It has been said that E-Commerce is dead, and has been succeeded by R-Commerce, or Relationship-Commerce. And there is truth to that sentiment. Relationship Commerce deals with the value of the overall relationship a merchant establishes with the customer, rather than simply the one-time purchase transaction. Although reluctant to accept E-Commerce initially, the general public is no longer impressed with simply being able to make a purchase electronically at your company’s website. Now it is about the simpler things that successful businesses have known since the days of the cash register. Winning at E-Commerce requires that your business not only satisfies your customer’s need to purchase your product, but that your business satisfies your customer’s need for security, product support, and business ethics. Your customer must know that he or she is more than welcome to return for their future product needs. Thus, winning at E-Commerce, or R-Commerce, starts with a simple ‘thank-you’. But thanking your customer also takes on more subtle forms. Here is a point-by-point summary of how to win at E (and R) – Com.:
1. After the completion of each sale, it is imperative you display a screen thanking your customer.
2. Do not place a random advertisement on your thank you screen; it will have the effect of appearing as though the thank you screen is a tool for advertising, rather than a vehicle for a genuine thank-you.
3. Do not force open new browser windows, or require that your customer view new web pages through a frame. Imagine how many times you would return to a restaurant in which the valet parking attendant painted an advertisement for the restaurant on your windshield.
4. Offer a support and/or frequently asked questions page which is easily accessible from your main page; if possible, also offer free phone support for your product or service.
5. Provide an opportunity for your customer to request to have you call them directly, especially for product inquiries: R-Commerce will soon dictate that on-line businesses become more personal.
6. Offer your customer the opportunity to be notified of new products via email and/or phone.
7. Personalize statements and correspondence to your clients – even if you communicate via plain text email.
8. Offer your customers the opportunity to supply personal information, and/or survey details: do not require that they do so, unless it is absolutely necessary for the completion of the sales transaction (i.e.. for shipping purposes)
9. Analyze voluntary survey results and ensure your promotions are accurately targeting your audience. Effective sales targeting can actually be a higher form of service, so the right products find the right people. Both your business and your customers will benefit.
10. Personally select other sites on which to advertise, as opposed to using a third party; having your banner on a site which is morally objectionable, or which conflicts with your product or service can negatively influence a potential customer’s impression of your company.
11. Realize that your site could be visited by someone who does not yet realize they need your product or service. Foster new relationships with ‘About Company XYZ’-style web pages.
12. Avoid mass mailings using email or regular mail.
13. Never sell your customer database information. Would you continue to retain a lawyer who did such a thing with your information? Customers expect confidentiality from ALL merchants with whom they share their personal information. Honor that expectation.
14. And finally, unless the functionality of your product depends on it, do not tell your customer what they must now do: ie. a website they must now visit, a service to which they must now subscribe, another product which they must now purchase. This type of marketing is fine for one time sales, but in an effort to secure customer retention, this approach can be deadly.Most importantly, remember that winning at E-Commerce involves more than just one sale per customer. And that is why to win at E-Commerce, you must embrace R-Commerce. Do not forget who should remain in charge in the merchant-customer paradigm: since the customer pays you, do not tell your customer what to do. And never lose sight of the fundamental purpose of the internet: to share ideas and collaborate on a mass scale.With the added revenue gained through the higher margin of R-Commerce, offer your customers the opportunity for collaboration with you and your company via newsletters or chat rooms. Or better yet, offer something free – a free daily quote, free company news, or perhaps even a free product. Fostering Relationship Commerce with your customer will ensure that you not only win at E-Commerce, but that you continue to do so for a long, long time.