A Tale of Two Sites

Written on the 11 April 2013 by Cathy Morato

It was the best of service, it was the worst of service.   I am not a big internet purchaser, much preferring to browse and feel items before buying and anyway I like to support local businesses.  One day in June however I succumbed to temptation and purchased some quilting material packs from two internet sites.  I was thus presented with two perfect examples of how and how not to operate a website.   Site A informed me by email within hours of my purchase that the package had been shipped.  Site B sent me a nice email thanking me for my order and assuring me my package would be shipped within two weeks – they had advertised that there would be a two week wait so I was not worried about this. One week later, my package from Site A arrived in the mail.  (Isn’t it amazing how one can still experience a childlike delight upon receiving a parcel in the mail?)   Four weeks later, my package from Site B still had not arrived.  Many emails back and forth occurred, me polite – the firm apologetic.  But still no package.  Some ten weeks after ordering the material, my package arrived.  By the way, Site A which delivered my order in a week is based in Texas, the firm that took ten weeks is in Brisbane. 

In this multi speed economy, many businesses are looking at different ways to reach new customers to maintain revenue targets.   Even the smallest of businesses needs a website and many are going a step further and moving into online shopping facilities.  This can be an effective growth strategy but it must be done properly. 

Remember that a website is about marketing – have a marketing expert help you to design it.  The site should be easy to use (uncluttered, minimum clicks, logical product categories etc).  You must have secure payment methods.   Your website needs to rank highly in searches.   You need to keep directing people to your website – consider e-newsletters with product updates or technical information and special offers.  Remember too that websites need constant maintenance – keep updating content to keep it relevant.  (On another occasion I saw a new product featured in a print advertisement and went to the firm’s website to have a better look.  It wasn’t there so I sent an email enquiring about it.  I received an email back from a staffer who told me she didn’t know anything about the new product.  No, I am not making this up.)

Above all, you must provide good customer service.   There are many, many websites out there.  If customers receive bad service on one site, they will just move on to the next one.  The saga of my material went on and on and assumed a surreal quality.  I just couldn’t believe it could be this difficult.  I had notifications that the owner had gone overseas, then emails from the owner about coming back to chaos etc etc.  (The message that came through was that the staff members left behind to run the business were clueless.)   Customers are not interested in your personal/staffing/operational problems.  I certainly wasn’t!  I just wanted the product that I had ordered and paid for ten weeks previously.  This is an important point.  Online purchasing provides the business with immediate payment and so helps cash flow.  For the customer however, having paid for the product, they want it as soon as possible.

Setting up an e-commerce facility in your business can be a great opportunity to expand your business into markets you cannot otherwise reach.  Just make sure you put thought and planning into it and make sure you are ready for the commitment needed to make it work.

Copyright Zoom in Business 2013

Author:Cathy Morato