How to Choose an Online Payment Gateway for your E-Commerce Business

Payment Gateways for E Commerce

What is an online payment gateway?

Payment gateways are third party payment systems that allow you to take payments through your website, without needing a card reader or complicated bank transfer.  The payment software, or gateway, links your site’s shopping cart to the third party and then moves the funds, whilst communicating with the customer’s bank.

How do online payment systems charge the retailer?

Payment systems make their money in one of two ways – they either charge a monthly fee or take a small percentage of each payment.  Some offer both options or a combination of the two.

Which are the best e-commerce payment gateways for small businesses in the UK?

The leading online payment gateways in the UK currently are:

WorldPay

WorldPay (part of Pay360) handles around half of all UK-based online transactions.  Worldpay costs start with a minimum monthly package fee of £19 or 2.75% per transaction plus 20p. WorldPay works globally with most card providers and has 24 hour UK Customer support. A POS option is available for use instore.

WorldPay is recommended for businesses whose transaction levels are consistent year-round, or larger businesses with more complex payment needs.  On the downside, its support channels are known for slow service, so getting started can be challenging.

PayPal

PayPal was originally set up to handle payments on eBay but is now used in over 200 countries on all kinds of websites. Easy to integrate with all major e-commerce platforms, a major benefit is that your customers are likely to already have a PayPal account. This means they should be able to pay quickly, as their cards or bank details are already set up, and they will trust PayPal to handle their payment. If they don’t have a PayPal account, they can still pay through the gateway without setting one up.

PayPal charges vary depending on where the payment is coming from and are currently around 2.9% plus 30p.  PayPal is known for its ease of use, for the customers and the retailer, and for its swift payment transfers. POS options to use instore are available through Zettle. 

Online Payment Gateways
Check which credit cards the gateway supports

Stripe

Used by all types of business, from tiny start-ups to giants such as Deliveroo and Booking.com, Stripe has a particular focus on beating fraud. Stripe’s charges start from 1.4% plus 20p per transaction, more if the card is from outside the EU.  Stripe can also handle recurrent payment schemes such as subscriptions. Customers do not need a Stripe account to pay through it. 

Shopify

If you are selling on Shopify, you are probably using Shopify’s payment plan and it is likely to be the most favourable fees-wise.  If you are already paying Shopify’s monthly hosting fees, on Shopify Basic, the transaction fee is low at 2.2% plus 20p. Shopify payments work with all major credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay and can also be used in store via Shopify’s POS.   

Amazon Pay

As with PayPal, lots of people have an account set up already on Amazon, so allowing them to pay on your website, using Amazon Pay, can be quick, easy and trusted.  It also means customers can pay for goods using Alexa.  On the downside, the transaction fee is relatively high at 2.7% plus 30p per transaction, and Amazon Pay does not support payments with PayPal. 

Take Payments

At Forms Plus, we use Take Payments for our checkout. Formerly known as Payzone, it offers EPOS systems and card machines as well as online payments. Take Payments has UK-based Account Management and 7 days Customer Support. The Payment Gateway can be fully customised to look like your brand and cash flow is not a problem with most payments settled on the next working day. Take Payments has plugins for most e-commerce sites including Drupal, Magento and WooCommerce but does not accept American Express.

Klarna

Not a payment gateway as such, but worth a mention, Klarna is a way to receive full payment but allow your customers to pay up to 30 days later, or in monthly instalments for bigger ticket items. You can choose to offer Klarna on your own checkout, or Klarna users can use the Klarna App to pay for goods with any online retailer.

Other options that you might want to look into include Opayo (formally SagePay) which is well known for its high level of security, Cardstream – which allows “white-label” usage with your own branded payment pages and receipts and Go Cardless, which is particularly known for handling recurring subscriptions and instalments.

Payment Gateways for E Commerce
Choose an option that is easy and quick for your customers to use

How to choose an e-commerce payment gateway?

The payment gateway you choose will depend on the nature of your business, your budget and the types of customers you have.  Areas to consider include:

Budget – How do the payment gateway’s charges fit with your level of transactions and revenue?

Security – Check the platform is fully PCI compliant. This is needed to handle credit card data and different levels of security are recognised.

Hosted or integrated – A hosted gateway takes the customer from your website to the payment processor’s platform. An integrated gateway means the customer never leaves your site, which might make it easier to track which elements of your marketing are having an impact on revenue and help with customer trust.

Customer Journey – Some payment gateways are easier than others for customers to use.  Avoid anything that takes too much time or too many steps and is likely to interrupt the purchase.  Check this for mobile payments too. 

Cards Accepted – Check which payment cards the gateway can handle.  Some do not accept American Express. Some work with PayPal, some do not.

Data Portability – Check whether you own the customer data if you choose to leave the gateway in future, and that it is easy to download and move the data to another provider if required.

