E-catalog-Establishing Trust on Your Web Site (919 words)
So what can you do to establish trust on your Web site? Another study from Greenwich, CT-based NFO Interactive asked online consumers who haven't bought on the Web to prioritize attributes that would entice them to make the plunge into e-commerce. The top responses follow.
1. The site has a clearly posted policy stating that it will keep personal information private.
2. The site offers and explains that it has a secure environment to purchase products.
4. The content is up to date, indicating recent merchant activity.
5. Products ordered are promised to be delivered in a timely fashion.
Here are several more suggestions from Catalog Success:
6. The site offers company background with business history and full contact details, including a physical address, phone number and e-mail links.
7. The site promotes strong product guarantees with an easy return policy and 100-percent money-back guarantee.
8. The site trumpets membership in privacy-promoting networks and programs such as eTRUST and BBBonline.
Web Strategy: Both Feet or One Toe at a Time?
A recent survey from Interactive Week and CKS/Web determined that building a low--range, "bronze-coated" e-commerce operation costs $6.6 million to implement, while a high-end "industrial-strength one" built from scratch costs $35.3 million. Those intimidating numbers, however, may be somewhat misleading. In fact, a fully functional e-commerce site is more accessible than some catalogers believe.
"Most catalogers already have the back-office support they need for e-commerce," says Kimberly Williams, vice president of R.R. Donnelley Online Services. "It would be different for bricks-and-mortar retailers who have to establish fulfillment systems from scratch."
Some small catalogers have taken tentative steps toward the Web by using their own site or other Internet real estate(such as Freeshop.com or Catalog City) primarily for lead generation. Lead generation is a fine start, but most existing catalogs could establish fully functional e-commerce sites at a fraction of the cost indicated by Interactive Week. After all, catalogers already have customer service, product copy and images, established design concepts, solid customer bases and experience shipping onesies—all of which cut costs for Web implementation.
The decision at many smaller catalog companies, however, is whether to choose gradual immersion in e-commerc or to aim for a full-blown, fire-proof site from the very first. However, with scalable software, choosing a step-by-step process doesn't always mean a company must choose a limited-functionality, out-of-the-box product as a first step.
For example, Williams says that R.R. Donnelley's Select Source Commerce Solution can put a site online in four to six weeks. "We only ask for brand identity, graphics and print collateral for a consistent look and feel with the print catalog; then we need product information and graphics." Some companies even supply the information in hard format instead of digital.
While most short-order Web sites won't be fully integrated into existing fulfillment channels in such a tight time frame, batch order transfers can provide a stop-gap solution, especially for smaller sites. Williams says that although a gradual approach can make sense by allowing an initial Web effort to serve as "a learning vehicle to find out what consumers are using it for and who's likely to buy," a site that starts with batch order transfers should be prepared to upgrade to real-time inventory as traffic and transactions grow.
While some catalogers choose to test the waters of e-commerce slowly, others dive in head-first. Luckily, a catalog needn't have the prominence and resources of a Lands' End or Gap to take this tactic. For example, Woodcraft, a wood-working supply catalog with a medium-sized $30 million to $35 million in revenues, made the leap into e-commerce with Sigma Micro Corp.'s eConnector server. The company is rolling out a leading-edge site to serve customers seamlessly for the holiday crunch.
"A lot of companies have rushed to market and done a disservice to their reputations," says Al Langsenkamp, chairman of Sigma. "A year ago, consumers were very forgiving because e-commerce was new. This holiday season, I don't think they'll be that forgiving."
Whether your catalog rolls out features gradually or all at once, choose technology partners with scalable solutions so they can add on capabilities, such as real-time inventory and online customer support, as the site grows.
"Those who sell over the Internet don't have much time in which to upgrade their service levels," warns Langsenkamp. "Perhaps in as little as six months and certainly in a year or two, if they cannot deliver superior quality service on the Web, just as it is delivered by 'benchmark' companies operating in other sales channels, they risk becoming e-toast."
Promoting a Web Site Via Print
SkyMall has thrown a lot of resources behind its Web site, www.skymall.com, and its new portal for business travelers. Now it's using another major resource to promote its Web properties: The SkyMall catalog itself.
The Summer 1999 edition used a browser-look folio at the top and bottom of each page to emphasize both its phone number and URL—hopefully inspiring the 1.1 million airline travelers who have access to the magazine each day to log on as soon as the plane touches down.