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How to Stand Apart From the E-Retail Competition

How to Stand Apart From the E-Retail Competition

By Larry Freed, President & CEO of ForeSee Results.
Online retail continues to experience explosive growth and success, both in the UK and around the globe.  Online shoppers are increasingly savvy as the web-based marketplace becomes even more crowded.

For e-retailers, the convergence of these two factors indicates the need for a laser focus on customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction, when measured scientifically, is a proven predictor of loyalty and sales. Customer satisfaction can be your competitive edge. 
There are clear ways to improve satisfaction levels, and ultimately, the bottom line. The following tips are based on research with the Top 30 retailers in the United Kingdom (as measured by site traffic) using the methodology of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a globally-recognised and utilised metric.
Tip 1: Spread the word about your organisation.

Our research shows that more than one-third of online shoppers visit a particular web site because they are already familiar with the product or brand. And, this group represents high-quality web traffic, an important distinction to make when evaluating site visitors.

They are more satisfied and likely to buy again than consumers who come to the site via search engines, promotional emails, shopping aggregators or adverts. Our research bears out the truism that e-retailers must use all means necessary to remain “top of mind” in the eyes of online shoppers, or risk losing web customers to the competition.
Tip 2: Make sure your site communicates your brand promise.

Some sites seem completely disconnected from their offline channels (shops, catalogues), which can confuse consumers. Other sites don’t effectively communicate the unique qualities of the brand, according to our research. Present a clear and consistent brand image across channels, and you’ll reap the rewards of increased satisfaction and conversions.
Tip 3: Offer free delivery.

Free delivery has become a “must have” for online retailers, especially during Christmas shopping months. In fact, 34 per cent of our survey respondents cite free delivery as the most important factor in the purchase decision. And, people who recall a free delivery offer (especially one without restrictions tied to size of purchase or other factors) are happier with the retailer overall. In order to be competitive, your site needs to have a free delivery offer.
Tip 4: Make consumer product reviews available.

Fear of negative comments may keep you from providing customers with an open forum to discuss your product. Big mistake. Customers who recall consumer product reviews on the site are 10 per cent more satisfied than shoppers who don’t.

Furthermore, the group exposed to reviews is 8 per cent more likely to buy online from the retailer and 11 per cent more likely to recommend the site to others. Consumer product reviews are still not as prevalent as other site features, so your organisation has an opportunity to get a step ahead of the competition by making them available.
Tip 5: Make sure your site serves the dual purpose of both research and sales channel.

We’re living in a multi-channel world, and shoppers want options. Whilst the vast majority of survey respondents prefer to purchase online and have the product delivered, one-third prefer to buy in the shop. Likewise, whilst the website is the most popular tool for product research, it’s not for everyone.

Twenty-six per cent of shoppers prefer to research products in the shop or by perusing a catalogue. Your site will be optimally effective if it serves the needs of both consumers who want to complete the purchase on the web, and those who research online as a precursor to an offline buy, and it is crucial to your business either way. 
With these five tips in mind, e-retailers can maximise customer satisfaction and the ability of their sites to drive sales and loyalty, providing a competitive edge.

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