Editor’s Take: Improve Customers’ Experience
Certainly over the years, the retail shopping experience has endured many peaks and valleys — plenty more valleys than peaks. But the changes I’ve noticed more recently have gone in the other direction, and catalogers need to adapt quickly. Retail shopping ain’t so bad these days.
More stores look better. Even the Lands’ End department in a Kmart I visited in July didn’t look so bad. Service has improved, too. So the gap may be tightening on the edge catalogers/multichannel marketers have long enjoyed with regard to service and shopping ease.
Certainly, there always have been exceptions to the notion that retail shopping is a drag. Nordstrom, Saks, Neiman Marcus and plenty of specialty boutiques always make you feel comfortable.
So, since few catalogers can compete effectively on price, they run the risk of losing their competitive edge with regard to the consumer shopping experience. Time to rewrite the rule books a bit. “Bluntly put,” says Joe Chung, CEO of interactive e-commerce solutions provider Allurent, “the paper catalog experience translated into electronic format is no longer going to cut it.”
Chung calls the greater development of Web shopping, Shopping 3.0. “Shopping in the 3.0 era,” he says, “will move from a solitary, utilitarian task built around convenience, to a destination activity where consumers specifically seek out the sites that offer rich, entertaining and exciting experiences that they can share with their friends and families.”
Many catalogers effectively are transforming their print books into support vehicles for their Web sites and stores. But there’s plenty more they can do to engage, entertain and retain shoppers.
“I look at many shopping sites and ask, ‘Why would anybody make it hard to check out, to search?’” said Bill Bass, CEO of the Fair Indigo catalog, when I interviewed him for this month’s cover story. It’s not hard, he said, to build better Web sites that can provide a better shopping experience — and at an affordable cost. But they’re still hard to come by.
Blogs, reviews, correct search landing pages, Web 2.0 tools and better ways to salvage abandoned shopping carts are catching on among catalogers, but there’s more to do to show customers a better time.
Improving your Web sophistication doesn’t have to come at a steep price. And it may be your best way of wooing customers back out of the stores and to the direct channel once again.
I’m proud to announce that in June we added Senior Associate Editor Joe Keenan to the Catalog Success editorial staff. Joe oversees our Idea Factory e-newsletter, writes several of our departments and will soon write features and cover stories once he gets up to speed. Joe was most recently a senior editor at Reed Technology and Information Services.
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