Shipping and Sales Tax
An easy-to-use checkout process is also important. “Make sure your platform will give customers tracking numbers, allow them to view their order status and notify them when the order ships,” Smith advises.
You will need to decide how you want to charge for shipping. Smith recommends offering free shipping or a flat shipping rate for all orders. You can also entice shoppers to buy more with “threshold shipping,” in which orders over a certain dollar amount ship for free. Regardless of which option you choose, let customers know upfront how much shipping will cost them.
SkinCare Physicians’ e-commerce platform automatically calculates shipping costs and shipping labels, saving office staff time and minimizing manual errors. “After a customer orders a product and their payment clears, a staff member pulls, packs and ships the products,” says Foley. “Nowadays, consumers expect online orders to be expedited, so we added a note regarding our one-to-two day processing time.”
If you carry brand name product lines, you may be able to set up shipping through the manufacturer, but the practices we spoke with prefer and recommend in-house inventory and shipping. “We want the products to be packed properly so they don’t get damaged, and we want them to get to patients in a timely fashion, which we can control if we do it ourselves,” says Dr. Mauricio. “But as the website becomes busier, we may need to outsource this or work with manufacturers for drop shipping.”
Online retailers must also collect—and pay—sales tax. Amaral recommends a service called TaxJar that not only calculates the appropriate tax depending on where an item is being shipped, but also helps the merchant file and pay the taxes.
In addition to the standard features that all e-commerce sites need—CMS, shipping fees, tax calculator, discount codes and reporting capabilities—there are several advanced features to consider.
WooCommerce offers Social Rebate, a plug-in that gives customers a discount if they share their purchases on social media. Some platforms allow retailers to offer subscription-based ordering, so patients can authorize payment for and get re-orders shipped on a regular basis.
Other options include: “Wish list,” which lets shoppers save a product to consider later; live chat features so customers can ask questions—and get a quick response—as they shop; and instant search applications that provide “You may also like this product” recommendations based on shopper’s searches and product selections.
Testimonials and reviews are another important add-on. “Most online buyers at least look at a few reviews before committing to a purchase,” says Dr. Mauricio.
Each of these features will increase the cost, so it’s important to consider your target customer base as you design your site. SkinCare Physicians opted for a simple, basic site because it offers everything the practice needs. “Customers are mainly our patients who want to easily and conveniently re-order what their physician or esthetician has recommended,” says Foley. “The site is mobile-friendly, easy-to-use and allows patients to create a profile which saves them time when they return to order more. It does include a ‘related-items’ feature that entices patients to browse through complementary products.”
“There are a number of options and features to consider before getting started, but ultimately the success of your online store will hinge not on the technology you choose, but on your plan’s execution,” says Amaral. “Map out what success means to you and how you will get there; then look for solutions to accomplish it.”
Karen Appold is a medical writer based in Pennsylvania.
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