you’re finally going to start that eShop you’ve been telling everyone about for last few years. You chose eCommerce consultants for your brand. Things are moving nicely but you are now faced with a new question, “which payment gateway do you want?” Although it seems like a simple enough question, it is to be taken seriously as choosing the right gateway could determine your business’ success. Here are a few things to take into consideration when choosing.

What is an Online Payment Gateway?

An online payment gateway (OPG) is provided by an eCommerce application service provider, to merchants with an eShop in order to process, verify, accept or decline credit card payments online using a secure internet connection.

How Does a Payment Gateway Work?

Once your online shoppers decide on an item to buy from your eShop, they will be directed to the checkout page. They will then need to fill out personal information along with their credit card’s details and submit the payment. Your gateway will validate your customers’ information in order to transfer the funds to your account all done after encrypting and securely transferring customers information. Setting up a payment gateway is easy once you have an eShop and a legally registered company.

What to Look for Before Choosing?

Security: make sure to chose an OPG that is PCI compliant and SSL certified.

Cost: ask for all fees involved; account set up/monthly fees, transaction fees…

Accepted payment methods: make sure all major credit cards are accepted.

Compatibility: your OPG should integrate with your eShop, from a design and technical perspective.

Payment location: your OPG shouldn’t re-direct buyers to another website for payments.

How Will the Right OPG Help my Business?

Credibility is improved with a renowned OPG making the shopper feel safer.

Peace of mind for you the merchant as you will get paid before shipping the item.

Most online shoppers have become familiar with the process, so no problem here.

Keeps customers on your website which could help in improving your conversion rate.

Reduced bounce rate as shoppers will leave an eShop with an untrustworthy OPG.

Lower cart abandonment due to an easier and less complicated payment processes.

Target foreign markets as cash on delivery (COD) is NOT recommended when exporting.

I recently met a prospect clients in electronics, perfect for eCommerce. They told me they hadn’t taken the plunge yet because OPGs are not good in Lebanon. That’s SO wrong. There is a good number of OPGs controlled by our Central Bank. We work: Areeba, BLOM, Bank Med Payfort and NetCommerce.

Although 60% of Lebanese eShoppers prefer COD, this option is always available locally, but when you want to really tap into eCommere’s potential, you need a strong, reputable OPG to help you grow your business. Good luck, work hard, but don’t forget to have fun.

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The Importance of an eShop

We all know that eCommerce is big. You’ve probably heard that it’s the future of retail business. But do you know how big it really is? Enjoy the following figures.

In 2017, global eCommerce sales reached $2.3 trillion. In 2021, they will reach $4.5 trillion.

In 2017, $672 billion in China, $340 billion in the US, $99 billion in the UK.

In 2021 they will grow to $1.32 trillion, $670 billion, and $194 billion respectively.

In 2018, eCommerce sales reached $26.9 in Gulf countries. In 2022, it will grow to $48.6 billion.

In 2016, Lebanon recorded $837 million in online sales. In 2021 it will reach $1.8 billion.

You might think this means entrepreneurs and retailers in Lebanon should not get in eCommerce, right? Wrong! The fact of the matter is when you open an eShop, your market is not limited to the one you are based in; the world is actually your market. So take a minute to soak in all the figures mentioned above… and imagine the potential. Here are some advantages of opening an eShop, whether you’re a start up retailer or find yourself running your family’s boutique that has existed for generations.

  • Global Market: reach potential customers anywhere in the world.
  • Open 24/7: allow shoppers to make their purchases instantly when it suits them.
  • Higher conversion rates: shoppers tend to buy more when they can do it instantly.
  • Broader offer: sell intangible goods like eBooks, workshop videos and tutorials.
  • Marketing: Search Engine Optimization gets your website top ranks on Google. Consistent good quality posting on Facebook and Instagram builds trust with shoppers and engagement with your brand hence driving more traffic to the website.
  • Convenience: shoppers can search for products, compare, chose & purchase the right one and wait for the delivery. Who has the time to go to a shop and get stuck in traffic?
  • Less overheads: no high costs of rental, décor, security systems, utility bills and staff allows you to sell at a competitive price. Don’t forget that you also eliminate shoplifting.
  • Personalization: connect with customers through order tracking, delivery confirmation and product recommendations based on purchase history.
  • Influence purchases: buyers go online decide what to buy. If you’re not online, you’re missing out on sales opportunities.
  • Better analytics: powerful tools like Google Analytics, social media, mailing lists and eCommerce platforms allow you to target the most suited shoppers for your products.
  • Omnichannel: even if you have a brick and mortar shop, having an eShop allows you to maximize your sales and even helps in creating more awareness for your boutique.
  • Flexibility: competition is fierce in today’s world; an eShop allows you to announce a promotion, change your prices and spread the word all in a matter of hours. Conventional marketing would take longer and cost much more.

We would hate to be misunderstood in the sense where you think that starting an eShop is easy money. Sure it has a lot of potential and can be scalable to huge levels, but if you want to do it right, it’s a full time job. It requires patience, perseverance, a strong will to succeed and just like any other business, money to be invested. But when all these requirements are being applied every day, the world is truly your oyster. Good luck, work hard, but don’t forget to have fun.