Making E Commerce Work
Posted on 06 Sep 1999
by Daniel Cody (djc)
Rated 3.64 (Ratings: 2)
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By: Daniel J. Cody and Marketplace Magazine.
According to recent studies, the number of e-commerce sites on the Internet is growing at an exponential rate. Indeed it seems like everyone is getting in on the game; where companies such as Amazon.com had zero competition even 15 months ago, they now face a growing number of companies that want a piece of the action. Even in the face of fierce competition, Amazon.com continues to be the number one book seller on the Internet.
So what is Amazon.com's secret? How does it and companies like it continue to dominate in the rough and tumble world of e-commerce? Is it some hot-shot PR firm, millions spent on advertising, or some amazing technical superiority that keeps them on top? Well, actually, it's none of those.
Amazon.com and successful e-commerce sites like it know the secret to staying on top, or even getting to the top in some cases, is in providing a rich end-user experience and earning the customers trust by providing them with a hassle free, secure, and supportive purchasing experience. Even if the customer only used your Web site to gain information on a product for a later purchase, you've still won the trust of a customer who will more than likely to return to you in the future for more information, or perhaps a purchase.
Sure it sounds easy enough to say that your e-commerce site is going to provide a rich end-user experience, but how do you really make that happen? What's the secret to getting customers to come back to you, instead of your competitor, when the time comes for their next online purchase? Here are some of the traits of successful e-commerce sites:
- Use descriptive information to increase sales; providing customers with more information helps them make better purchasing decisions and often encourages them to buy more high value products.
- Develop relationships of trust and security with customers to overcome inhibitions about online shopping. Provide your security information in an open fashion for everyone to see.
- Don't blow them over with acronyms and buzzwords, explain how your site protects them in a clear and concise manner.
- Leverage offline relationships to online customers by providing them with a means of researching, acquiring and servicing their purchases in person, by phone or on the Internet.
- Provide end-to-end customer service throughout the purchasing cycle - from order taking to delivery tracking - keeping customers informed is a must!
- Give your customers a mechanism to contact you in case they have a problem or a question. Be sure to respond to email within a reasonable amount of time(Usually under 14 hours).
The last point about answering email turns out to be one of the major complaints consumers have against Web sites today. We all know it ourselves from personal bad experiences that it's true! How many times have you personally gone back to buy something from an e-commerce site that didn't answer your email in a reasonable amount of time(Or at all!). It also exemplifies exactly what companies like Amazon.com and e-Toys.com are doing so perfectly right.
Even if a particular e-commerce site is doing everything right, it's not always plain as day to see and mimic. Conversely, there are practices in use on some Web sites that are an instant turn off to viewers and potential customers. Here is a list of things to do and not do on your Web site.
- Do put contact information in an easy to find place, preferably your front page.
- Don't provide just an email address. Customers want instant access to your company! Include a phone number, fax number, mailing address, and an email address.
- Do put up-to-date content on your site to let viewers know about company happenings, new features on the Web site, or new products you want to introduce.
- Don't forget to update it! Nothing looks worse than a news page with a line that boldly declares, "Last updated September 2nd, 1997". This makes it appear as if you don't care about your Web site, which in turn makes it appear that you don't care about this potential customer either.
Running a successful e-commerce site like e-Toys.com or Amazon.com isn't always as easy as it looks upon first inspection. By keeping in mind what the customer wants from you and your e-commerce site, building a faithful and happy customer base can be as easy as "ApplePie.com".