Online Shopping Best Practices For Back-to-School

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
Those companies that provide the best overall customer experience will come out on top during this busy shopping season.

The calendar has turned to August, which means that school will be starting sooner rather than later (sorry kids). As families begin their back-to-school shopping, many will go online. And those companies that provide the best overall experience will come out on top during this busy shopping season.STELLAService, an independent provider of customer service ratings for online retailers, last week released the results of a survey about back-to-school shopping. In its study of 15 retailers, Costco.com led the pack with its ability to meet six best practice criteria:

  1. Estimated delivery date provided
  2. Tracking number provided
  3. Fast delivery
  4. Easy return process
  5. Generous return window
  6. Flexible payment options

These criteria show that consumers look at much more than price when shopping online. It only takes a few simple things to provide a positive experience that keeps the customer coming back.

"Shoppers are spending more money with companies that deliver a great customer experience, so [companies need to] take these (and the many other) elements into account when planning for future changes and investments in your business," says Jordy Leiser, CEO of STELLAService.

Other findings include:

  • Seven of the 15 retailers surveyed provide shoppers with an estimated date of delivery (Amazon, Costco, HSN, Kohls, Sears, Target, Walmart), while eight of them do not (Belk.com, Boscovs.com, Buy.com, Macys.com, Meijers.com, Overstock.com, ShopNBC.com, and QVC.com).
  • Making the return process more difficult for consumers, six of the 15 mass retailers -- Amazon, Belk.com, Buy.com, Meijer.com, Target, and Walmart -- require shoppers to get a Return Merchandise Authorization number (RMA#) before making a return.
  • Six of the retailers -- Belk.com, Boscovs.com, Kohls.com, Macys.com, Meijer.com, and Target.com -- do not offer flexible payment options such as Paypal, bill me later, layaway plans or Google checkout.

"Some companies are obsessive over customer expectations and subsequently measure their performance to ensure they're meeting those expectations," Leiser says. "However, most companies are still providing a level of service that doesn't stack up to what consumers really want. Increased competition is forcing many retailers to match (or at least get close) on price, so the customer experience is the only other factor determining where consumers shop online. I think there are a lot of companies that have yet to fully embrace this."

For companies that do want to improve their online customer experience, Leiser suggests dividing strategy into three buckets -- user experience, shipping/returns, and customer support -- then focusing on incremental improvements in each of those areas.

"No two companies are the same, and each business seeks to make good on its own unique promise to customers," Leiser says. "However, one thing remains the same for all companies: whether you sell footballs or flowers, customers are always looking for fast, friendly and efficient service, and they'll continue to reward you with their dollars if you deliver on that experience."

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION