Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pretend You're A Customer.

Look at your website as a customer. I think a lot of websites are thinking of the website as the site or site builder rather than the customer. Look at your site and think, "Now, I am a customer and what would I like about this site and what would not be so cool." Then, ask some friends to look at it in the same way. Get the most honest feedback you can get.

Here are some examples of things that I saw at a site I just looked at for the first time of a small business in a small town. I have been inside this store. This is an e-commerce site in that they have an online store with a shopping cart and they sell clothing products that are unique. These were my impressions:

  • There is no phone number except on the contact us page. The email address is at Yahoo, so that tells me they are very small or haven't considered it. Worst case it should be customer service @ domain name. This is a store that doesn't actually sell online, but see if you can find their phone number and address: Wine & Spirits World. Here's a clue: It's on every page of the site!
  • There is no person related to this store, no photographs of personnel. There is no personality. It's just a store. Here is a multi-million dollar store with lots of personality: Threadless. Personality is a good thing for business. Strike that--it is a great thing for business!
  • There are no store hours anywhere on the site. There are no store photographs. There is no local customer interest on this site. It appears they want to be a large Internet store. Both can be done effectively.
  • This is a site that begs for a good deal of information due to its unique products, but the information is very slim. There could be history, how these products perform, what they do for the customer, how they relate to the environment, why this product is superior, and on and on. Give people a good reason to come back to your website. Keep adding information all the time, so there is something new all the time. Add a blog for the fun and information of it. I know it is work, but it is very important work!
  • They specify 7-10 working days to ship the product. That is a very long time to wait for the shipping to start and then wait for the shipping in order to finally receive the product. People (me) expect better. The 7-10 working days suggests to me that they are drop shipping the product and that they do not actually have it in stock. Most effective online stores ship in less than 48 hours! Many in 24 or less. E-commerce cannot be very effective on 7-10 days plus shipping. It also specifies $25 for expedited shipping, but doesn't specify what that means. Does it mean overnight? Two day? What? Priority Mail is cheap and fast. There is also an upcharge for Alaska and Hawaii. Well, that's what you get for living in paradise!
  • All of the products appear to have a photo, but the photo is about 1" square. It says click to enlarge, but it opens a new window with the same size photo. If I were to buy something on this site, I would want to get a better photo that I can actually see and relate to the product and would even prefer to have more than one photo. I hate to return things, so I want to see what I am buying to reduce that possibility. There is no detail in the photographs to indicate the weave, texture. Colors are not representative of what they would look like on the item. All in all, I would have a tough time buying anything off this site based on the photos.
  • Pricing includes shipping, but that isn't really promoted. It should be. It should say FREE Shipping!* with the asterisk for the details of where that is free and it should be on each item, so that it cannot be missed. Free shipping is cool. I see it on the home page and on the shipping page only.
  • Pricing strategy. I'm a marketer and merchandiser, so I have strong feelings about this. Whenever I see a price of $10.04, I say that price is $1.00 higher than $9.95. People don't look at the change (the numbers on the right of the decimal), they look at the largest dollars (the leftmost numbers). Believe it. It is true. You might as well take advantage of that and offer this product for .09 less at $9.95. Next, don't let "9" be the last number. It is too close to 10. Silly, but true. I recommend $.95, but it could be .94, .96, etc. I want it close to 10, but just far enough away that it is not 9. On the other side, stay in the 9's. Don't go $9.74. I mean, you can, but I think you are throwing away .21 for no good reason. Almost nobody will recognize the difference between $9.74 and $9.95. Since these things are generally true regardless how how inexpensive or expensive the product is, go with it and keep the change!
  • The site is clean and pretty, but it has no life. It needs some draw. Something that draws you in right on the home page and then goes on forever.

I cannot be critical that it is a website, but I ask "what is the strategy here? What is the overall plan of what the site is supposed to achieve? How will this grow the business? What other things will work with this site to promote the business effectively? I think sales, marketing and merchandising. Pretty is nice, but sales are better. My partner says that people get their website done the first time, then they say, "Check. That's done." I know this is true, but if Amazon did that, they would have died the first month. Their site has thousands and thousands of pages and it changing minute by minute. It has to or die.

Pretend you're a customer. Why should I want to buy from you? If I bought, what kind of service can I expect? Why would I want to come back?

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