Your Easter break could cost you

Are you in the middle of your Easter break? Having a nice relaxing time? Eating lots of chocolate and maybe going to church? That’s great – but take care; while you are off on your four-day break, your competitors are grabbing your customers and getting them to spend money with them.

This weekend, for instance, will see the millions of Blackberry users able to shop directly on the Amazon web site. Plus you’ll find the web brimming with special offers for the Easter weekend, designed to tempt people to buy more online. Indeed, as recent consumer research suggests if you are not providing special offers you are less likely to attract customers. Consumers now expect your web site to have special offers all of the time.

In the UK, online shopping is also expected to be heightened this weekend. That’s because the Sunday trading laws in the UK mean that stores cannot open on Easter Sunday. Millions of people who would have made the Sunday morning ritual shopping trip will not be able to do so this weekend, but they will be able to buy online. Is your web site going to take advantage of that?

The issue that many online retailers have yet to grapple with – especially smaller firms – is that shoppers are buying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Large competitors know this and have 24/7 customer service, even offering instant online chats with customers browsing their site. These are things that we have now come to expect.

True, you need a break, but you also need to compete effectively and simply assuming that people will be happy if you “get back to them” next Tuesday or Wednesday is not acceptable. Indeed, recent research I read showed that 15% of shoppers now expect you to reply to their emails to you within one hour.

Demand for better online customer service is increasing. If your business is taking a break this Easter, there’s a chance customers will desert you for a company that is “available”. Perhaps you need a virtual PA service to help, or at the very least you need an autoresponder putting people at ease. But simply taking a break from an online business is no longer an option; people expect your web business to be fully functional – even if it is a national holiday.

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