There are plenty of best practices to implement as companies shore up their ecommerce strategies.
And there’s plenty good reason to do so. For starters, ecommerce sales in the United States in the fourth-quarter of 2012 reached an all-time high – a whopping $37.2 billion during of online sales were made November – December 2011 holiday season, according to ComScore. There are estimates that global ecommerce will hit $1.24 trillion by 2015.
But what best practices make the most impact? It may be that the answer depends: what’s selling, who’s buying, how big the brand is, etc. When I recently talked with Paula Rosenblum, managing partner with Retail Systems Research, she had some good advice.
For starters, Rosenblum says companies must not forget that consumers are very price conscious, and price transparency is critical. When shopping online or via mobile commerce, consumers can scour for the best price. Price transparency, by the way, is when all parties – the buyers and the sellers, as it were – understand exactly what an item costs, before, during and after a purchase. But price adjustments, sales, and unclear return and exchange policies can muddy up the waters.
In this recent article called “For Offline Retailers, The Trouble With Price Transparency,” on Forbes.com, guest author Paul Patterson discusses the importance of price transparency for brick-and-mortar companies, and points to a study that cites in 2011, over 40% of retailers cited increasing price transparency as a top business challenge and one that is compromising their pricing strategies, a 29% increase from 2010 to 2011.
Interestingly, Rosenblum says there’s still a lot of denial around price transparency. “There are some companies blaming all their problems on transparency, and others are simply in denial,” Rosenblum says.
But don’t chalk success all up to getting price transparency right in the ecommerce world. While price matters – and matters a lot – customer service still has incredible weight. “Price has to be sharp, that’s true, but customer service has to be strong too. It seems funny to say this in today’s ecommerce world, but employees have to be educated,” Rosenblum says.
A simple but telling example? Rosenblum recently had to go through six – yes six! – customer service representatives in a number of countries to complete a purchase from a major vendor. “I just tried to buy a computer, and it was nightmare,” she recalls.