Customer Support – You may need help setting up and managing your gateway.  Get a feel for customer service levels from your early enquiries and do read reviews to check you will get the service you need.

We wish you good luck in choosing your new payment gateway. Do not hesitate to get in touch, if we can help at all as you develop your e-commerce business.

Forms Plus Launch Flexi-Hex Eco-Friendly Packaging

Flexi-Hex Bottle Sleeves

Forms Plus are delighted to have partnered with our Cornish neighbours Flexi-Hex to add their stunning, protective packaging for the premium drinks market to our range of environmentally friendly packaging.

Last summer, you may remember we conducted an extensive research project to assess the levels of demand for more eco-friendly packaging amongst our customers, other e-commerce resellers and amongst consumers.  Our research told us overwhelmingly that both sellers and their customers see it as increasingly important that products are shipped in packaging that has minimal impact on the planet.  87% of European consumers are worried about plastic and claim to have changed their purchasing behaviour to favour brands who choose eco-friendly packaging.  This figure is even higher amongst 18-34 year olds. (European Commission 2019 and Green Alliance 2020). 

Located just a few miles from us, close to the sea in Porthleven, Flexi-Hex have created an innovative range of paper-based packaging that protects the planet, the oceans and of course your products. Their packaging is all 100% Plastic Free, Recyclable, Biodegradable and Compostable.  Using a patented, expandable, honeycomb design, Flexi-Hex provides superior protection around fragile products, as demonstrated by their bottle drop video.



The first Flexi-Hex products to be available through Forms Plus are their Pinch Top Boxes and Bottle Sleeves for shipping one, two or three bottles.  Not only do they protect the planet and ensure your drinks arrive safely, they also look great, improving the customer unboxing experience with their gift-like appearance. Benefits of Flexi-Hex bottle packaging include:

  • Superior protection against drops, atmospheric conditions, shock and vibrations
  • Impeccable environmental credentials – Plastic Free, Recyclable, Biodegradable and Compostable. Made from FSC Certified paper
  • Post-ready, quick and easy to assemble – the bottle slides in, in less than 20 seconds
  • Compact and cheap to store – each sleeve packs almost flat and can expand up to 35 times its original size
  • Lightweight to pack and despatch
  • Can be branded for you, either directly onto the box or via branded tape
  • “Instagram-worthy” design to get your products noticed and improve the unpacking experience

The Flexi-Hex bottle packaging products are just a part of our growing range of environmentally friendly packaging.  We also stock Enviroflute eco-padded envelopes, eco postal boxes, book wraps, board-backed envelopes and packing tape. All our products are now scored out of 5 on our website to show their environmental credentials. This indicates whether they are Recycled, Recyclable, Biodegradable, Plastic Free or made from Sustainable Materials.  Not surprisingly, the Flexi-Hex products all score 5/5. If you would like to find out more about how Forms Plus can help you switch to more sustainable packaging for your business, do get in touch

E Commerce Trends for 2022

2022 Trends for E Commerce

At the start of the New Year, we look ahead to see what experts are predicting will change for E-Commerce in 2022 and which trends are here to stay.

Social Commerce

Are you using Facebook and Instagram as a sales channel? Adding Shops to your Social Media channels provides a seamless buying journey for your followers. With Social Commerce sales predicted to triple by 2025 (Statista Research), it makes sense to allow fans to buy directly from your Social profiles rather than having to make the jump to your website.  

Subscriptions

Whether for life’s essentials such as meal boxes, toilet paper and deodorant, treats such as beauty products and wine, or even a monthly gift box for your pet – subscriptions are here to stay and growing fast.  A Royal Mail report estimates that the subscription box market in the UK will be worth £1.8bn by 2025.   

Subscription boxes will be worth £1.8bn by 2025

Focus on Sustainable Products and Packaging

Shopify’s recent Future of Commerce report tells us that a huge 77% of customers are now concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy.  Customers are looking for less plastic in packaging, lower carbon emissions from deliveries and of course, sustainably developed products.

At Forms Plus, we are working hard to develop our Eco-Friendly Packaging Range which now includes plastic-free, compostable protective packaging from Flexi-Hex and Enviro Flute padded envelopes. These are now available alongside our existing range of recycled, recyclable and biodegradable packaging.

Flexi-Hex Plastic Free Bottle Packaging
77% of customers want their purchase to be eco-friendly

Pre-loved

The drive for sustainability has also led to many ways to sell second-hand goods, particularly clothing. Marketplaces such as Vinted and Loopster provide a route for anyone to sell clothes they don’t wear. Some retailers, such as Cucumber Clothing  are adding pre-owned collections to their online stores.  Thrift+ works with brands including FatFace, Zara and Monsoon to encourage their customers to re-sell their clothes for charity rather than adding them to landfill.

Gamification

Many brands are introducing online games and challenges to motivate consumers to interact and shop more. Molton Brown used festive online games with real prizes to gather email addresses, showcase its Christmas range and boost traffic online and in-store. How could you use games to encourage customers to visit your site more and spend longer browsing?

