By Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee Results – a market leaders in online customer satisfaction measurement and management.
If you're an online retailer looking at the impending Christmas season, you might think it's too late to make any changes to your web site that will affect sales. You might even be thinking you'll just have to see how the season works out online and make changes next year.
For you, here's an early Christmas present: It's absolutely not too late. Retailers still have time before the heavy online shopping begins, and there is still time to make web site enhancements or tweaks that can improve your shopper’s customer satisfaction and impact your bottom line.
Specifically, here are five changes you can put to good effect right now, for Christmas 2007:
1. Price cautiously during the Christmas season.
Be sure the impact of product pricing and shipping will have the intended effect on increasing revenues before you rush into making ”free shipping" offers.
2. Focus on search and advanced search functions.
It may sound obvious, but many retailers don't understand that the Christmas period brings the highest percentage of first-time visitors to their site through shopping search engines and aggregators. The biggest complaint I hear from online shoppers is that the search function is difficult to navigate or the advanced search is hidden.
3. Get product browsing and the ordering process right
In a study about online holiday shopping my company did last year, the two things that emerged as having the highest impact on whether customers were likely to buy were product browsing and ordering process.
Product browsing can be dealt with by addressing search functions as mentioned above, but when it comes to ordering process, make sure you have adequate and easily available online help.
Many retailers "hide" their free-phone numbers or help functions because they may not want or are able to properly staff them. But remember: If someone is looking for help on how to buy his wife or son a present for Christmas and he can't find it, he'll go elsewhere to buy.
4. Even if you don't normally have one, turn on a continuous "red alert" customer feedback channel.
It is especially important during the high-volume holiday season to capture customer feedback in real time so you can address problems quickly. Many online customers won't pick up the phone to call customer service if they hit an impasse; they'll click to a competitors site.
5. Review your recent click stream and customer satisfaction metrics with an eye toward last-minute changes.
It is not too late to make enhancements to your web site that could have a huge affect on your seasonal sales, and you could be overlooking something quick and easy.
One of our clients was able to make a quick web site adjustment after customer satisfaction metrics identified that shoppers couldn’t find what they wanted to buy online because they were confused by the category titles(for example, if home décor items were organised by collection name rather than by the room they’re intended for).
After spending months trying to prioritise web site changes, customer satisfaction metrics identified a simple change for this retailer that they were able to implement in just a few days time. Almost immediately, the change led to a significant increase in conversion rates.
These are five tips that we consistently see having the greatest impact on customer purchasing behaviours.
All five are things that companies are aware of on some level; the trick, especially this late in the season, is to put aside experimentation and guesswork about web development. Instead, its time to understand and emphasise factors that have a direct impact on the depth of customer satisfaction and loyalty, therefore paying direct dividends.
Highly satisfied shoppers will shop frequently and spend more. Focus your efforts, both large and small, on improving their satisfaction and improving your success – both this season and beyond—and you will win your customers’ loyalty.
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