24 Ways to Get a Customer and Keep a Customer

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Let’s start with the bad news, and there’s kind of a lot of it, before we move on the good news of how to fix it. About three-quarters of online shoppers are unsatisfied with their online shopping experience. The other quarter are, flatly, satisfied, in that even bad pizza is good pizza kind of way.

Sort of anticlimactic, isn’t it? The good news is there’s a lot of opportunity for satisfying customers, even making them very, very happy.

But first, more bad news.  Three-quarters of online shoppers surveyed said website content is insufficient to complete research or purchase a product online always, most, or some of the time. Nearly 80 percent rarely or never purchase a product without complete information, and 72 percent will take off to a competitor that does supply that information.

It seems that consumers really want to buy online, but retailers aren’t making it easy for them. Sometimes, it seems like retailers go out of their way to lose customers.

My recent search for information about a Polaroid camera comes to mind. In that experience, Polaroid didn’t have top ranking for its own product (not even in the top ten), and didn’t have sponsored search ads targeting very product specific keywords. The retailers who seemed to pick up Polaroid’s slack in the paid results—big names like Circuit City, Target, and Wal-Mart—failed to offer a relevant landing page. When I did find product reviews or pages, the information I wanted (price and specs, mainly) were either garbled by nonsensical rhetoric or was nonexistent.

If researching for myself and not for an article, I would have long before that said, "Screw it. I’ll just go to the store myself." All of them lost a potential online customer.

Problems like these aren’t uncommon. In fact, it seems many sites are severely lacking in the customer service department. If customers don’t prefer online shopping to brick-and-mortar shopping, it’s because retail sites haven’t done enough to make the online shopping experience a good one.

Ready for more bad news? Here are ways many sites have failed to serve their customers:

  1. Only 37 percent offer multiple images views of products.
  2. Only 33 percent offer customer reviews.
  3. 62 percent have difficult to read fonts.
  4. Only 14 percent allow customers to change the font.
  5. Only 43 percent offer free shipping.
  6. Almost two-thirds do not offer in-stock information on the product page.
  7. While just over half of online retailers have physical stores, only 10 percent offer in-store pickup.
  8. 58 percent do not offer shipping costs early in the checkout process. One third have checkout processes with more than 4 steps.
  9. Only 58 percent correctly answer an e-mail question within 24 hours.
  10. Around 80 percent don’t seem to get that more ways to pay means more ways to buy. 20 percent offer pay-by-check, 10 percent offer Google Checkout, 20 percent accept PayPal and 18 percent offer Bill Me Later.

That’s a lot of ball-dropping. Fortunately, it can all be corrected to give yourself a leg up on the competition. Hint: Just inverse some of those numbers above to understand what you should be doing.

Here are some more tips:

  • Search is fundamental. Be there at every entry point possible.
  • The landing page is crucial. You should have a landing page relevant to the search term. Yes, this is going to take some time to develop. But it doesn’t take any time for a potential customer to abandon you. In fact, it takes half a blink to form an impression, and if that page isn’t loaded in under four seconds, it takes less than half a blink to hit the back button. Just remember, information seekers scan from left to right, top to bottom, so keep those keywords, beginning with the search link, to the left and not buried in chunks of text. Make sure it’s clear where links lead, especially if navigating a customer away from a landing page.
  • Product information should be complete, answering all the customer’s questions. A survey found 77 percent said "buying from a particular merchant is ‘very to somewhat’ influenced by the quality of content (descriptions, copy, images and tools) on a particular website.
  • Images are vital. One day, when smell-o-vision, holographic imaging, and virtual reality tactile-experience suits are reality, we can better recreate the actual store-bought experience. Until then, we have pretty pictures, even video demonstrations. Get Elastic has a pretty comprehensive guide to making the photo experience better for customers.

One more list and we’re done. The e-tailing group reports these ten features and functionalities as the most important to customers, according to a survey.

1.    Product overview
2.    Merchant’s guarantee
3.    Stock status/availability
4.    Quality of image
5.    Customer service links
6.    Product specific information
7.    Long description
8.    Size chart
9.    Toll-free number
10.    Ratings and reviews

24 Ways to Get a Customer and Keep a Customer
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  • Julz

    The problem today is hardly anybody remember or adhere to the classic old saying "The Customer Is Allways Right" Ok you also get a few anoying ones! but they are still the reason why your business even exists. If every seller on the internet thought a little more like this the rest of us who do think and run there bussiness in a professional manner wouldn’t be tarred with the same brush!

    Cheers, Julz.

    P.S. The problem is the majority are out for a quick easy buck instead of planning and building there business through hard work.

    • Guest

      That’s becuase the customers aren’t always right.  Some of them are blithering idiots and others are just annoying idiots.  If only someone could develop an idiot filter to keep them away from our website…

  • http://www.brane.com.br Peter (IMC)

    An article that claims the following:

    "About three-quarters of online shoppers are unsatisfied with their online shopping experience. The other quarter are, flatly, satisfied, in that even bad pizza is good pizza kind of way. "

    is kind of hard to believe because basically you´re saying 0% is just normally satisfied with their online shopping experience. And that’s just not true.

    What are the real numbers?

    • Jason Lee Miller

      If you follow the link in the first paragraph, Forrester reported the numbers as following:

      74% were dissatisfied. The other 24% were just satisfied, not delighted, as the survey asked.

      The hyperlink was provided so as not to bog down the article and so readers could follow to find the source.