Charity Partnerships

Whilst schemes such as 1% for the Planet have been around a while, many brands now build in ways for customers to donate to a charity of their choice through their purchases. Pets at Home customers can select a local animal charity to benefit every time you use your loyalty card.  Many retailers, including Accessorise and Hush chose to give a charitable donation rather than a discount during Black Friday 2021

2022 Trends for E Commerce
What is predicted for 2022?

Payment Methods

After contact-less sales exploded in-store through the COVID-pandemic, customers are now looking for more flexible ways to pay online.  According to research from Mastercard, 93% of consumers are now considering new payment methods such as biometrics, cryptocurrencies and QR Codes.  Should you find out more about these options?

Supporting Local

With big changes on the High Street due to COVID, customers are looking for ways to buy from local companies online.  According to Shopify, 47% of consumers said that having a local presence was a significant factor for which brands they choose to buy from .  With simple ways to set up e-commerce stores, from Instagram Shops and Etsy seller accounts, to simple Shopify stores, everyone has a chance to sell online, and people want to buy from you! Local-specific marketplaces such as Bookshop.org are making this even easier.

Some of these changes have been driven by the COVID outbreak, others by technological developments and many by the huge growth in concern for the environment amongst consumers.  Whatever the spark, all these trends seem set to grow. 

Do share your own experiences of these new ways of selling on our Social Media channels and get in touch if you need any help moving to eco-friendly packaging.

Preparing for E-Commerce Peak 2021 – Are You Ready?

Prepare for Christmas

What will Christmas look like for online sellers in 2021? How can you prepare?

Last Christmas, the holiday season saw two years’ worth of growth in a single year for e-commerce. A year on and COVID, winter colds and flu are still concerns, so online businesses are set to take up centre stage once again. After recent fuel shortages, empty supermarket shelves, a shortage of delivery drivers and the impact of a last-minute lockdown in 2020, experts are predicting that concerned shoppers will buy their gifts even earlier this year. Many say they are aiming to tick off most of their list before December is even underway. So, how can e-commerce businesses set themselves up for success?

Be Prepared for Early Shoppers

Shopping early is good news for online sellers. It means that if you manage your stock well, you really can make the most of the season, but you do need to be well prepared for an earlier rush. Dayna Johnson of Etsy is going as far as to advise that “it’s not just the product that small businesses need to be mindful of, as they’ll need to replenish supplies of packaging, tape and labels to get gifts to customers quickly and safely”(Forbes). We’re currently seeing shortages of cardboard worldwide, so do get your packaging orders in early to make sure we have what you need available.

Prepare for Christmas

Address Delivery Concerns

Aside from managing your product stock and your supply of despatch and packing materials, there are a few other things you can do to prepare.  With the much-discussed driver shortages, customers are worried about delivery times this year. Make sure your Shipping information is clear, up-to-date, and easy to find on your website.  Publicise your last shipping date for Christmas widely as it gets closer – on your website, Social Media and advertising.

Get Your Website Ready to Compete

With 2020 a boom year for many e-commerce businesses, it may be a struggle to meet the same figures in 2021.  Although the e-commerce share of the retail market remains high, competition has grown in many sectors.  You may find that you have more competitors this year, and that existing competitors have upped their game.  What can you do to prepare for this? Take a fresh look at your website. Is it easy to buy from on both mobile and desktop? Does it highlight the products you really want to sell? How does it compare to the competition? Are you also ready to sell through Social Media stores which are playing an even bigger role this year?

 

Check Your Marketing Activity is Ready

Marketing teams are working a lot harder in 2021 to compete. Are you advertising in the right places to bring in plenty of sales?  Do you have cart abandonment emails set up to catch customers who get distracted mid-shop? Have you set up delivery time reminders? Do you have strong image and video content for your Social Media channels? Christmas is prime time for “discovery shopping” when people are looking for gifts, but not necessarily clear on what exactly they want (Criteo).  Make sure potential customers can easily discover your products, on search engines, on Social Media and through any offline channels where they might find you.

Upscale Your Customer Service

Customer service may also need ramping up through the next few weeks.  Are enough of your team available to deal with any enquiries? Do you have chat enabled on your website to handle urgent queries? Do you need to increase cover at evenings or weekends?  If you are struggling for staff, what can you add to your website to address common customer service queries? Is there any information missing? Do you need to fix anything that is a common cause of problems?

Let Forms Plus Help

With Black Friday under 6 weeks away and Christmas just 10 weeks away, we are currently well-stocked with labels and packaging and ready to receive your orders. Do get in touch to get yours in early.

Sustainable Packaging – An Introduction

Enviroflute Paper Based Recyclable Padded Bags

At Forms Plus, we work hard to ensure our business decisions have a positive impact on the environment. Living and working in Cornwall, close to the sea and beautiful beaches, we are lucky to benefit from stunning natural surroundings. It is only natural then for us to take a look at the packaging products we sell, and make sure they are selected to be as eco-friendly as possible. 

