Underperforming e-commerce is typically rooted in unfulfilled customer expectations.
If your online business isn’t meeting critical goals in areas such as revenue, customer retention and satisfaction or internal efficiencies, it may be due to common mistakes you can avoid.
If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know that “Field of Dreams” rules don’t apply. That is to say, just because you’ve built a web store doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to hit revenue goals out of the park now or ever.
In fact, in spite of all your effort and investment, you might unwittingly be working against your own revenue and customer loyalty opportunities. Consider the following top five ways that businesses inadvertently become their own online brand assassins:
1) Make communication one-way
If you have a clearly defined product set or service offering of any kind, both immediate and downstream customers usually have something to say about it. Sales forces are excellent sources of feedback that can help companies identify opportunities for improvement. The best way to stop growth in its tracks is to assume that you know what your customer needs without listening to them first.
“One of the benefits of doing business today is the ability to maintain a direct line of communication with your customers or end users,” says Greg Deitch, President of the Trabon Solutions. “If you’re willing to implement technology that supports the kinds of conversations your customers want or need, you have a powerful resource for informed decision-making.”
Are you inviting your customers to review your products or services, or offering 24/7 customer service access via live chat? Whether you need mobile applications or integrated catalog and inventory capabilities, the right tools can help you support on-demand customer service, monitor your brand or products in social media conversations, and gain real-time analytics so you don’t miss opportunities.
2) Opt for short-term results as opposed to long-term solutions
When an issue arises within a complex system, do you assume the resolution is equally complex and twice as expensive? If so, you’re not alone. But developing work-arounds or shortcuts ultimately devours time and money. You can wind up shortchanging your customers, vendors and employees.
“We had a client with an army of sales representatives that saw about $100K/year in web sales,” says Chief Technology Officer Chris Schibi. “Their e-commerce site was a mess. If you searched for a product in their online catalog, the search either returned nothing at all or too many unrelated products. There was no variable pricing capability, no supply chain integration – you name it, it really wasn’t working for them.”
Rather than limp along, the client opted for a store-front redesign that gracefully integrated their pricing and supply chain systems. The business saw their sales increase from $100K/year to $100K/day. Now, the company’s army of sales representatives is a sophisticated, high-end service organization that leverages reliable, self-service web sales to deliver higher margins and satisfied customers.
3) Make doing business with you a challenge
If your customers or vendors have to spend more time than they expected looking for what they need on your site, or they have to expend more effort completing an online transaction than they would if dealing directly with a sales representative, you’re not just putting up roadblocks – you’re demolishing the road.
Have you put the technology and business processes in place that address your customers’ key pain points? Will your customers and vendors find accurate, consistent information at every point of the sales cycle? Do you make returning or exchanging products simple for your customers? What about finding basic information or asking a procedural question? Inconvenienced, frustrated people do not convert, and they don’t become loyal, repeat customers. If you aren’t making it easy for people to do business with you, they will go elsewhere (and take their associates with them).
4) Operate blindly
A surgeon wouldn’t pick up a scalpel without knowing where the patient’s injuries lie. But business leaders make these kinds of gambles with e-commerce more often than you might think.
A recent study from Gartner revealed that while almost two-thirds of the nearly 500 enterprise business and IT leaders surveyed know which key performance indicators (KPIs) are business-critical for them, nearly half of them don’t have the ability to access these metrics. And only one-third of them have a dashboard in place to guide them.
“It’s hard to know if your efforts are working if you’re constantly begging for metrics from multiple partners or struggling with gaining visibility to the data you already have,” Schibi says. “That’s why having a process management and operational intelligence platform is so important. You have to be able to not only identify disruptions or opportunities, but also be able to respond quickly.”
Do you know what success means for your business? Are you able to measure KPIs that matter, such as cart abandonment, median order size and gross margin, or order fulfillment times and success rates? Or are you missing or overlooking some of these critical metrics? Performance monitoring with real time analytics and dashboards can help you measure successes and challenges in a meaningful way as well as offer actionable remedies when change is needed.
5) OVER PROMISE and under deliver
Store-front capabilities such as customizable shopping lists were a “nice-to-have” only a few short years ago but today, they often stand as a baseline expectation. And in today’s always-connected online marketplace, a negative customer experience can influence both customers’ opinion and dollars spent.
If you make promises on your site (or anywhere) with regard to your capabilities – whether in terms of delivery times, service or support availability, or quality – customers will hold you accountable.
“If you want your customers to trust that you have the product they see on your website, you must have a dynamic inventory system in place that gives them reliable, real-time information. It’s bad form to wait until they place their order, send them a receipt and then send them another email that says, ‘this item is currently out of stock,’” says Deitch. “At worst, that kind of behavior will teach your customers to not rely on you and at best, it will drive them to a more expensive channel to operate such as phone, fax or email.”
Change your game
Technology can deliver game changing results, improve customer experience and enhance loyalty – when it’s used in the right way. Whether that’s by:
- Facilitating, participating in or collecting conversations with your customers
- Eliminating customers’ frustrations by simplifying or removing recurrent tasks and pain points
- Making it easier to access and respond to key indicators and insights
- Unveiling information that your customers need to make decisions
Analyzing, evaluating and implementing the best-tailored solution for your line of business drives positive customer experiences, which in turn builds confidence in and loyalty to your online presence and brand.