Why Customers Come Back… or Don’t

I have been in eCommerce for well… a long time.  We work hard getting a customer to that first purchase transaction and it is definitely not easy to push them all the way through their first purchase, let alone a follow up purchase.

Great looking sites and navigation can only go so far, but amazing customer service has unlimited ripples for any site.

The goal of any eCommerce site is to surprise and delight their customers for two main reasons:

1) so that the come back and spend more money

2) so they tell their friends to shop on your site

This week I had an incredibly positive first time shopping experience at rollergirl.ca.

My order went as follows:

Friday

9:00am

I created an order and asked for sizing confirmation in my special request box.

9:05am

I received a confirmation email stating my order was received and I would hear back from someone to confirm my order sizing.

11:37am

I received an email with the details regarding confirming my sizing supported by a link to the site with additional information and pictures.

Pictures are always key to doing a good job of measuring for any apparel or footwear purchase.

12:52pm

I responded to the sizing questions via email.

1:01pm

rollergirl.ca confirmed their recommendations via email with a detailed listing of suggested sizes by item description and a list of validations for each change to my original order

1:04pm

I confirmed via email that they should go ahead as suggested.

1:07pm

rollergirl.ca let me know that I would recieve a shipping notification from Canada Post shortly.

1:09pm

I received the first of three notices from Canada Post with my tracking information on behalf of Roller Girl

Monday there was a notice for pick up from Canada Post.

Monday night I had my skates and accessories in my hands complete with the addition some instructions on care, a cheeky rollergirl.ca sticker-I am still five years old and love stickers-and some Double Bubble Gum (comic and all).

This is the example of surprise and delight.  I had gone to rollergirl.ca because they had a richer assortment than my local Toronto store.  I really wasn’t expecting to get anymore out of the experience than the particular size and model of skates that I wanted.  Instead what I received was the definition of customer service and I will  continue to shop there because I was blown away by the speed and quality of my service over and above getting my product of choice.

Now let’s be honest, not every scenario plays out quite this quickly.  I really wanted my skates and was refreshing my email like crazy while waiting for the feedback from Roller Girl, BUT… that is what makes it even more special… they responded pretty much right away every time.

Hmm.. you say that there was a couple of hours between my order and them confirming sizing… not really.  The store is Vancouver based and they weren’t even awake yet when I created my order.  Formally the store doesn’t even open until 10:00am PST time (1:00pm EST) and I really wasn’t expecting to see a response before store hours.

This is what fills a customer with surprise and delight.  I was surprised at the service on Friday.  I am delighted with the perfect sizing today and will continue to shop and be an ambassador for the store forever based on this experience.

Well done rollergirl.ca!

eCommerce is Hard

We live in an environment where every known fact is up for a new release any day.

If we were high school science teachers the only significant change in the space of an entire career is the fact that a new element was added to the periodic table, or a planet is no longer a planer.

Instead today in eCommerce we have items like HTML5 and CSS3.  Named as such because they had predecessors and are guaranteed to have shiny new versions in the near future.  You as a digital professional need to know (and accept) that you can never know everything, and if you aren’t willing to upgrade your own knowlege and skills, you too will become outdated in less time than you think.

We choose eCommerce because of and not in spite of these facts.  They keep us humble.  They inspire agility and lifelong learning.

Sometimes they require us to accept failures.  We can’t always plan for volume, demand, customer engagement.  Sometimes we have to apologize for making mistakes.

In light of the holiday season I am proud of some retailers saying the simple words “We’re Sorry”.

Black Friday is hard.  Cyber Monday is harder.

If your merchandisers did their job you have the right assortment.

If your marketers did their job you have the right traffic.

If your technical team did their job your site can handle the volume.

If you can say yes to all of these statements I congatulate you.  You are rare and precious.

What the reality is for most is that one or two of those statements are true and you are left with one broken item.

Your site went down from volume.

Your traffic sucked because your message wasn’t clear.

You didn’t sell anything because your assortment/pricing weren’t on target.

All of these leave you with two options:

Option 1-Own the issues, apologize to your customers and learn from your mistakes for next year.

Option 2-Pretend they didn’t exist and hope your customers don’t hold it against you.

Most retailers hide under the guise of Option 2.

Today I would like to credit Ann Taylor for choosing Option 1.  Their site couldn’t handle the Black Friday volume.  They tried again and still couldn’t handle it. After a couple of tries they sent their customers an email saying they were sorry and offering an additional discount.

In the end what I will remember as a customer is not the outage, it is the apology and more importantly the discount.  They have pushed my loyalty up a notch just by being honest.

What makes the inner merchant in me happy is the fact that they have also managed to stretch the short window of Black Friday/Cyber Monday offers into an extra few days of sales making next years comps easier to plan for.