Practical Ecommerce

SMBs Should Consider Surveys

The online store that makes me feel awesome even after my product(s) have been delivered will get my business next time around. Their URL will be committed to memory, and I’ll visit the site often just to see what’s new. This store must cater to my needs, treat me like a person and doesn’t leave me second-guessing the money I’m spending. I’ll even know who I’m supporting with my hard-earned cash.

I’ll only have this type of experience from a store where the ones in charge have done their homework and aren’t afraid to go against the grain when it comes to offering up features. They need to provide complete product details, easy navigation, and ways for me to feel like I’m somehow involved with their business strategies. In short, the perfect online store needs to understand me.

Consider online surveys

Online surveys are relied on heavily by the big guys, yet rarely do I receive one from small businesses. In fact, I can’t recall one from any independent online store in at least a year. A YEAR – and the bulk of my shopping is done online, supporting the small guys. I can only wonder why.

In my experience, customers who have either a very good or very bad shopping experience will take the time to tell you. If their overall review is great, they want to gloat about it; chances are they’re telling their friends and family what a great company they’ve found. If they were left pulling out their hair, they want to make you cringe when you read their comments. They may not even be interested in helping you grow, but they will just the same. I rarely see legitimate survey responses that run along the lines of neutral throughout.

While conducting online surveys may require some investment in time and money (there are plenty of low-cost ones out there), the information you receive from the exact people you’re trying to please is absolutely priceless. You needn’t just ask about the store and customer service, either. Last year, Franklin Covey had female customers provide input on potential new product lines.

Plan survey carefully

Definitely plan your survey, though. I’ve received some that left me wondering why the company even bothered. Do leave space for shoppers to enter information; this is the only way you’ll truly understand their experience. Keep surveys short — we should be able to complete them in just two or three minutes. Most of all, be creative. I find the standard wording of standard questions to be quite boring, so tailor the “speak” to that of your site and your target audience. Keep in mind that no one wants to grab a dictionary when providing you with information that ultimately helps you make money.

Surveys that go beyond the actual initial shopping experience are only helpful after the customer has received the product and has had time to put it to use. Instant popups on the invoice screen won’t do you any good in that respect. I recommend shooting for 30 days. It’s enough time for shoppers to know what they think about you, and not so long they’ve forgotten who you are.

One last point. Offering something in return for survey responses has its pros and cons. Making an offer will garner more

Pamela Hazelton

Pamela Hazelton

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Comments ( 2 )

  1. Legacy User July 17, 2007 Reply

    I love surveys and use them quite a bit when making changes to my store. I have found what I think and what my customers think are often very different.

    Here is my question. Would a survey be considered spam? Could I only send it to my opted in customers?

    Thanks Dustin

    — *Dustin*

  2. Legacy User July 19, 2007 Reply

    I'm in the process of creating a survey for my customers and opt-in newsletter subscribers to see what kinds of products they would like to see us carry before I spend the money on holiday inventory. I liked your comment about the pros and cons of offering an incentive. Since I was asking them about their opinions for the upcoming holiday shopping season, I thought it might be good to offer them a $5 gift certificate to use on the site during the holidays. I thought it might make them more invested in the process.

    However, would you recommend telling them that they will receive $5 for participating in the survey or have it be a nice surprise for the people who respond without telling them up front?

    Thanks

    Sue Kirchner
    http://www.ChocolateCakeClub.com

    — *Susan Kirchner*