We’ve all probably seen the TV commercial where a company just launched its e-commerce and the orders start out small and then mushroom out of control. Well, most of us might say, if that could only happen to me…! The reality of the matter is, will you be ready, not only logistically, but psychologically.
It is amazing how quickly one’s mood can shift from sheer exhilaration to utter despair within moments when the realities of e-commerce become all too apparent. My company recently launched its e-commerce. We expected it to be a relatively gradual transition, an order here, an order there, but the launch coincided with an article about us in Daily Candy, a very popular online newsletter. As a result, we were somewhat deluged. We were thrilled with the emails coming in and the phone ringing, but then our e-commerce system went berserk. We started to panic and wonder what in the world had we gotten ourselves into.
This is not an uncommon response. So much hype has been made over the past few years about the value and importance of e-commerce and how it has changed the world, but not as much emphasis has been placed on what it takes to be effective. It really should not be an earth-shattering surprise that the dot.com era came to the jolting halt it did. A business still has to be run as a business whether you are online or not. Having e-commerce in and of itself is not a panacea for all sales woes. The infrastructure has to be firmly in place and continually upgraded and improved. Here are some pointers to keep in mind when launching e-commerce (not meant to be exhaustive):
1- Develop an attractive website that represents your brand and clearly communicates what you do. Promote your site to the target audience to generate sales.
2- Make it easy for someone to buy on your site.
3- Make your website interactive so that people will share information with you that helps you better serve them.
4- Be logical and intuitive — think through the navigation of your site from the perspective of your customer.
5- Place an order on your own site to experience the process.
6- Develop an order tracking system log for quick reference.
7- Use a payment system that will integrate well into your site — it may take a little time to find the ideal solution. If your payment system is somewhat complicated, at least alert your customers to what to expect.
8- Always provide a toll free telephone number (or just a regular one) so that people can call if they prefer human contact or if something goes wrong on your site.
9- If you sell a product, estimate sufficient inventory to fill orders; if you offer a service, be aware of the time needed to meet the demand. Avoid customer disappointment.
10- Clearly state your company policies for shipping, returns, and privacy.
11- If something goes wrong on your site (which it invariably will), acknowledge and fix it.
12- The customer is always right is pretty much always true. I know this can be hard to swallow. But even if the customer IS wrong, give him the chance to save face. Remember, a calm answer turneth away wrath — and usually increases sales.