With the holiday shopping season in full swing, e-tailers hope to reach record numbers in sales. The question is, are e-businesses prepared?
E-commerce businesses of the past primarily consisted of dot-coms that were created from an idea without a clear business plan, backed by venture capital and strong stock market revenue. Many in this new breed of e-tailer hit their sales targets last year, but just as many failed at the customer support and service levels. Product shipments got backed up or even lost, and transactions bottlenecked the systems set up to support them. Many Web sites lost their appeal to customers, who were no longer confident about shopping online. A number of well-known dot-coms have gone out of business this year, leaving people feeling a bit insecure about where the e-business industry is heading.
Well, times have changed, but that old saying, "Only the strong survive," still holds true. For dot-coms to survive, they have to have a strong business plan, 24-by-7 availability, airtight security and stellar customer support. E-business has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to more-secure systems and faster shipping times, but the return policies and turnaround times that are required to create a more stable environment for customers are still in the Dark Ages.
One key question that may hamper shopping over the Web is, does the e-Santa take returns in a timely fashion? As many know, the longest lines in shopping malls are at the returns registers the day after Christmas.
Larger businesses, such as Best Buy, that conduct sales both on the Internet and in brick-and-mortar stores allow customers to return online purchases to a store, but many companies that do business primarily over the Internet make customers ship products back to get returns, meaning holiday presents may not actually arrive until well after the start of the new year. This practice causes enough grief and lost time to make shoppers think twice about online purchases. The would-be Web buyer has a chance to get a better bargain online with less of the shopping hassle of traditional malls but then risks more of a hassle when it comes to returns.
E-tailers that want to survive need to take a page from the book of traditional shops and key in on customer service. Now that shoppers know that bargains can be found on the Internet, they can be more finicky about which sites they choose to purchase from, so businesses have to establish an edge in good customer relations to survive in the competitive world of online shopping.
Happy e-shopping to all!