Jun 5, 2012

Focus on Customers, Not Products

There are many different ways to build a successful E-commerce business, but they all have one thing in common.

Loyal customers.

I don’t mean ‘just’ happy customers. I mean customers who will come back to your web site and purchase from you again. It’s not a revolutionary discovery. A lot of books and articles have been written on the same general business theme: Customer satisfaction means nothing; customer loyalty means everything.

One of the hallmarks of an experienced E-commerce developer is that they will push to keep a site project customer-focused. They understand that a web site which is too loaded down with bling and noise can distract customers from your essential business message and interrupt the buying cycle.

Building customer loyalty for your business’ web site isn’t a technology trick (although it helps if your E-commerce engine offers tools that support your goals). As with most things E-commerce, there’s no Easy Button.  Your web site should be designed with customers in mind. E-commerce isn’t about promotion. It’s about buying and you need to do everything possible to help your customers buy from you. Here are five things to think about that might help your customers in their quest to spend money with you:

1. No doubt you’ve encountered the phrase “user-friendly design and navigation” in many different places, but it’s an especially important concept for an E-commerce site. In a way, an E-commerce site is a lot like an airport: You want to get your customers into the landing pattern (your site), onto final approach (your product catalog) and then get them safely landed (“Thank You for Your Order!”). From the moment they enter the landing pattern, you don’t want to put anything in their way that distracts them from landing.

2. Your customers want a comprehensible (and comprehensive) product catalog. Detailed product descriptions are your primary selling tool. A logical category structure helps customers find your products. Also make sure that your chosen E-commerce engine has an easy-to-use search feature built in.

3. Your customers also want a checkout process that’s intuitive, stable and repeatable. In order to avoid the dreaded “dropped transaction”, checkout needs to be as streamlined as possible. Buttons, data entry fields, order details, shipping information and supplemental charges (like sales tax) all need to be clearly presented and easy to find. Any forms that customers need to complete should have all mandatory fields plainly indicated. Your E-commerce engine should utilize a database that saves customer registration information, which also offers automated password recovery for returning (and forgetful) customers.

4. Make use of the customer loyalty and promotional tools that are built in to your E-commerce engine. The big-brand E-tailers make extensive use of functions like wish lists, gift registries, reward point systems and discount coupon/codes. A number of commercially-available E-commerce applications offer exactly the same tools, and they are invaluable additions for both helping to build customer loyalty and enhancing your store’s promotional pricing strategies.

5. Above all, stay on top of customer service and feedback. Communicate quickly and clearly with your customers. Rapidly responding to their queries and complaints demonstrates that you’re focused on serving their needs and solving their problems. In addition to direct responses to customer contacts, also consider using broader communication tools to expand the reach of your service and expertise. E-mail newsletters, blogs and customer forums are all very handy tools for boosting your business online.

Want to Learn More About E-Commerce?

Read about E-Commerce and Payment Security
Find out if Mobile Commerce Is in Your Future
Review the Checklist for the Aspiring E-Commerce Owner

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