Internet retailers fail to learn

Online retailers have failed to listen to their customers. The latest research on Internet retailers shows that they have changed almost nothing on their web sites – even though they were told a year ago what consumers wanted. For instance, customers want 0800 or toll-free numbers on the web site. Fine, almost all major retailers do that. But less than two-thirds actually reveal that on their web site. This figure has moved only marginally since a year ago.

Now, given that your customers are saying they want an 0800 number – and you have one – why wouldn’t you publicise that fact? Perhaps you are too busy showing off your guarantee. Consumers say they want 100% money-back guarantees. A year ago, according to the latest study, only 11% of the major online retailers offered that. Now, it’s just under three-quarters (72%).

But little else has changed. Except some things went down. Customers want 24/7 access, but that has actually gone south – only 27% of retailers now offer that. People have also been saying for ages that shipping times are too long. But sadly, it now takes longer to receive goods from Internet retailers than it did a year ago.

So why are online retailers failing to respond? Because they are sitting pretty raking in the money. We’ve just had record online sales for some Internet retailers in 2008. Now, the snow in the UK has seen people rushing to online stores, instead of visiting the local shops.

Online retailers don’t have to do very much to get the money pouring into their tills. So they think why should we bother to improve things? They won’t make that much difference.

Wrong! And right! The minor things like making the 0800 number more obvious will not have a significant impact right now. But, in the future, when competition for Internet retailers increases these seemingly minor features will make all the difference. Adding them in at that stage will be too late; consumers will already be at those sites which do have all the things they want – like 24/7 telephone access, shipping that takes place immediately and emails answered within the same day.

People don’t always know why they choose a particular online shop. They have a gut instinct. That comes from those seemingly minor signals of the 0800 number, the 24/7 telephone line and the rapid delivery promise.

If you run an online shop, here are the 10 things you need to show prominently in order to create the right “gut instinct” in your customers – therefore keeping them into the future.

  1. Visible contact information on every page of your web site
  2. An obvious 0800 telephone number
  3. Obvious 24/7 telephone access to a real person
  4. A visible FAQ page
  5. A quick check out process
  6. Real time inventory (no more “out of stock” notices)
  7. One-click buying options
  8. Same or next day shipping
  9. Email confirmation of invoice and shipping
  10. Pictures of products in the shopping cart

Have these – and your online shop will do well, whatever the weather.

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