Customer-Focused Excellence

Today I’m offering you a holiday gift. Recently, we published a study, “2003 Study for Customer Focused Excellence.” It examines 60 retail Web sites for customer focus once the customer had identified the product for purchase. Below, a few things we learned in our study we haven’t published elsewhere.

What You May Already Know

Lands’ End scored on top with 81 percent. That’s a great score. It’s unrealistic to expect a 100 percent from any online retailer. Many customers want a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne for the price of a bottle of soda. It’s almost impossible to give customers everything they want. Determine what you can give customers while meeting business objectives.

Sears, surprisingly, came in at number nine. Only a short while ago, the retail giant had no idea what it was doing online. It could be the Lands’ End acquisition is having an impact on its parent. Some of my contacts at Lands’ End confirmed this but preferred not to be quoted.

What Might Shock You

Of 60 retailers studied, 25 percent used font sizes that were hard to read, even for our under-35 mystery shoppers (mystery shoppers were aged 23-55). The online population is aging. Why haven’t retailers made default fonts any larger?

Simple. They design before they decide how copy will integrate into the design. They then choose the font size based on what size fits.

There’s no excuse for Web page design not to allow for larger font sizes or to offer an option to enlarge the font. Design only to aid in the persuasive process. Decide what to say and how to say it. Only then can you begin to design.

An amazing 23 of the 60 retailers didn’t have a return policy or a policy that could easily be found. Of those with a return policy, nine didn’t have one written in plain English (grab an attorney to shop with you on these sites).

Point of action assurances are critically important. So ensure they’re done correctly.

The Checkout Process

The study only examined online retailers after prospects searched and found the items they were interested in. Checkout is where retailers fared badly. Amazon.com topped many categories in the study, but wouldn’t have scored as well as VictoriasSecret.com, for example, if we studied item merchandising and images. Staples would’ve ranked much lower had we looked at the overall Web site. Our mystery shoppers couldn’t keep anything in the shopping cart until they’d registered. And Staples provides tax information only post-purchase, in a follow-up email.

VictoriasSecret, Buy.com, bloomingdales.com, and OfficeMax.Com were among the worst online retailers in terms of checkout process.

When A/B Split Tests Lie

Earlier this year, we did a competitive analysis as a benchmark for a client. Our mystery shoppers found two online retailers were testing third-party stamps, such as VeriSign and the Better Business Bureau. The stamps should have led to a better customer experience, they weren’t properly implemented.

Since then, we’ve checked to see if they fixed the mistakes. They haven’t. Both retailers abandoned the concept completely without realizing it wasn’t the concept that was wrong, but the implementation. Truly customer-centered companies have the courage of their convictions and make sure concepts work.

What Next?

In our next study, we’ll find out how many retailers offer Spanish language translations and if those translations are culturally correct (yes, my cofounder and I speak fluent Spanish). Please send me any questions you think we should ask.

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