Two's a Queue

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

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Has online really grown up?

5 (serious) things you shouldn't be doing as a grown up ecommerce site
There's been a bit of chat of late about ecommerce 'coming of age' - hitting 18 years since the first online transaction is certainly a milestone, but many retailers have a multichannel strategy that's still in it's infancy. If you're doing any of these things then make sure you (quickly) start to grow up.

Non persistent baskets

Oh god. If I have to explain this then you've got bigger problems. Let's go back to basics. Picture the scene, you're in a shop, you have been picking things up, holding them up the the light, finding your size, checking the price for about half an hour. You have five or six things in your hand, you haven't totally decided you'll buy them all but you're thinking about it, you might try some on, you might leave some on hold, you might leave some behind. Then all of a sudden a sales person comes and takes them all off you, with no explaination. You're left standing, bewildered and empty handed. What's the chances you'll go back and look for all those items again. Yes. See?

In old-school retail we knew that getting something into a customer's hand was half the battle (it's why some shops keep the temperature cold-  so you don't take off your coat and then have something in your hand distracting you from picking up merchandise), why have we forgotten that because it's online?

Old School Customer Service

If there is any part of online retail which is neglected (other than reporting), it has to be customer service. We expect our customer service reps to act as a low-paid, low-engaged barrier to a barrage of customer complaints. We wait, dreading an issue, dealing with it in the most minimal, low reaction fashion as we've always done. It's not a manufacturing fault. It was the delivery carrier. There is nothing we can do. I'll have to ask our tech department. We have the moral highground, we cannot change. Well newsflash, the world has changed, technology has changed.

Customer service should understand multichannel retail - this means understanding how your payment process works so that they can tell the customer the right thing, they need to be educated that delivery is a product as much as the actual product is, and the retailer is responsible for it - if you've paid for next day delivery and you don't get it, then that is an issue which the retailer needs to deal with. You need to understand that accusing a customer of 'sweat stains' in an automated email is not what's going to bring them back to you the next time they want to spend £60 on a dress.

You need to get all of this and then you need to make sure your CS team get it. And live it.

Stop paying your team minimum wage to trot out the same platitudes. What if we stopped thinking 'Customer Service' and started thinking 'Multichannel Ambassadors' - what if your service team was up for solving problems, for chasing third parties, for really engaging with how things actually work in your systems. What if your customer services team understood that thay customer is worth £x lifetime value, that they were empowered to ensure that customer comes back to your site or your store? What if their challenge is to give the best possible experience?. What if their sole purpose was to delight customers with the fabulous tools that technology has put into their hands in the age of multichannel retail? What if that happened?

Blaming it on tech

Payment, fraud, data architecture, interactions with third parties, the fact that the batch run goes at 3am and not 3:17am. None of this is tech - all of this is business, get a handle on it and stop handing it over. These things are business issues and I guarantee your tech team won't understand your business like you do. Where your data is, who gets it, what time, how your customers pay....understand it and own it. I've lost count of the number of times that clients have made mistakes purely because they're left tech to do it and not engaged with how things work. Here's an example- we all know that in UK shoe sizing a size 3 appears twice - once as a child's size and once as an adult (OK-  so mainly me, most people don't have midget feet). One is bigger than the other. Similarly a 32A bra size and a 32B bra size do not really go together, most people shop in cup sizes, 32A, 34A, 34C etc. A tech person will put sizes in numerical order. Only a retailer -  a business person-  knows how this works in the real world.  Tech might facilitate the solution but they're not the solution. In the multichannel world you have to be multichannel, not let your tech department (or provider) do it for you.

Doing what you've always done

I stood in Next in Kingston yesterday waiting for my friend to try on about a million items (her success rate is about 15% - yes I was very bored) , and overheard a conversation between a sales consultant and a customer which went something like this: "Well no, you can order from here to home, or here. But if you want to order for delivery to another store then you have to go home and do it from there". Eh? Now I worked at Next for 9 years so I know why this is-because of the difference between a store order and a Directory order. But as a customer this sounds loony. If I can order a product in store I want to be able to order it to anywhere.

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