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How to improve your online retailing

How to improve your online retailing

By Ian Davis, Director, OnDemand at ATG

We are living in an online material world, one which holds lots of promise for the retailer, but one that is not without its obstacles.

Migrating services to the web is a move which requires a lot of planning and it is essential that your online operations integrate with your other channels, in order to maximize the potential this medium holds.

Be consistent

Rather than view the internet as a separate sales operation, you must see it as one part of a much bigger function.

If you let it operate in isolation of the other channels, for example call centre or high street, not only will you lose the opportunity to analyse data for cross and up-sell purposes,  but the customer will suffer inconsistent treatment and a lack of a personalised service.

Recent research from Talisma revealed that 87 per cent of retailers showed no evidence of having integrated their email and phone channels.

Only two per cent provided online chat services and, while 71 per cent offered a frequently answered questions (FAQ) section, just 10 per cent provided a searchable Web self-service function. Only one retailer out of the 62 surveyed provided access to all four channels. This research highlights a real missed opportunity for retailers.

The technology is there to offer a highly integrated multi-channel service, and yet so many retailers are failing to do this. By integrating the channels you will improve customer service, cut costs and inspire long-term loyalty.

Catering for the “busy bumblebee” consumer

Keep in mind that when you offer your service on the web, your often patient customer, who is prepared to queue at the checkout, turns into quite a different creature when online.

Recent research from comScore revealed that UK users are the most web active in Europe, when you combine this with the fact that Packet Exchange revealed that 70 per cent of surfers won’t wait more than 10 seconds for a web-page to download, we see a picture of a rather active but very busy on-line consumer.

Much like busy bumblebees racing from flower to flower to get the best nectar, they want to select something quickly and easily and then buzz off.

Speaking from my own experience, I would happily queue at the checkout of my favourite clothing store for around five minutes in the “real” world, but if my online transaction was held in the queue for that time I would cancel my purchase and look elsewhere.

Keep it personal

In the increasingly competitive retail market you need to ensure you are offering exceptional customer service and a key element of this is the ability to offer personalised service.

It is a far nicer experience to visit a shop where the assistant will offer helpful advice on what to buy, rather that a huge, busy store where everyone is scrambling for the low cost items and the shop assistant just does not have time to help you.

Retailers need to use the data held on customers in order to vary the information and experience they receive. In that respect, personalisation isn’t a ‘feature’ you buy, but more of a design philosophy you apply when designing your site.

It is essential that the data collected across the different channels is communicated and shared across them. There is no use having information locked in one area, whether online or at the call centre.

Remember: less is more

A site does need to look attractive in order to appeal to customers; however this should not be at the expense of functionality. A site which has great graphics, but takes ages to load will only frustrate the user.

We should take cues from the “real” world and recognise how important personalisation is, but also balance this with the need to offer a fast and effective service. The on-line world is not a patient world.

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