Improving Your Customer’s Web Experience

6 comments

I am a strong believer that by creating a more satisfying experience for your customers and helping them achieve their buying process goals; businesses in turn increase their website sales. In an earlier post I presented my wife’s experience in researching to buy a new car. Her experience demonstrated for me the major difference between a car salesperson helping her achieve her buying process goals than one mostly concerned with selling her a car.

The car salesperson who supported my wife’s buying process took a consultative approach freely giving information, answering tough questions, setting up multiple, convenient test drives and listening to her specific requirements. Never throughout the process did the salesperson “ask for the close” instead he moved along at the pace of my wife’s buying process and supported her informational needs. He also didn’t presume that I was buying the car; instead he focused on the actual buyer – my wife. The overall experience led my wife to buy a car from this salesperson.

A customer’s web experience should follow a similar path. There was a great article in INC. Magazine (August 2007) titled, “Customers need more data. You have more data. It’s time to start sharing.” The article made a great statement directly related to the need for businesses to improve their customers’ web experiences. The article stated, “We tend to think of our lives as being data-rich, but the fact is most businesses are pretty stingy with the information they make available on their websites – be it product specs, buying advice, service policies, discounts, account histories, management and employee profiles, corporate information, data on partners and competitors or troubleshooting help.

So where’s the common sense? Does the car salesperson, a profession usually associated with gimmicks, the only one who understands that helping people buy (versus selling them) by sharing information is actually beneficial to their financial success?

For example, have you ever tried to buy a product on Dell.com? For an Internet Retailer’s Top Five Web Merchant as listed in their Top 500 Guide (Internet Retailer, June 2007) I find it difficult to comprehend how they can create such a complicated web experience. Friends of mine who are technology-savvy and frequent online buyers were screaming about how bad of an expereince they had attempting to order from Dell.com. Many had to pick up the phone to ask questions because either they couldn’t find the information on the web site or the information was outright missing or confusing.

And by no means is Dell.com the only company challenged to create a satisfying web experience. Most web businesses tend to have a similar seller-centric approach which creates gaps in information needed by customers to make satisfactory buying decisions. Beyond just information availability – usability, complicated technology and other barriers to a positive expereince are present across websites of small to large businesses

My company worked with one client to redesign their e-commerce website. The client initially had a navigation structure that resembled a windows explorer folder/file layout. With over 12,000 products (actually only 120 products with many attributes per product which couldn’t be supported by their shipping cart technology hence the windows explorer structure) finding a specific product was nearly impossible. And the client wondered why they were not generating any sales. If they would have stepped into their customers’ shoes they would have relaized quickly just how difficult it was to shop!

Improving your customer’s web expereince is a broad and continuous process involving a multi-disciplinary approach. But if you start by just changing your paradigm from seller-centric to buyer-centric, you will quickly be able to target potential barriers on your website.

About the Author

Kevin Gold is Director of Internet Marketing at iNET Interactive, a social media company operating prominent online communities for technology professionals and technology enthusiasts. Kevin is a frequent contributing author to multiple publications including Search Marketing Standard, Practical eCommerce, DIRECT, Entrepreneur.com, ConversionChronicles.com, About.com, and On Target (Yahoo! Search Marketing newsletter).

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6 Comments

  1. In defence of Dell: I am a webmaster and owner of a e-commerce website myself and have found the dell.com website one of the best websites I have ever used after ordering a laptop on-line. I am also a technical power user and the site answered all of my questions in a way that even the technically non savvy user could understand. They follow through with superb progress and tracking information the likes of which I have never previously encountered.

  2. Thanks Michael for the reply! Interestingly my wife commented to me yesterday after ordering online (she is a true enon-technical user) that it was a frustrating expereince. She further commented after the receiving the package how she was surprised that she never received an email about the product being shipped which she had come to expect after ordering from other sites. I guess the "customer expereince" is in the eye of the beholder. Impress one; frustrate another. So do you accept this as the reality or do you try to improve the expereince for all customer types? I believe more sales occur with the latter.

  3. Hi Kevin, I have to agree with your opinion of Dell's website... I recently purchased a PC from them for my mother, and it was a very arduous and painful task, and that's coming from someone who has sold PCs for a living AND is a highly experience Internet power-user/web marketer. I found that I had to keep clicking around to other links to TRY and find the answers to my questions (all to no avail), and in the end had to bite the bullet and ring them, which in and of itself, was an equally disappointing experience. They collect your contact details at all points, and then I had their sales consultant ringing me & emailing me, trying to get me to make the purchase, which was REALLLLLLLYYYYYYYYYYY annoying! So, your wife's car buying experience would have been a delight if it had happened to me with Dell. In the end, the only reason I decided to buy from them (because the sales consultant had cheesed me off so much) was to demand as large a discount from them as I could. To my surprise, it worked, so that was a worthwhile lesson I learned from shopping with Dell... NEVER buy straight off the net - ring & negotiate a better price, once you know what you want. If I had direct access to Michael Dell, I would have a few suggestions for him to ensure the entire process was improved. As it stands at the moment, I give Dell a 3/10 for the entire experience, even though Mum is happy with the computer & the price was good. Sellers forget what it's like to be a buyer ALL the time, and that's what shoots them in the foot. I have worked in sales for years, and I hate the whole pushy obnoxious lack-of-information attitude that most sales people have (or worse - are forced into by their employer!!!!!!!!!) OK, that's my 2c worth :-) Great article & thanks. Eran

  4. Great article & thanks.

  5. I guess the “customer expereince” is in the eye of the beholder. Impress one; frustrate another. So do you accept this as the reality or do you try to improve the expereince for all customer types? I believe more sales occur with the latter.

  6. Kevin Gold Post author

    Great point. It boils down to knowing your customer - which is easy to say but harder to practice. If you have identified a niche that can support your business (revenue goals) and you serve that niche extremely well (via a great customer experience) then by nature, you'll not serve all potential customer types well. Think about it. BMW positions themselves as the "ultimate driving machine." Performance is the benefit and the entire customer expereince is built around supporting this performance benefit. If a customer wants luxury over performance, then BMW isn't shy about steering you towards Lexus. But if you are looking for performance, you'll getan expereince from BMW so influences your buying decision. And, at times, even convert some of the luxury folks who relaize that they really wanted performanceonce they test drove a new BMW 335xi.