Over the past few months, we have been researching environmentally friendly packaging options and looking into the claims made around packaging and the environment. This has helped us to see the best way to develop our range, making sure we both provide what our customers need and do the best we can for the environment.  97% of those of you who helped us with our research said that it was important both to you and your customers to use eco-friendly packaging, so we thought we would share some of that information with you to help you make well-informed decisions of your own.

Enviroflute Plastic Free Protective Packaging
We now sell Enviroflute plastic free protective envelopes

We thought we would start by explaining some of the terms we already use on our products’ ‘Eco Benefits’ listings. We chose to keep this simple and focus on five main terms:

Plastic Free -these products do not contain any plastics made from fossil fuels.  Instead, they use natural materials which will biodegrade easily, for example our new Eco Padded Envelopes from Enviroflute. 

Recyclable – this means that a certain percentage of the product’s materials must be able to be made into something else, usually via normal household recycling. Our cardboard Mailing Boxes can be totally recycled. Other products can be partially recycled, for example the paper part of our padded envelopes can be recycled, if separated from the plastic interior.   

Biodegradable – the material in these products is free from toxins and will be broken down safely and naturally by bacteria over time, so will not pollute the environment.  Our Paper Tape is a biodegradable alternative to standard polypropylene tape.

Sustainable Materials – sustainable products are made from materials that do not deplete or degrade the environment.  For example, the paper in our Padded Envelopes is sourced within the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification which means that the paper is made from well managed forests that will continue to support their local environment and population for years to come.

Recycled – if a product is listed as Recycled, it means that the materials it is made from have been used before. All our Mailing Bags  are made from 100% recycled material. Using recycled, rather than single-use materials, reduces landfill and cuts down on usage of raw materials.

Using these terms to rank our products, we have now launched our Eco Products Range – do click to have a look. 

There are also a host of other terms you will hear relating to packaging. A few of these are explained below:

Compostable Packaging Logo

Compostable – the material in these products will biodegrade but will do so into organic matter that not only breaks down but does so in such a way as to benefit the environment, improving soil health and acting as a fertiliser.

Plastic Free – many of the new products we are looking into adding to our range, are plastic free alternatives to products such as bubble wrap or polythene packaging. Our research shows that both Forms Plus customers and the public are keen to see plastic free packaging used whenever possible.  However, it is still very hard to find plastic free products that are as resilient, as protective, and as affordable as the plastic version, so we are also working on making sure all our products that do contain plastic have other eco-benefits. This includes being made from recycled plastic, being recyclable or made from biodegradable forms of plastic. 

Current plastic free options in our range include Cardboard Packaging, Board Backed Envelopes and Paper Tape.

Carbon Neutral – whilst once a real buzz word, our research showed that our customers and the public found Carbon Neutral the least interesting of the eco-benefits discussed. Carbon neutrality is normally achieved by offsetting the carbon produced in making products, by funding projects which protect and restore carbon-rich environments such as tropical rainforests. Closer to home, you can help cut carbon emissions by choosing packaging that is the right size for the items you are shipping, saving on vehicle space and emissions by using products such as Book Wraps or Postal Tubes rather than large boxes. 


Overall, our research showed that demand for eco-friendly packaging is on the rise, both from online sellers and from their customers.  In general, every reseller wants to use eco-friendly packaging. The challenge is to find the right products to protect whatever you are shipping to at least the level it is protected now, whilst maintaining costs that we can all bear. 

We are working hard to research and develop our range and will let you know when new items become available.  At this stage, we would like to thank those of you who completed our survey or took the time out for a phone interview with us.   We learned a great deal from talking to you.  In the meantime, if you have any queries about the eco-benefits of our products, or other suggestions to help us develop our environmentally friendly packaging range, do visit our Eco Products Range or get in touch.

 

Improving Your Business – What to Consider When Changing Your E-Commerce Platform

E Commerce Platforms

Are you thinking of changing the e-commerce platform you use but nervous of the migration process? In our latest blog we will look at everything you need to consider, how to decide if you really need to re-platform and the plans you should put in place to make the switch as smooth as possible for your business and customers.

Why Re-Platform? Do You Need to Switch?

Before doing anything else, make sure you are clear WHY you are considering migrating to a different e-commerce platform.

Common reasons for re-platforming include:

  • Costs – If it is costing you too much to run your current platform, and you are not growing to support that cost, it might be time to move.
  • Difficulties with Development – If you have trouble finding developers, the platform is no longer well supported or just can’t keep pace with the innovations you want to make, that is another reason to migrate to something more flexible.
  • Performance – Is your e-commerce platform slow? Difficult for customers to use?  Suffering from outages? None of these need to be an issue in 2021. There are plenty of reliable options you could switch to.
  • Growth – Do you need to improve your e-commerce platform to accommodate more products, more categories of product, more users or users in more territories? All great reasons to change. 

