Two's a Queue

Retail, eCommerce, usability, customer experience, service, technology...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Love and Customer Service

Ah Valentine's Day. A day of organised commercial goo, horrible padded cards with bears on them and icky cheap chocolate -  custom designed to make you a) miserable (singles) or b) inadequate (couples) . Three of my least favourite things are commercial goo, horrible padded cards with bears on them and icky cheap chocolate so I rebranded Valentine's to become the night 'I Was Cooking'. Basically it was going to feature all the things we love - mainly Jamie Oliver's tuna meatballs with Ben and Jerry's for afters .  Turns out there actually was no avoiding goo on my Valentine's Day. The real life kind. Two hours after putting my precious Fairly Nutty in the freezer......the ice cream was soup. Fridge/freezer was broken. Ouch.

I knew the fridge/freezer was under guarantee but I had a sneaky suspicion I had recently ignored one of those 'your guarantee is about to run out buy a new one for a zillion ££££'s' letters. After checking the order email for the fridge I realised it was purchased on  -  14th January 2010 - one month out of guarantee....NOOOOOOO.

But - ever optimistic and in possession of the finer points of the 1984 Sale of Goods Act I phoned the site I bought it from to see if there was anything they could do to help. I Googled the phone number, I wrote down all the things I wanted to say, I was prepped , I was ready for a fight. I didn't honestly believe a fridge should last 13 months. *deep breath*.....

I phoned the Co-Op...they agreed! I didn't even have to roll out my ‘I’ve been working in retail since ...yada yada’ patter. Within about 15 seconds of me telling my Ben and Jerry's trauma the customer service agent said they would contact the manufacturer who they'd expect to honour the guarantee and if not they would support the replacement of my fridge/freezer for up to 6 years (as per DSR's and SOG Act). Wow, I was in raptures. I was fully expecting a long drawn out argument which would culminate in me a) crying b) shouting c) calling the small claims court or d) all three. None of these things happened. It actually was amazing. Co-op phoned me back when they said they would, they contacted the manufacturer who is coming round this week to look at fixing the fridge/freezer and if they can’t fix it then we can talk about what they can do for me. It's all good!

And how many people have I told about the fabulousness of the Co-Op Electricals. About 50. I've tweeted, I've facebooked, I've bored my colleagues to tears. And now I've blogged about it.

The power of turning a bad into a good. Nuff said.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

ASOS f-commerce review

Ah f-commerce. Never has there been a more mentioned phrase at eCommerce networking events (other than 'eurgh what is this I'm drinking it looks like red wine but the taste resembles paint stripper' - but that's by the by). Anyone who wants to appear 'on trend' with their finger on the pulse of social commerce is talking about it. In my experienced they are pretty much the only people that are talking about it..the rest of us are too busy using facebook for it's primary purpose - stalking our secondary school boyfriends /best friends/enemies and observing how fat/ugly/the same they look. Anyway what was I saying? Oh yes bores me.

All that said when a major player like ASOS tears themselves away from updating their friends on the number of olives they've eaten in the last ten minutes and start putting the 'book to a use that should resonate with all retailers - selling stuff, then we should be taking notice. ASOS has 445,401 followers on their facebook page, which up until recently was mainly used for promotional activity and engaging customers in discussion as well as competition campaigns etc. (They also have a customer service page but that's a whole other post). No one can blame them for seeing the £££'s that an audience of that size can represent. And the online retail community is waiting with bated breath to see if they do indeed convert into real money (and I'm sure the ASOS bigwigs have their pinkies crossed under the table as we speak).

Two paragraph's in I'll get to the point. A few things I personally don't like:

  • It's slow to load - the content is clearly going via a third party and it shows. I'm so bored of the waiting wheel I almost went back to studying my high school boyfriend's wife/kids/whatever. 
  • It refreshes every time you choose a colour/size/image. See above
  • The text is pretty small- it looks like it's been scaled down to fit in the minimal space fb allow. I'm old, it makes me squint.
  • Weird image refreshing/no zoom. Can't work it out. One of ASOS's plus point is their catwalk vids. Not here.
  • Error messaging. Eeek!
  • The delivery type selection journey is a bit odd. You choose it in checkout instead of on your 'Shopping Bag' page, and it's hidden in a tiny dropdown. Not sure this is quite as good as it could be.
Things I do like:
  • As expected for social commerce the emphasis is on 'Share'. Big buttons. Nice
  • The user journey in general is pretty consistent with the normal site and it's not overly lengthy. I'd imagine you could see an item that your mate has liked, navigate to it, view it and buy it within two shakes of a lamb's tail.
  • Despite the obvious space issues they have managed to maintain the brand - it's very ASOS and it reflects the site content well.
Now I feel bad that there's more things I don't like compared to what I do like. Partly this is due to me being not really their target market - I admit I do like facebook and I probably do check it everyday but it's on my iPhone on the train rather than spending hours browsing and chatting. Also I work at a desk with a PC on it. If I want to buy ASOS I'll erm....go to ASOS. Whether other people do the same will no doubt be publicly announced at some point in the future. Either way my pennies are going into ASOS's piggybank so ultimately who cares?

