Article: Online Retail Growth

Requires Satisfied Customers

With the growing popularity of the web and rapid advances in technology the retail sector provides an obvious route for Internet development. However, many online retailers have and will perish because they did not have a business model that will generate sufficient cash flow.

As discussed in previous articles, brick and mortar retailers should be aware that they have the advantage of a name that consumers already recognize. A strong brand name provides powerful benefits of awareness and credibility for establishing a web presence. Brick and mortar retailers also have several relatively low cost mechanisms at their disposal to get the word out about their online shopping venues. They can include their web addresses in advertising campaigns as well as print their web addresses in store-catalogs and on store receipts. Moreover, they can also tie their store loyalty cards and catalog circulation lists to their mailing lists in order to increase awareness and usage of the online channel.

However, integrating offline and online store operations is a complex process. The success of online retailing is heavily dependent on two fulfillment competencies; fulfilling orders efficiently and providing an exemplary level of customer service. E-Retailers that are not able to effectively carry out these two functions will ultimately experience a decline in Web site traffic and sales.

Moreover, other fulfillment challenges such as fulfilling orders on time, lowering delivery costs, managing peak season volume, staying in stock, offering a wide assortment of products, keeping up with order volume and tracking orders make many a retailer wary of establishing an online presence. Many of those concerns can be alleviated with the more powerful online merchandising and ecommerce software’s available today.

Return policies can also make the difference between a satisfied shopper and a frustrated ex-customer. Returning merchandise is possibly the most annoying facet of the online shopping experience, especially when it’s the result of a damaged shipment or an error by the e-Retailer. For many shoppers, returning a product is simply an extension of the shopping experience. If the returns process is difficult, the shopper assimilates that information to complete their perception of the entire online experience. E-Retailers that economize on returns are in danger of alienating their customers.

All retailers, whether large or small, should try the click-and-mortar strategy. After all, it is an additional sales channel that addresses the consumers’ demand for having a product when, where, and the way in which they want it. In order to meet the needs of this newly empowered consumer, retailers will also have to integrate their marketing activities to incorporate that differentiating value of the physical store into their Web site.

Finally, you need to maintain your website regularly. Regardless of your type of website, there will always be some information that will need to be added, removed, or changed in order to keep your website updated as time passes by. Information like new services, specials, news, policies changes, and so on should be used to update your website so it keeps the right information at all times. Even on the rare case that your website information does not need any maintenance, it is recommended that you add some new features or at least change the way data is presented from time to time, so your website visitors don’t get bored and stop coming back.

Outdated information and poorly maintained websites are some of the major causes for web failure and poor activity. In fact, a recent survey we conducted of small hotel and retail web sites resulted in us discovering that nearly eighteen percent of their published website email addresses were not valid. Don’t let this happen to you, get your updated information and ensure that your website is maintained regularly. – John Shenton – October, 2002