Whatever your reasons are for re-platforming, make sure you have them down in black and white, so you can be sure that the new platform will meet those requirements. 

E Commerce Platforms

How do I Choose an E-Commerce Platform? 

Look at why you are moving and all the options available. Think about where your business is heading and choose a platform that should accommodate you for at least 5 years if your plans work out. 

Ask yourself:

  • Does the new platform meet all our requirements for changing?
  • Does the new platform work with our existing online presence – blogs, other website content, Social Media, marketplace listings?
  • Does the new platform support any integrations we need such as CRM, warehouse management APIs, email marketing, Trust Pilot and your preferred payment methods?
  • How much will it cost? Alongside development costs, consider the ongoing costs. These will include platform subscription costs, fees for Apps or Plugins, processing fees for payments and, for some platforms, hosting fees. 

Get it right this time, you do not want to migrate again. 

Which Are the Best E-Commerce Platforms?

Have a look at a range of online shop platforms before making your choice. The most popular in the UK include:  

  • Wix – OK for small stores and beginner friendly if you are building the site yourself.
  • Squarespace  – also mostly used for smaller stores but growing and with more design options than Wix.
  • Shopify – by far the most popular e-commerce platform in the UK. You can choose from many existing themes or have a bespoke designed store.  Integrations with other tools such as Live Chat, Facebook/Instagram and Email are excellent.  Fully integrated payments and options to sell offline too with Shopify POS are also helpful. 
  • WordPress and WooCommerce – can work well where the site is both a “brochure” for your company and needs a shop section, done via WooCommerce. You will also need hosting.  This is what Forms Plus use for our Online Shop.
  • BigCommerce – ideal for growing, purely e-commerce businesses wing. Variety of themes to help you get going quickly or bespoke options.  Detailed reporting and product management processes. 
  • Marketplaces – another option is to avoid setting up a site yourself and build your store on an existing marketplace such as Etsy, Ebay or Amazon.

Most platforms offer a 14-day free trial, so use that opportunity to explore the options and get a feel for any you are considering.

Check How Data Will Be Migrated

A key question for your developers will be how to migrate your existing data.  Do you need to move across all your customer data and sales history?  How far back should you go?  You do not want to inconvenience customers by asking them to set up new accounts on the new site if you don’t have to.   

Can your product data be migrated? Most platforms will give you the option to export all your product descriptions and imagery and import swiftly into the new site but do check. If not, you may have a large job on your hands.

Plan Your Migration Date and Time

Choose developers who are happy to work out-of-hours and make the switch late at night or a time that is quiet for you.  Do not make any big changes at peak times, for example in the months before Christmas. Make the swap when people are around to monitor any issues – early to mid-week is often best. No matter how well you have planned, something is bound to cause teething problems.  There is only so much you can test on a development site. Some issues will need to be ironed out live and you’ll want the team on hand.

Check Your SEO and Advertising

If your current site is getting found by search engines, preserve that.  Work with a professional to ensure your website pages are redirected properly and to avoid broken links when you change platform.

If you are using tools such as Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager or the Facebook Pixel, make sure those are moved across properly so your marketing switches smoothly. Most importantly, make sure everyone involved knows about the planned change so you can work together to prevent and manage any issues. 

Use Re-Platforming as an Opportunity to Upgrade

When you move to a new e-commerce platform, you are rebuilding a large section of your website, if not all of it.  Can you use this opportunity to improve your imagery? Upgrade product descriptions? Check the tools and integrations you use are still the best option?  It may be that the new platform works better with a different email system, means you can run new types of marketing or try different payment methods. What else needs to change in addition to the platform and can you manage that?

There is clearly a lot to consider, but by taking the time to prepare and research for your change of e-commerce platform, you can make sure you make the right choice and migrate your online shop with minimal disruption.  If there is anything we at Forms Plus can do to help along the way, do get in touch.

Improving Your Business – How to Add and Manage Reviews on Your Website

Reviews and Star Ratings

After an extremely busy year for e-commerce, these quieter Summer months before the Christmas rush, can be a good time to address those business improvements that may have been on your to-do list for some time.  This is the first in a series of blogs aimed at helping online sellers improve their business’ performance.  We hope they will be helpful to you.

The first topic we are looking at is Reviews – specifically, why you should have Reviews on your site, how to add them and how to manage them. 

Why Should You Include Reviews on Your E-Commerce Site?

Reviews are a powerful tool in converting browsing website visitors into customers.  According to a survey in 2020,  91% of people read reviews and 84% trust online reviews as much as they would trust a friend. The facts are simple – customers trust reviews. According to Inc.com, simply reading between 1 and 6 reviews can persuade someone to buy. 

For some types of business, such as hospitality, fashion and healthcare, reviews are even more important.

