Look honey, it’s Web 1.0!
I used to be a prolific online shopper when I lived in the States. I was one of bluefly’s first customers and used to get a big box at the office at least twice a month. When I moved back to T-dot in late 2001 I found out that Canada wasn’t really hip to the whole e-com thing. Clothes online? Not on your life unless you tried REALLY hard to find a store on one of the portals shopping sections. No thanks, I’ll just go to the store, or pick something up on a weekend trip to NYC if my tastes are running past the standard fare… or get charged a ridiculous amount of customs duty ordering online from the US.
So, that being said, this fall I decided to venture back into the retail e-com world of Canadian shopping. I needed to get a new desk set for home, and a couple of bookcases. Truth be told I was forced to venture back online when my significant other threw out his back helping me move the mahogany corner piece I bought at a great little store in Kensington Market. I was quite happy to find that the landscape had changed and now many well known brands were offering online ordering. I clicked and shopped on my merry way to everything I needed and was happy with the process.
One store sent me an email saying the desk set was out of stock for 6 weeks and they’d ship it out once it came in. Could they not have told me this when I was ordering the stuff?? It should be up to me to decide if I want to wait that long without having to go through the hassle of cancelling my already processed order. We know the technology exists, Amazon’s been using it for years.
It gets better… six weeks pass by and no word from the store. I call the number on my receipt. I get a full voicemail box. So I go to the website and find a different number. I call that. The woman tells me the items have been in stock for a week and that I should call their billing office and ask them to release them and charge my card. I ask if she can do this and the answer is no. I call the number… I’m asked what region I placed the order in and they go pull out their paper file. All so the order I placed online can be shipped to me. Unbelievable. They’ve lost my business for life.
Now that concludes the saga about my desk set. On to the bookcases. The order goes through without a hitch. The product arrives. One of the two is damaged so I call to get it replaced. And that’s where the fun begins. I’m told I have to return it to a store. I reply that I cannot do such a thing, as I don’t own a car, nor do I have someone available to return it for me. I remind her I placed the order online so I didn’t have to go into a store. The rep then says she’ll call someone and they’ll call me to schedule a pick up. I ask if the replacement product will be shipped out at the same time. I’m informed I need to go online and place another order for a new one as their system can’t handle that type of basic function.
Needless to say I waited over a week and didn’t receive a phone call from whomever is supposed to be picking up my damaged bookcase.
Thinking about my experience with these two major Canadian brands online brought something into stark relief… as long as we aren’t getting the basic principles of Web 1.0 right, consumers aren’t going to embrace Web 2.0 bells and whistles. Everything from actually integrating ordering systems, to not violating PIPEDA when sending an email, to making the site search friendly, and the user experience robust. All the basics that form the foundation of how consumers perceive and experience the brand online. No amount of blogger outreach or MySpace profiles will hide fundamental flaws in the product. And make no mistake, your website is part of your product & service offering. Reinforcing the importance of a good experience on a company site:
“Visitors to [corporate and brand] websites have a much higher propensity to recommend products,” said Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer of Nielsen Buzzmetrics, whose research shows more than 40% of people who give a brand e-mail feedback are likely to recommend it to others.
This mock exchange in response to the recent BofA YouTube disaster provides another take on what customers might care about:
“Sirs, we are being mocked because we live in an ivory tower in which we think consumers care about our ‘Higher Standards’ catchline. My guess is they’d probably rather we killed that crap and instead promised to stop charging them $2 to get their own money out of an ATM.”