During previous holiday seasons, many retailers realized the hard way that their e-commerce systems were not ready for the heavy holiday shopping traffic.
From delivering the wrong items, to cancelling order due to stockouts, to making returns difficult even in the case of damaged items, the holiday season was, in many cases, a handbook example of how not to do business.
Clearly, many retailers still have a lot to learn when it comes to selling – and making customers happy – across different channels.
Mistake #1: Making promises you can’t keep
It’s December 10, and Anna is shopping on the e-commerce site of a famous retailer. She decides to buy a lamp that would be perfect for her brother. The order is accepted, and will be delivered within 5 working days. A week later Anna receives an email: “We are very sorry to inform you that we have had to cancel your order due to stock availability. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.” So now it’s few days to Christmas and Anna has no gift for her brother – and no time to buy another one, online or in store. But at least she has the retailer’s heartfelt apologies! Now that’s going to make everything better!
Fix it by integrating your channels
Retailers offering omni-channel shopping need to integrate their channels to make their customers’ shopping experience seamless. If your channels are not integrated, you might end up selling an item on your online shop only to realize, too late, that the product is actually out of stock. A system with total omni-channel integration, like LS Nav, ensures that your online store always contains up-to-date product information, as the e-commerce portal uses the general ledger to pull up real-time stock information.
Mistake #2: Sending the wrong item
Marco is very happy when he sees that the shorts he bought online have been delivered, just in time for his sun-and-sea holiday. When he opens the package, however, he soon realizes the size his wrong. He re-checks his order: he did mark XL, but they sent him a Small! He is leaving in two days – he will never be able to change the item before his departure.
Fix it by getting a clear view of your value chain
Customer returns of merchandise cost retailers 4.4% of their revenue on average. Returns often happen for reasons outside the retailer’s control. When you are the cause, though, you have only yourself to blame. Although not all returns can be prevented, an efficient management system can help decrease the risk of returns, for example by insuring that customers who make an online purchase receive exactly the item they ordered – in the correct model, color and size.
Mistake #3: Not communicating with customers
The evening dress Linda ordered online is late. She is afraid she may not receive it in time for her new year’s party. She tries to track the purchase, but the website gives her no option to check her order’s status. Linda sends an email to customer service, but only receives an automated response: “Thank you for your email. We are concerned to learn of your inconvenience, and will be looking into your case. Kind regards.” Few days later Linda phones the customer service, but receives no clear answer. She asks them to cancel the dress, and decides to go downtown and buy whatever she can find last-minute at the mall.
Fix it by keeping the communication channel open
Even if you know that your orders are being filled and sent timely, your customers don’t – unless you keep them informed. By communicating with your customers you can increase their level of satisfaction greatly, and create returning business. Honesty every step of the way is the best strategy. Start by being straightforward before people even buy from you. Clearly write your sale conditions, item limitations or hidden costs. If you wait until people have made a purchase to say “we only ship to two countries”, or “extra sending costs for bulky items”, you risk losing your customers’ trust – and business.
Are you a retailer who learns from others’ mistakes, or are you one of those who persevere in their “good, old ways”, until the last customer has left them to shop elsewhere?