Your Business Online | Professional Jeweler

August 23, 2000
'Tis the Season
As the holiday shopping season approaches, e-tailers need to spruce up their Web sites for this year's holiday shoppers

The holiday shopping season can make or break a retailer, and last year's holiday season broke many Web retailers. Due to lousy customer service and late shipping that missed the holidays completely, customers are wary about shopping online this season.

According to a cPulse poll, nearly 25% of Web shoppers are unhappy with their buying experiences online and are concerned about online security, shipping costs and on-time delivery. This survey backs up the recent Gartner survey that found customers ranked none of the top 50 consumer e-tail sites as good or excellent for online customer service.

This is bad news as for anyone with an e-store as holiday shopping approaches, but there is still a chance for online retailers to make up for last year's catastrophe. To save your business from consumers' fears, you must make your customers happy and comfortable when they are surfing through your e-store. Here a few simple things to do that will make the shopping experience smoother for your customers:

  • The first, and perhaps most important, thing to do is to educate your customers about Internet security. When asked what their biggest fear about shopping online is, most people say "sending my credit card number over the Internet." Posting a security policy prominently on your Web site and explaining in simple terms how safe it is to send a credit card number through your secure server can help alleviate this fear.
  • Post shipping charges where customers can find them. Customers don't want to purchase online without knowing how much they'll pay for shipping. If you don't tell them up front, they may think you're trying to rip them off.
  • Post and adhere to delivery times. Customers want to know when their order will arrive, and after all the shipping problems last year, they'll want to be reassured their package will get to its destination in time for the holidays.
Informing your customers is only the first step. You need to make sure you can handle the potential consumer demand as well. Last year, many retailers were unprepared for all the orders they received. Their inventory couldn't cover the demand, and they didn't have enough customer service representatives to calm the frustrated Web shoppers. These same issues cannot reappear this year if e-stores want to survive. E-tailers need to learn from the mistakes of those who came before them if they want to prosper in the new e-commerce world.

- by Julia M. Duncan