While taking steps to lower manufacturing costs and improve communications with your manufacturing partners are important, few things matter more for the long-term success of your e-commerce business than having adequate quality control measures in place.
After all, it’s estimated that 30% of online orders are returned — and quite often, a damaged or low-quality product is the reason why. You don’t want poor quality to drive up your costs associated with processing returns or to result in negative reviews for your online store. To keep your e-commerce business on the right track, you must implement sound quality control measures.
- Conduct In-Depth Supplier Research
Quality control starts with selecting the right suppliers — suppliers who have high standards of manufacturing quality. To vet potential suppliers, start by evaluating their reputation and processes. What do online reviews say about them? What kind of quality control processes do their facilities implement? Getting the answers to these questions upfront can help you identify quality partners or spot red flags with less suitable suppliers.
Another option to check the quality of a potential manufacturing partner is to conduct a trial run or request a product sample before committing to a large-scale partnership. The ability to physically handle the work of a supplier will give you first-hand knowledge of their quality in a way that can’t be replicated by looking at images or reading reports.
While no supplier is perfect, starting by ensuring you are working with a quality supplier will go a long way in setting a baseline for consistent product quality. In addition, the right suppliers will also help you mitigate supply chain disruptions so you can avoid issues like stockouts — ensuring a quality shopping experience for customers who expect to find items in stock whenever they visit your website.
- Define Quality Standards
Even when you have thoroughly vetted a potential manufacturing partner, you must also establish your own quality standards to establish accountability for your partnership. This starts by setting clear and specific quality standards for each product. Quite often, this will involve carefully going over design specifications and requirements for the products with your partner. Collaborative design can help find the right balance between performance, durability and cost.
A quality manufacturing partner should be conducting their own inspections and product tests to ensure that the finished products live up to desired standards. However, you can also conduct your own quality checks to ensure that products meet quality standards before you make them available on your website.
Defining quality standards is a conversation that should happen both with your internal team, and again with your manufacturing partner. Consider your budget, target audience and desired product performance so you can set realistic and appropriate quality standards. Collaborating with your manufacturing partner will help you find the right solutions.
- Track and Monitor Quality Output
Even with a strong supplier relationship and clear quality standards established, you can never take a “set it and forget it” approach to quality control. You must continuously monitor the quality of your partners’ manufacturing output throughout your relationship.
This starts by tracking metrics with your manufacturing partner such as their first pass yield — the number of quality units divided by the number of total units produced — to get an understanding of the percentage of defective products that are found during the manufacturing process. You may also wish to evaluate downtime and lead times to ensure a partner continues to meet your overall production needs.
Of course, e-commerce stores can also look to their customers to help them track product quality. Tracking the sentiment of customer reviews and ratings, as well as analyzing the frequency and reason for product returns, can help you identify potential quality control issues before they become a major source of lost revenue.
Using software that helps you track customer sentiment surrounding your brand online, as well as setting up a system to capture customer feedback for returns and complaints, will streamline this process so you can quickly address any concerns.
- Ensure Proper Website Functionality
As an e-commerce store, the manufacturing process isn’t the only area where consistent quality control measures are needed. You must ensure that your e-commerce website functions as expected to deliver a seamless shopping experience for your customers.
Basic functionality ensures making sure that all pages load correctly and that navigation links and your search function take users to the appropriate pages. Website quality control should also cover the content of your product pages to confirm their accuracy.
Perhaps most important, the digital shopping cart and checkout process should operate smoothly and securely. The Baymard Institute cites untrustworthy sites, complicated checkout processes and website errors among the top ten reasons for abandoned shopping carts, highlighting just how important website quality control can be in getting customers to complete a purchase.
In addition to ensuring that design, content, and functionality are all up to par, you should regularly test your website’s performance. Running load tests, checking page speed and ensuring that all pages are accessible with mobile devices will help you implement any needed changes before they disrupt the shopping experience. After all, how professional your website looks and runs will reflect how customers perceive your products before they ever place an order.
By taking the necessary steps to ensure that your digital storefront is operating like it should and that your finished products are meeting your quality expectations, you can deliver the shopping experience that your customers expect. By consistently delivering a quality experience and products, you will create loyal customers and drive growth for your e-commerce business.