E-Tail Raises Expectations

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2000-12-18

When Bill Cosby did TV commercials for the financial services firm E.F. Hutton, the tag line was simple but telling: "Because ... its my money." Not just a low price, but also customers confidence that they wont regret the "bargain," are what it takes to turn e-tail shoppers into buyers.

With my recent consumer electronics purchase, I found myself disenchanted with local sources on two grounds. First, the salesclerks knew less about the product than I did. Warning to brick-and-mortar sellers: Buyers today know everything on the manufacturers Web site and more. Your personnel must match that knowledge or have it available on demand.

Second, the local stores didnt bother to stock obvious adjuncts like carrying cases, in contrast to well-designed Web sites such as www.thecameraclub. com that offered hyperlinked lists of typical accessories. Another B&M warning: The convenience of same-day gratification is drastically offset by the need to go on a scavenger hunt for the rest of the desired package.

When I went to the Web to shop, I was pleasantly surprised by the breadth and quality of neutral third-party data available at well-designed sites that eased product comparison. For example, no digital camera buyer could ask for more than the tools and info available at www.dpreview.com.

What shaped my final purchase decision were independent rating sites like www.resellerratings.com, with their ease of finding out what other would-be buyers have encountered from sources both offline and online. Three e-tailers lost their chance at a three-figure sale because I found too many unhappy comments by former buyers.

Hence, my final warning to every seller: Customers today can find one another, and compare notes, with ease. And its their money.

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