Retailers show their ostrich tendencies

Retailers are ostrich likeGordon Brown has gone quiet on us, hasn’t he. One speech recently, but other than that, out the back he went. It’s almost as if he pretends we’re not here, we’ll go away. Indeed, while he was our unelected Prime Minister, he seemed to behave as though ignoring the financial crisis would make it disappear and we’d all miraculously recover from it. Ostrich like behaviour where we proverbially stick our head in the sand, is very common. Many people do it; that squeak on the car..? Oh, ignore it, it will disappear soon enough…! And that ache in the middle of your back? Oh it’s nothing..! Yet, the squeaking brakes might not work when you need that emergency stop. And that aching back could be a sign of serious illness that could have been treated if it had been spotted earlier. Head in the sand attitude rarely produces success.

Yet, recent research shows that such ostrich like behaviour is commonplace with companies trying to sell stuff online. Take retail giants Zara, H&M and Gap. All three have been criticised for launching new websites which were missing a search function. How long have people been advising retailers that a search function was essential? At least a decade. Indeed, it is THE function on Amazon – who dominate online retail. Surely, if you are launching a new online store you’d at least take a note of what the number one company was doing? Unless, of course your head is in the sand.

Then you find that almost all online retailers have failed to integrate automated credit card payment systems into their business. In fact, according to a recent study from Chase Payment Systems, the vast majority of firms are hand processing credit card payments. You may click online to buy something, but that just produces a print out at the other end, which is then hand processed by a human being….! How long has PayPal been around…? Why are leading companies so far behind? Are they all there with their head up their…I mean, in the sand?

Getting online retail right is possible. Amazon does it, Tesco does it. Yet the vast majority, it seems, fail to either listen to the clear success stories of other firms, or they ignore what they are being told. And why would you launch a UK clothing store that doesn’t list British clothing sizes on the website…?

You get my drift, I guess. Retailers are ignoring the obvious. They complain of low conversion rates online and blame it all on “the web”, or on “the user’s lack of attention” or some other excuse. In reality, it is the ostrich like attitude that causes the issues. They hope the need for search on a website will disappear, because inserting it involves cost and effort. Similarly, if they have to continue to charge high prices to support loads of staff to handle credit cards, so what? “We’ve always done it that way,” is the loud cry. But then don’t come bleating when the new online competition can beat your prices because they have automated all of their financial aspects.

Companies cannot keep dipping their head in the sand, hoping various Internet issues will go away. Automated payment systems are here to stay, people expect website search features and customers require instant answers to their questions when browsing your site. It’s no good hoping these things will disappear – instead, to succeed, you have to work out how you will integrate these things within your website and how you will cope with them.

If you don’t accept the issues surrounding your online business, if you keep looking the other way in the hope they will disappear, the chances are they will return to bite you. After all, that’s exactly what happened to our former Prime Minister…!

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