How Do You Add Reviews to an E-Commerce Site?

There are many ways to add reviews to your site. Which options are available will depend on the platform you are using.  Shopify sites have the option of a free Product Reviews App. The App is easy to add and customise, SEO friendly and simple to manage. Other recommended options for product-level reviews include Yotpo, and Okendo .

To make your choice, investigate the pricing, how the App works with your theme, and if you like the look of the management interface.  Some Apps bring in additional User Generated Content, such as photos of the customer wearing your product and most have reminder options using email or SMS.  Many also work with Google, to bring your reviews and star ratings into your Google listings. 

If you are looking for reviews of your business, rather than for specific products, you might decide to use platforms such as TrustPilot, Feefo or Yelp. These have the benefit of being visible both on your site and on the review platforms own listings.

At Forms Plus, we recently started using Trust Pilot.  Our MD, Victoria Andrews told us:

“Trust Pilot reviews have given us useful insights into what our customers actually think of our products and service. We have been extremely pleased with the consistent 5-star reviews we have received, confirming we are good at what we do. It is also always helpful to hear where there is room for improvement or changes that would help our customers.”

For overall reviews of your business, you should also definitely be gathering reviews on Google My Business.   This will help your profile within Google Search and is often the first review someone will see of your business.

Reviews and Star Ratings
Star Ratings are an important part of every review

Which Elements of Reviews Matter to Customers?

Research shows that the parts of a review that customers pay the most attention to are:

  • Star Rating – A one-star increase on Yelp consistently leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue
  • Recency – when was the review written?
  • Legitimacy – was this a real purchase?
  • Sentiment – is the review overall positive, negative or neutral?
  • Quantity – how many reviews do you have? Customers may read up to 10 reviews before deciding, most read at least 4.

How Do I Get More Reviews?

This one is simple… Ask! According to Bright Local, 73% of consumers who were asked to write a review for a business wrote one.  Make it as easy as possible by sending a direct link to the review platform. If you have a reviews app, set it to automatically ask for a review a few days after delivery (or when you think most appropriate). 

You can ask for reviews by email, by SMS, in person at the point of sale, on your despatch note or receipt, via Social Media, via handwritten notes in your delivery package or over the phone. 

Do be careful however if you decide to offer an incentive for writing a review.  Rewarding customers for writing reviews goes against many review sites’ guidelines and could soon even become illegal in the UK. 

Importance of E Commerce Reviews
What do you have in place to make sure you gather enough reviews?

What Do I Need to do to Manage Reviews?

The main thing is to keep an eye on your reviews and respond quickly.  You may choose to thank people for positive reviews and use them to highlight your strengths. For negative reviews, you will almost always need to reply and to do so promptly.

If a bad review is the result of a known fault or mistake, apologise and put things right.  If you need to, take the discussion to a private platform, but always reply publicly as well, so other readers can see you have responded.  See a negative review as an opportunity to put things right and turn the negative into a positive. Most importantly, be human and try to avoid sounding like a corporation.  You might choose to include your first name in your response, to help the reviewer feel they are talking to a real person who takes their issue seriously.

If the review is unfair, profane, a personal attack, fake or just a troll, don’t be afraid to report it and remove it (if you can). You don’t need to waste your time trying to fix reviews like that.

In summary, reputation management through nurturing reviews should be a major part of your marketing strategy.  Asking for, monitoring, and responding to reviews can be time consuming but can also have a major impact, reduce advertising costs and help you build a loyal customer base.

If you would like to leave a review for us on TrustPilot, we’d be very grateful. You can do so on the TrustPilot Site.

Celebrating Our Team – Together Everyone Achieves More

Over the past tricky year, with many teams working remotely, people on furlough and business as usual so disrupted, it has been easy to feel isolated.  Whatever measures are in place for keeping in touch, nothing quite gives the same feel of team support as being back in the office together.

At Forms Plus we have been lucky to be able to carry on (almost!) as usual through the pandemic. In fact, business has grown, partly in line with our existing expansion plans and partly fuelled by the nationwide boost in e-commerce.   This has meant a few personnel changes and new members joining our team, so we thought we would take this opportunity to update you all.

First of all though, we have some important occasions to mark for existing team members….

Congratulations to Jo and Kayley

After celebrating Victoria Andrews’ 30 Years at Forms Plus a few months ago (with some fabulous photos of her hair dos through the years!), it is now time for Jo Carter, our Finance Director to celebrate.  Jo has now been with the company for an incredible 25 years. We are all so grateful to Jo for her long service, helping steer our ship for so long and keeping us on the financial straight and narrow. Thanks Jo and here is to the next 25!

Jo celebrates 25 years at Forms Plus

Kayley Saunders has been with Forms Plus since 2016 and is a Print Co-ordinator. You might remember her wedding photos, when she visited us in her wedding gown on the back of her grandfather’s classic truck.  Kayley went on maternity leave in January and gave birth to Torvin Michael David on 19th February, weighing 7lb 6oz.  Welcome to the world Torvin and congratulations Kayley.

