Why Pretty Pictures Are Not Enough

I’ll be the first to admit that a visually appealing store or e-commerce site will get me in the door every time. Professional appearance and easy-to-navigate aisles or landing pages will keep my interest to learn more and possibly buy. Like most folks, my first impressions of a shop are largely appearance-based.

But I’ll tell you for an absolute fact that it won’t keep me there or get me to come back all on its own.

Here’s why; if the customer service is poor or the product doesn’t work as advertised, I’m as turned off to the company as I can be, regardless of what the store or Website looks like. In fact, often times I’m more irritated than usual because my expectations weren’t met, and will not only let the company know of my displeasure, but all my friends, family and Twitter followers.

It’s an experience that’s not lost on me when running my own online retail company. So while we spend a great deal of time on the layout design and user-friendliness, we’re equally as passionate to ensure that our value is heavily weighted in our pricing and customer service. It’s worked well for us; our organization’s top-line revenue has increased by annual double digit percentages since our inception eight years ago.

I would highly recommend other companies take note. Focusing on the business elements that will get customers coming back takes a great deal of care and concern on many facets, including:

* Maintaining product quality. Make sure the offerings are of sufficient – or preferably better – value for the price customers are charged.

* Providing good service
. Set high standards at both the point of purchase and afterwards for times when customers contact the company for help or additional information. Areas to review should cover things like how long the purchaser had to wait to speak to someone and if the issue was resolved to the patron’s liking.

* Monitoring customer feedback. Play close attention to the Better Business Bureau ratings as well reviews on sites like Yelp! and Epinions, bizrate and others. Thank loyal supporters often, and respond to complaints immediately and with great care to turn harsh critics into strong evangelists.

* Asking for input. Solicit comments from those that recently purchased from the company and ask about their experience. Short, five-question, online surveys seem to work for this kind of effort. Another strategy is incentivizing them with a small discount on their next purchase which will lead to a greater response rate. The information companies obtain can greatly help their sales process as well as identify other products and services to offer to increase repeat business.

You’ll notice nothing in these efforts have anything to do directly with how a site or store appears. While I’m not discounting the importance of looking good, focusing on it can’t come at the expense of the overall customer experience; for it may get them in the door once, but rarely ever again by itself.

About the author: Bobby Brannigan is the founder and CEO of ValoreBooks, a fast-growing online provider of cheap college textbooks. He can be reached at bbrannigan@valorebooks.com.  

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