I guess that's the key, as long as customers are shopping on ASOS be it on their site or their f-commerce site then all is well in the world. Horses for courses. f-shoppers can shop, and f-stalkers..well they can just keep on stalking.

H x

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

eCommerce Tricks for Offline Retailers

For quite some time there has been tantalising posters in the window of a vacant shop in the village where I live. After my trip to New York in December the prospect of a Magnolia Bakery style cupcake shop within a one mile radius of my house was something I could definitely get behind.

The aforementioned shop opened last Sunday and over a week later I still hadn't been in. Considering not only had I been hotly anticipating my local cupcake moment for ooh at least 3 weeks but surely to goodness I was sitting slap-bang in their target market (also I pass the shop every day on the walk from the station). WHAT on god's earth was WRONG with me? Was I ill? I mean the day the new Zara site launched I had a calendar invite in my Outlook...I was directly onto the new ASOS facebook app as soon as it went live...the Outnet design refresh made my year...and then....the penny dropped.

It occurred to me that the shop - I'll call it 'Hotly Anticipated Cupcake Shop' (hacs to save my typing finger) must be doing something wrong to have so disappointed me,  It just wasn't grabbing me in the way my favourite websites do - despite the convenient location. And given that Hummingbird Bakery deliver..well it could be all over for me and hacs.

Here's a few lessons I think hacs could have learned from the world of online retail:

Engage me with the Homepage
To me a cupcake is the summer fashion of the baked goods world. It's beautiful, it's colourful, it's sweet, it's probably got some cute little mini butterflies stuck to it, it doesn't last very long..and I need to SEE it to want to buy it.

Fashion websites show you lovely shots of models wearing their product on their Homepage because they want you to buy into looking like that, they want you to delve into the rest of the site. Having a display case which is three feet into the shop so that I have to squint and push my nose against the glass to even view what's on offer is a massive barrier for me. The Hummingbird has those cool glass shelves for a reason, Cox Cookies & Cake has the cake stands in the window for a reason, crikey even Greggs shows it's 49p iced buns in the window. SHOW ME THE CAKE. That's all.

Call to Action
Clear calls to action on a website tell the visitor what to do next. Whether that's clicking on a link to some information, signing up, tracking their order. hacs could do with some clear CTA's. It's 7pm, you're standing behind the counter with all the lights on staring at me, I am so not going to try the door to see if you're open. Nor do I really want to ask what the price of everything is. Put a sign on it.

Targeted Promotional Activity
Apparently there was an offer from hacs to people leaving the train station on the Sunday. Sunday. You see my point.

Customer Experience
When designing an online retail site the customer journey is constantly referred to, again and again. We A/B test, we user test, we do it again. The focus is always (or should be!) 'What does my customer need?'. What my village needs is a cafe with more than 2 seats in it (real estate is expensive in London) and not yet another shop with ooh 2 seats in it. Not only is this faintly bizarre (it's a residential area not a workers lunchtime spot) but it's also just not a pleasant experience for anyone. Walk into the shop and you're basically struggling to navigate the two tables to get to the counter. Sit in the two tables and you're pretty much going to get someone standing over you to look at the fareaway vision of cake...the cream leather seats look nice though.

Not strictly something online which you can apply to offline but no less irratating. If you're going to have a website to promote your offline shop and/or brand then for goodness sake make sure people can find it. Furiously Googling for opening hours on my way home on the train was an epic fail after even the exact name of the brand and it's location didn't show up on Google. I had to go via a local blog it had been mentioned on.

Clearly this is a bit of a labour of love for the owners, and in some ways they seriously know their stuff - the brand and logo for the shop are excellent, as is their social media presence - they're definitely investing the time on Twitter and engaging directly with customers (or friends - I can't work out which) on ideas and feedback. Customer service was a tad scary and Rowan-Atkinson-in-Love-Actually-esque ('Which would you like madam? The vanilla? Very good madam. Would you like a bag or a box madam?) but the sentiment was there.

Given all this they'll probably do incredibly well (and it's cake to be fair - everyone loves cake) but really this post isn't about hacs. There are so many businesses making precisely the same mistakes (not strictly a shop but Balls Brothers - have you heard of menu burn??). It's about all those 'real' stores  - the traditional, well worn, regular bricks and mortar stores that could just learn a teensy bit from the tricks of the mouthy teenager upstart of online retail. After all that's where ecommerce came from to begin with...that's why it's not just called 'e'....

H x