Kayley and Torvin
Kayley and Torvin

Welcome To Our New Team Members

Alex Kemp has joined us as Telesales Team Leader. Energetic, ambitious and considerate, Alex grew up locally in Falmouth and enjoys playing football, watching football and spending time with his family at the weekends.  His favourite piece of advice anyone has given him is “It only takes one good call to turn your day around.” So, why not give Alex a call soon and ask him how his team got on at the weekend?

Alex Kemp
Alex Kemp

Amelia Labdon is new to the team as an Administrator. Amelia is a West Country girl having grown up in Somerset and is enjoying living in Cornwall, especially sea swimming and watching the sunset.  Her favourite piece of advice is, “When you get stressed or something is bothering you, talk about it, don’t bottle it up.” She describes herself as organised and friendly so we think she should fit right in!  

Amelia at Forms Plus
Amelia Labdon

Sabrina Burton Nicholls has joined Forms Plus as our Accounts Assistant.  She describes herself as social, loving and determined. This is reflected in her own favourite piece of advice – “Don’t give up, you can do anything!” Sabrina grew up in London and enjoys woodwork, making stuff and anything creative.  Like many of the Forms Plus Team, she is also keen on keeping fit.

Sabrina Burton Nicholls

As regular readers of our blog will know, we work hard to look after our team and each other, not only with formal schemes such as the Healthy Workplace Award projects we get involved with, but as friends who have, in many cases, worked together for many years.  Not only does that help with morale and enjoying work, it also means that we have built up a strong core of knowledge and experience that benefits our customers. 

Our new Team Members all look forward to working with you. Do get in touch if we can help at all with your labels or packaging requirements. 

Mental Health: Returning to the Workplace after COVID

Back To Work at Forms Plus

At Forms Plus we take pride in our Healthy Workplace Gold Award and work hard to support the physical and mental wellbeing of our team.  As we adapt to the changes enforced on our working lives by COVID, we have been looking into advice for moving out of lockdown and into the “new normal”.   

A recent survey by The HR Director of over 2000 people found that:

  • 68% believe that we should now have the choice to work from home
  • 76% do not want to go back into an office full-time
  • 41% say working from home helps improve our mental health
  • 50% still do not feel safe returning to work
  • 23% would consider resigning if forced to work from an office full-time

Office-based companies such as Forms Plus, and many of our clients, have had to consider what these responses mean for us, and how to help our staff settle back in after so much change. We thought we would share our research in case it is helpful to you and your teams.

Connection

Connection has been very important throughout the pandemic.  Whilst many of our team did manage to continue working in the office, due to shielding and caring responsibilities, some could not.  We made a real effort to encourage those at home to stay connected.  We included them in office treats, such as “Flapjack Friday” and ensured they were able to keep in touch via calls, Zoom and email. 

We have also tried to stay connected personally, checking in on how individuals are feeling and coping with the pandemic, as well as managing work matters.  That need for connection remains, so we will continue these practices for anyone working remotely, part-time or full-time, going forward.

Back To Work at Forms Plus

Routine

Loss of routine has been a major cause of mental and physical health challenges during COVID. Maybe you didn’t have to get up as early as usual, without a commute to work, or to get your children off to school.  Getting back into a normal routine is hard after a brief holiday. We acknowledge that will be even harder after a year of disruption.

For many, balancing home schooling and remote working led to strange hours at the desk.  Re-establishing a normal bed and wake-up time is important. Sticking to that at weekends too, for a little while, can help you get more rest and feel more able to manage the workday and enjoy your downtime.

Getting back into the swing of a normal routine does not take long but in the early days, some employers are offering flexible start and finish times to help their teams adjust.  Not such an issue here in Cornwall, but varying hours could also be helpful for anyone who is anxious about the infection risk of using public transport at peak times.

Managing “Re-entry” Anxiety

We all want our teams to be confident about returning to work and it is only normal that some will be anxious about coming out of their home “bubble”.  Of course, we have implemented all the COVID-secure workplace guidance for our team. We have also upped precautions to reduce risks from visitors – with hand sanitiser, temperature checks and increased hygiene in shared areas. Making these measures seem “normal” is all part of the job of helping everyone adapt and be relaxed about coming back to work.

Other than that, it is about accepting that everything we have heard on the news, and the impact of illness on our own friends and family, is inevitably going to cause some levels of anxiety.  Some team members may be more concerned than others. We encourage everyone to be open and let us know if they need more social distance, would prefer to keep wearing a mask or would rather not engage with external meetings. 

As always, our Mental Health First Aiders are on hand for chats and walks to talk through any worries and offer support as appropriate.

Covid Thermometer testing for visitors

Finally, Time for a Wardrobe Refresh!

