E-Commerce for the Old School

January 14, 2011

Web Design

e-Commerce for the Old SchoolHail to the store owners and business managers out there with more than a few years under your belt. You’ve been around the block and survived the changing times. You KNOW what makes a successful business. You know how to treat people right and everybody wins.

And, of course, you know you need a website. You know there’s a whole new pool of customers beyond your local neighborhood and opportunity for new sales. But “web site” is such a generic thing. The Internet isn’t tangible like your store, your products, your customers. How do you make turn the idea into a live, working… thing?

Between you and me and the three other people who read this site, I love the Internet with such a passion, it feels like magic. But it’s not, really. Your e-commerce website, for all intents and purposes, IS your 24/7 customer service representative.

So imagine your best clerk ever – this is how your e-commerce website should be designed.

It should be dressed well, but really shouldn’t be the cutting edge of fashion – even if you’re a trendsetter site. Even today, people are anxious about shopping online. Crisp, clean websites with a solid professional look lend comfort and make people feel good about sending money into the wild blue yonder.

It should have a nice, honest face. Maybe you wouldn’t be able to describe what a con looks like, but we all know it when we see it. In addition to having a professional look, you need contact information and a secure checkout. You need a privacy policy in plain English – or, whatever language your customers speak. And, you need to make it easy to find both from any page in your site.

It should answer the customer’s questions without hassle. In web site terms, this means a logical menu and a strong (and easy to use) search function. Frustrate your customers, and they will be gone to another store with a click.

It should make recommendations – ah the classic upsell.

It should always ask – “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Granted, this is sort of like making recommendations, but not the same. This is when they’ve hit the front counter and are ready to check out. It’s never too late to make a suggestion. The customer will thank you for not having to pay a separate shipping fee, and you will get to maximize the sale.

It should ring up the transaction simply and correctly – all discounts, coupons, taxes, etc. so many options could be confusing, but think about it. If your clerk appeared to have trouble ringing up the sale, wouldn’t you be just a little bit worried?

It should make it easy to escalate. But wait, aren’t you trying to avoid escalation? Absolutely, but there’s always going to be a special case, and the last thing you need is someone standing at the front of your store raising a ruckus trying to get attention. Sometimes people just want to talk to a supervisor. When your staff steps back from trying to be the gatekeeper, and instead makes the move up the chain as friendly and easy as possible, then the customer is already reassured that you mean to do right.

It should have a well planned return policy. It doesn’t have to be different from your standard return policy. But – whatever you allow for returns, it should be easy for the customer to process. Mothers, especially, love a good return policy. It doesn’t fit, it doesn’t look the same as it did online, it was damaged in shipping – it’s always something. And, trust me, however you handle returns, word will spread.

SO, there, you see? E-Commerce, for better or worse, is just like real life. Only it doesn’t sleep. And it’s got a much bigger neighborhood. But you get the picture.

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