With the number of online retail sales expected to grow to a whopping $271.6 billion by the year 2011, companies simply can’t afford to fall out of favor with their Web shoppers. Here’s what businesses need to bear in mind as they strive to keep their customers happy during the holiday crunch:
Manage your inventory. “Adequate inventory is something e-tailers can have difficulties with if they experience a spike in demand,” warned Michelle Warren, a senior research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group.
Keep tabs on your technology. Unanticipated spikes in online traffic can send an e-tailer’s servers crashing — and Web shoppers running elsewhere. For this reason, Warren advised to “consider working with your solution provider to ensure that you have the right amount of technology in place.”
Reach out to consumers. With an increasing number of retailers taking their wares to the Web, companies must reach out to consumers as the holiday season approaches. Marketing initiatives from email blasts to direct-mail campaigns remind shoppers of a company’s online presence and can help drive traffic to a Web site.
Enhance customer support. With more online transactions taking place, more questions and concerns from consumers are likely to arise. E-tailers can prepare themselves by bolstering their customer-support channels. A seasonally-augmented contact center for example, can ensure customers’ queries are addressed within a reasonable amount of time.
Hold off on experimenting. If there’s one thing experts can’t seem to agree on, it’s whether or not companies should introduce brand-new CRM capabilities during the holiday rush. “That’s a big debate,” Warren said. “There’s a whole line of thinking that Christmas is the ideal time to test out new technology, but there’s another line of thought that says test it out when it’s not so busy.” Warren recommended companies err on the side of caution and hold off on deploying that new “live chat” feature, for example, until customer demands have tapered off. If, however, the temptation is too hard to resist, be sure to thoroughly investigate the difficulties that can arise.
Prepare for returns. Christmas festivities are only the beginning of the holiday crunch for today’s e-tailers. After all those orders have been placed and packages shipped, e-tailers should be prepared for a steady flow of product returns.
With the right precautionary measures and technologies in place, e-tailers can secure a permanent spot on Web shoppers’ “nice” — rather than “naughty” — lists.
Ho-Ho-Hold on to Your Customers
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