Listen to your customers.
Part of my job is to rip online stores apart and present solutions, all focused on existing and potential customers. It still shocks me to see so many online businesses implement bad ideas because the head honcho thinks something is “good”, without ever asking the people who matter most—those shopping the site.
It is what separates the “just getting by” from the “profitable,” and not just for the small guys. Few businesses serve such a secluded market they cannot be outdone by someone else. Anyone who thinks they’ve cornered a market indefinitely and thus follows only their own rules is preparing themselves for quite a surprise. I don’t care what you sell, at what price, or through which outlet. If you don’t listen to the people paying your salary, you’re going to find the business of ecommerce to be a constant uphill struggle.
Be Your Own Apprentice
The biggest mistake candidates make on The Donald’s extended interview is not conducting test studies and not taking time to approach potential buyers to see what they want. It’s a proven fact that surveying shoppers works. In the world of etail, however, this useful tool is often overlooked – many think it’s rude to approach shoppers or that shoppers will give them the cold shoulder (and some will). Seasoned shoppers will, however, notice the effort and if they think you’re asking because you truly want to provide them with the best possible service, they’ll open right up. Relying on others’ studies just isn’t enough. You need to relate to your specific target audience, and let them help you set the rules.
The method of approach is important, and it will determine whether or not you get results you can use, brush offs, or results that are worthless. Here are some common tools many small online business overlook, and how they should be used:
These should take no more than 5 minutes to complete. Prompting the customer to respond immediately after placing an order doesn’t help. You need to give ample time for the order to be received and the products used (this also gives time in case the customer needs to contact customer service). These should be simple questionnaires aimed at finding out what people think about the store’s navigation, pricing, and checkout, as well as shipping and customer service.
Store rating services may help boost confidence, but stock surveys seldom tell you what you really need to know – answers to questions tailored specifically to your business.
You’re looking for quality answers over quantity of so-so responses, so be careful about big free offers just for responding.
A Direct Line
A direct number to someone who can help the customer not only helps shoppers with problems maintain patience, but also can give you more information. The less time one has to wait to talk to someone, the more apt they are to tell you, calmly, what’s wrong.
Spicing up the site and need serious input? Rewarding regular customers with gift certificates in exchange for blunt comments about new designs and navigation can prove worthy. The same goes for any current or proposed product lines.
You may know your products inside and out, but your customers need to set your business strategy – they know what they want. Be open to compromise on certain issues. After all, they are the ones you need to please. Flashy flair may look cool, and people may talk, but if it doesn’t bring home the bacon, that’s all it is.