Live from eTail: Picking, Choosing, and Prioritizing

Feb 16, 2007 5:47 AM  By

Palm Desert, CA—At the end of the day e-commerce comes down to positive customer experiences. How does a merchant determine which new user-experience projects to implement while still keeping the business running smoothly? A panel of industry leaders discussed exactly that during a general session at eTail Thursday morning.

Merchants first need to determine what their value proposition is and how to communicate that to customers. Jacob Hawkins, senior vice president of online sales at discounter Overstock.com, noted that when you’re busy listening to your corporate executives, it’s easy to get distracted and drown out the voice of the customer. But it was listening to customers, Hawkins said, that led to Overstock.com making it to number four in on the National Retail Federation/American Express Customer Service Survey this past October.

To reach that ranking, Hawkins said Overstock looked at the areas where customers were having the most trouble and fixed them. “The best thing you can do is have a strong advocate for the voice of your customers,” he said, adding that this person should have easy access to senior-level managers who will listen to his findings.

Once findings have been identified, Jessica Weiland, senior vice president of marketing and customer care at Neiman Marcus Direct, advised going after the low-cost/high-return projects first, in part because the returns from these projects help fund bigger projects.

Pinny Gniwisch, executive vice president marketing at online jeweler Ice.com, agreed, adding that at the end of the day a better customer experience will translate into higher return on investment. And although some companies may be reluctant to deploy customer service projects without a profit-and-loss statement, said Geoff Galat, vice president of marketing and product strategy at online services provider Tealeaf Technology, once they sign off on the project the ROI is evident.

Before you hand over a project to the IT department, be sure to research the projects specifications completely. Otherwise you could end up creating more work for the tech staff, resulting in implementation delays, and “you’re going to be far less efficient than you want to be,” Hawkins said.

Above all, Galat said, ask yourself, “’What’s the benefit to the business?’ Just because you can do it doesn’t mean it needs to be done.”