One favourite piece of advice for individuals returning to work is to have a bit of a wardrobe makeover. After a year in sweatshirts and leggings, a couple of new outfits or just the odd piece to refresh your look can be a real mood booster, helping you feel more professional and ready for action. Just remember that feeling of having new school uniform in September and you’ll see where we are coming from!

After the immense disruption of the past year, it is inevitable that people will reassess how they feel about work.  With our own spacious, purpose-built premises in Cornwall, we have been lucky throughout COVID to have the space to socially distance and the ability to enjoy the great outdoors.  We are also lucky that many of our staff have been with us for sometime. We really value their knowledge and experience so will support them all, the best we can. 

We wish you all the best of luck as you adapt to your own team’s changing needs. Do get in touch if you’d like to learn more about our Healthy Workplace strategies – or indeed if we can help with labels or packaging.

For further advice on managing mental wellbeing as we emerge from lockdown, you may find these resources useful:

One Year On – How has COVID Changed E-Commerce?

E Commerce Delivery During COVID

This time last year, the UK was still getting used to lockdown. Our retail experience had disappeared down into the once-a-week trip to the supermarket, queuing to get in, shopping alone and fearful of infection.  One year on and things are looking more positive. As retail opens back up, Forms Plus have had a look back over a year that has changed e-commerce for ever. 

For many shoppers, just a few days into lockdown, the realisation that online shopping was an option had not quite kicked in. It took a while to understand that we may choose to shop online for things such as toilet paper, plants or paint – as well as the small part of our shopping we were used to doing via the internet.  March and April 2020 saw growth in online sales of food and drink, health and beauty, clothing and accessories.  Later on sales of fitness gear soared, home office equipment saw a big boost and parents stocked up on toys and games to entertain and educate their children.  As the year went on, DIY supplies, kitchenware and electronics also boomed. 

E Commerce Delivery During COVID

From the start, for retailers, the challenge was how to turn customer footfall into online growth. Whilst major online retailers such as Amazon and ASOS had the infrastructure in place for the sudden surge in e-commerce, for smaller retailers, both the technology and the logistics of coping with much greater volumes of online sales posed a challenge. Bricks and mortar sellers needed to get online fast, and Shopify was a key platform (and beneficiary) for that sudden growth.  New online tools popped up all over, including Click and Collect options for stores and restaurants, and totally new websites appeared such as Bookshop, which helps independent booksellers sell online.

E-commerce sellers also faced difficulties with warehousing, stock availability and meeting delivery promises.  As online shopping grew more competitive, benefits such as free delivery and no quibble returns became increasingly important to shoppers.  Handling returns, with enhanced hygiene protocols to protect those handling items coming back, was an additional challenge for sellers.

For companies who were able to meet customer needs, the efforts paid off.  Customer loyalty faltered, with shoppers happy to try out any brand that had stock availability and could provide fast, free shipping.  Traditionally, the growth of an e-commerce brand could be expected to be around 15% year on year.  Looking at February 2021 compared to 2020, according to the Drum many online sellers grew 40-50%.

The COVID E-Commerce Boom in Statistics

  • Feb 2020 – Internet Sales made up 19% of Total Retail Sales.  By Feb 2021 that figure was 34.5% (ONS)
  • Shopify’s Q4 revenue in 2020 was 94% up year-on-year!
  • Furlough in the retail and wholesale sector peaked with 1.85 million employees furloughed in April 2020, and by the end of January 2021 was at around 935,500 employees furloughed. (HMRC)
  • In the US, e-commerce penetration grew by 10 years in a 90-day period in 2020 according to data from McKinsey
  • UK Online Sales grew 74% year-on-year from January 2020 to 2021 (IMRG CapGemini)
  • 32% of customers plan to stick to their new online shopping habits -(Retail Economics and NatWest)
  • The giants of retail were the biggest winners and losers.  Amazon reported a 51% increase in UK Sales in 2020 and Primark lost around £650m by not being online.
Retail Opening Up

All the signs show that post lockdown, e-commerce is still predicted to grow.  Retail Economics analysts predict that 53% of UK Retail will be online by 2028.  Part of this growth is simply because so many people have discovered the time-saving convenience of online shopping and are likely to continue with their lockdown habits.  Others remain fearful of infection in crowded streets or are uncomfortable with queues and social distancing protocols. 

Social Distancing

Research shows that older, more affluent customers are particularly sure that they will continue to stick with online shopping.  If you have the right items in stock, and offer free, fast shipping and easy returns, customers are happy to continue shopping online and to branch out and discover new brands – so the market is there for the taking.

Many of course will continue to enjoy the benefits of both online and in-store retail. We have all missed touching and seeing products and the joy of browsing in person. The queues as stores opened up make it clear that the High Street is far from over.

If you need any help with forms, labels or packaging for your e-commerce business, do get in touch.  We look forward to helping you navigate this next phase.