2009: A Year in Review

Let’s be honest — 2009 wasn’t a great year for the retail industry, or the economy in general. We did, however, cover a lot of ground this year and discussed many important ideas to increase our ROI (define) and provide our users with better experiences. Gaining their loyalty in 2009 will pay off in 2010, when (hopefully) they have more money to spend.

We started the year knowing things were going to be tough, and talked about some low-cost ideas that could help your business, including more social network and Twitter involvement, and rewriting copy on your site to make it more appealing. We even got advice from an industry leader at H&M on how to effectively use social media.

Even more critical, we looked at ways you prevent your customers from spending money. Adobe, for instance, places many barriers to entry before letting users spend their money, with complicated upgrade paths, and some non-existent ones. CVS, on the other hand, launched a new site with really easy tools to track and reorder prescriptions.

Customer service plays a huge role in a down economy. Users want to feel like they can trust the companies with which they choose to interact. Having great customer service is at the heart of this.

Among the various customer service best practices we discussed: be multichannel, be 24/7, and don’t divide customer service into a million departments that each solve a piece of the user’s problem. We even took a positive case study from an airline that is doing things right. Wow, I never thought I’d say that about an airline.

I spent the bulk of this year talking about the need to innovate. In a down economy, the best way to differentiate is to innovate and surprise customers. When Chase launched envelope-free ATMs, I started switching my bank accounts to Chase because of the convenience factor.

New technologies, such as image scanning and visual recognition, are allowing thought leaders like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chase, and Bank of America to create new services and features no one has ever seen before. In addition to the ATM example, Amazon and B&N both have iPhone devices that include visual recognition and assist users in making purchase decisions. IPhone applications (and other smartphone apps) don’t have to just be used in a silo. We also explored ways these apps could be used while in a physical store.

Another long-overdue innovation is the use of text messaging. Europeans adopted text messaging for interactions like buying from a vending machine, paying for parking, and even filing taxes. America, however, is behind the curve on this.

For companies looking for the next big thing, we discussed 3-D technology and how it will affect Web sites. The Blu-ray 3-D standard is coming out soon, and the entertainment world is really banking on 3-D to be the next huge technology. 3-D monitors and televisions are coming en masse in 2010.

We talked about how 3-D imaging could dramatically affect your sales efforts. We even enlisted an expert in the field to give us some 3-D best practices.

As always, I do my best to give you quick-win ideas that you can use tomorrow to make your site better. In a continuation of my “Reasons your Site Sucks” series, we talked about how to better organize a home page, rethink your navigation, and be more consistent in how you present information on your site.

We covered even more ground in 2009, but my aim here was to highlight the major themes. A complete list of this year’s articles can be found here.

On to 2010

Of course, we all hope 2010 will be a better year than 2009. Regardless, one thing is certain: we can’t just sit idly by and hope our customers will stay involved. Even in bad times, we need to constantly innovate and try new ideas that will attract new customers, and keep our existing ones interested and involved in the conversation.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Until next time…


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