Two's a Queue

Retail, eCommerce, usability, customer experience, service, technology...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

It's about the journey....

Pretty much anyone who has ever worked with me knows my views about the way ecommerce businesses should work. I've even posted about it on this blog.

I still get quite excited when I interact with a company that appears to have the right balance between commerciality and solid operations. It is simply not acceptable to attract lots of visitors to your site, offer them lovely promotions, rich content and a perfect browsing experience and then abandon them once you get your hands on their money. For the customer's experience does not stop at payment - it might stop when they receive the item, but then again it might not even stop until their guarantee has run out on the product. Online businesses who understand this end to end experience -whether it lasts 5 minutes or 5 years are those who I believe to be the most successful and set up for long term growth.

Take the following examples:

Four weeks and one day ago (yes - I'm counting) I placed an order with one of the UK's biggest furniture suppliers - coincidentally one who clearly has a large marketing budget to spend sponsoring one of the UK's biggest soap operas (and whose digital marketing manager had been presenting at an event I attended not too long ago). So I ordered - pretty ropey website I have to admit but so far so mediocre. The delivery promise on the item I've bought is 4 weeks - it's a sofa after all so although I'm heartily sick of sitting on the floor I'll wait. Four weeks (and one day) later I'm still waiting. In those four weeks I've heard absolutely nothing from the company. I've essentially given them over £500 of my money and had zero communication from them (bar the auto confirm email). If I was head of ecommerce at this company I'd have to be asking myself - what is my customer experiencing? I'm not even head of ecommerce at this company and I'm brimming with ideas on what I'd do.

Conversely yesterday following an inviting marketing email from Boux Avenue I ended up purchasing a whole load of items I had no intention of originally buying while simultaneously trying to balance a project budget and eat my salad. I went for the standard delivery option (£3.00 incidentally for 1-3 days) as I wasn't in any hurry for my items, yet by the time I left the office I had a text letting me know my items had been dispatched and would be with me on Tuesday along with a tracking number to prove it.

Now I realise these are completely different products - one is a large ticket item with a long lead time which is potentially being custom made, the other a £30 stocked item in a fulfilment house probably not 50 miles from my house. I would argue this isn't the point, both of these companies clearly have savvy marketing people who will engage with a customer to get them onto the site but do they both have strong operations people who are looking to make sure there is consistency across the customer journey? If there is are they talking to each other? I'll never know as I don't work for either of them, but I'd suggest one does, the other not.

Short or long the customer's experience is the end to end experience and to be successful in online retail you have to remember it's not about the's about the (customer) journey.

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