Customer Service

Numbers Should Not Dictate

They say the true measure of success for an online store is based on visitor and shopping statistics and analysis of investments for driving traffic to the site. The most common reporting method is Google Analytics, and with its recent integration with LivePerson (a live chat tool), store owners will now be able to analyze ROI for chatting with potential customers online. But I have to wonder if small businesses are lending so much weight to ad campaigns, statistical services and software that they lose sight of what really matters.

For years, a key component in marketing strategy has been the study of numbers — specialists tell us what they should be and that they reveal what we’re doing right and wrong. These numbers, however, are merely guidelines, and I’ve yet to see a sell-through ratio that would make me say, “Hey, you can’t get any better than that!”

These numbers, though, often make us forget about other key components, and we wind up missing an untapped market of online shoppers and free marketing tools. There are more store owners than ever paying an unprecedented amount of attention to analytics, all the while ignoring several things that can drive eager shoppers into the doors. They forget just as quickly as they are reminded that there are millions of potential customers using older Macs and Linux machines and obscure browsers, or that people using screen reading software (which relies on proper code to tell the blind and other disabled folk) often have trouble navigating not only informational sites but shopping sites as well. They forget there are still a vast number of homes on dial-up, using computers that cannot accommodate the latest in technology.

In 2007, I found many of these online shoppers shoved to the wayside while store owners and their developers upgraded to Windows Vista and the latest browsers, and just as soon forgot what it was like to be a victim of high-end sites that required the latest and greatest.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that so many small businesses realize the need for change, and can afford upgrades to technology. Unfortunately, part of the business-savvy plan shouldn’t be the requirement of end-users to have to dig in their own pockets just to keep up with fast paced advancements.

I watched Dell’s holiday pitch on QVC, offering high-end computers at a bargain, ensuring the new machines would be viable for a good five years. It scares me to think that anyone has such a grasp on where technology is going to take us, and are confident upgrades won’t be necessary. The fact is, we simply do not know.

Which brings me back to my point — a plea for store owners to not use numbers as a core basis of what’s going to work and what’s not. eBay is the No.1 auction site on the Internet, and used computers are being bought there every day. Where do you think those machines are going? To people who either want to save a few bucks, or simply cannot afford the latest technology. They are people, though, you should be targeting, and in more ways than what statistics tell us. All those falling in the “lowest bracket” of users —the smallest percentage using “xx” technology, like dial up and the likes — well, they might just wind up being some of your best customers. Ignore them and you’re saying that all those numbers we use as guidelines are actual limits on how successful we can be.

Pamela Hazelton
Pamela Hazelton
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