      • http://www.brane.com.br Peter (IMC)

        I guess that I was overreacting a bit. The "bad pizza is alaso good pizza" thing kind of confused me off a bit perhaps. Also I’m pretty cold in these things as I can’t imagine being delighted over a shopping experience. The thrill of buying something online and seeing the product magically appear at my doorstep a couple of days later has worn off. That was delightful the first 2 times I bought something online.. :)

        But no worries. The points in your article are great. No need to focus on the numbers too much.

  • http://www.the-holiday-shop.com JTucker

    Your article was right on, and I bet too many of us, even well-intentioned web businesses, are offenders. I am on a mission to rectify problems with my own sites because, in trying to grow my affiliate business, I have had to visit, test shop, and attempt to make contact with a number of other web businesses. The response times through customer contact features, ease of finding products (or lack thereof) have been shocking, even with some of the biggest name companies. I identified myself as an affiliate manager in only half the occasions because I became concerned about what my site visitors might be experiencing. Whether I identified myself or not, too often I found myself talking to myself out there. No way to do business! Customers are the only things that matter. Why else are we all working so hard? Thank you for a great article.

    J.Tucker, The Holiday Shop Co., NYC

  • Guest

    What percentage actually answer the phone and know what they are talking about?

  • http://www.marketing-junkie.com Stacy Karacostas

    Jason, I can’t say enough thank you’s to you for sharing this information. I’m a small business marketing consultant, copywriter and the author of The Small Business Website Bible. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to fight with a Web designer to let me put enough info on a Web page I’d be working part-time by now. :-)

    And everybody wants to avoid posting a guarantee for no good reason too. I mean, would you buy something off the Web from someone you didn’t know if you didn’t feel confident you could return it??? Of course not!

    Bottom line is…It doesn’t matter how nice your Website looks if people can’t find enough info to make a confident buying decision.

    And the myth that people don’t scroll is just that–a myth. I regularly teach workshops on making Website more effective "salespeople", and every time I do I take a quick poll of how many people will scroll.

    If the content is easy to skim and read, and they are finding the information they are looking for quickly, they’ll scroll all day. If they don’t find what they’re after right away, they won’t scroll because they’ll already have clicked away.

    When people ask me how much text is too much vs. not enough, my answer is, "You need exactly as much content as it takes to…

    Get your prospect’s attention…

    Answer all of their questions about your products, services, or doing business with you…

    Make them feel confident about giving you their hard-earned cash…

    And get them to take action. "

    No more, no less.

    Never let your designer limit the amount of info you can put on a page for the sake of design. Instead Follow Jason’s advice and you’ll be well on your way to a more effective Website.



    • Maroun TERS

      First the report by Jason and now the comment by Stacy that I consider it a follow up appendix to the original reports..

      you’ve right in all this report’ research, as we always find a great opposition from our clients, the owner of the online shopping with its stores, that those clients like it to be smooth and simple, with little information concerning the product itself.. and later we will get the bame, as most of our clients’ customers are leaving the site with bad impression, which is leading to bad reputation and hard marketing.. though later a hard confidential and trust building that should support the shopping site..

      The report by Jason and the reply by Stacy are amazingly great, to prove once again to our clients what they should do and what not to do..!

      and my opinion here for all Online Seller and major onwer of ONNLINE SHOPPING website, paying a little bit more will lead to market wisely your shopping site, building confidence to the customers, and will never harm your money strategy as it will be revenued 10 times more..

      I’m a designer and web provider.. and I always face such issue with my clients..! now the time for true is MORE PROVED..!

      Maroun TERS

  • Guest

    First, great article – the points you make are excellent!  One small part I have a problem with is your example of the camera search.  You seem to be blaming the Polaroid guys for not getting their site in the top 10, but isn’t it the job of the search engine to deliver to you the most relevant results for your search criteria?  I understand the role and complexity of SEO but ultimately I expect a good search engine to have an algorithm that understands the manufacturer’s product page might be more relevant than a national retailer’s website.  I would therefore say that the search engine is at least as much to blame as the manufacturer’s webmaster.

  • http://www.totaldelights.com Diane Brixey

    This is great info and thanks for sharing it with us.  I know I will be making some changes to my website very soon.

  • http://poppaproductions.net Daniel Chege

     As a web designer, what Jason says is so true. The tips moght seem basic or simple but they work. People are more visually stimulated than text oriented.

     A good laid out page will have repeated ROI (return on investment) compared to a flashy one.

     – Daniel Chege       ( Poppa Productions Web Designs )




  • http://www.gogimon.com search engine

    I for one will be using this article over and over as a guide for much of my strategy on sites I help put together. It does seem incredulous that so much work is done to maker sites look nice and so little is done to make customers happy. Great article very eye opening

  • http://www.orangejardin.com Diana Walton

    Thank you for sharing this information with us. As the owner of a new site, I am always looking for ways to improve customer satisfaction. I believe  these  suggestions will help with my improvements.  Stock information, early shipping cost and Google checkout are just 3 of the suggestions you offered that I will have implement by the end of today.

    I am often told that people do not like to read and that I should remove the long product description – I did.  However, after  reading your article, I am putting my long descriptions back in.

    Thanks a lot


  • sobawear.com

    An excellent article.

    After reading your article I have found that our site can use more details and pictures of our products.


    Thank you.

    Mr. Soba, Sobawear.com

  • http://www.airpurifiersdirect2u.com/ Bill

    Coming from a customer service background already, I was suprised that more stores were not doing what should be no brainers. We’re all so worried with rankings and content and forget about the customer. Number one for search terms in Google does no good if you can’t take care of the customer and answer their questions.

  • Jeff

    Re:The retailers who seemed to pick up Polaroid’s slack in the paid results—big names like Circuit City, Target, and Wal-Mart—failed to offer a relevant landing page.

    Great article. I would like to add one comment though.  Referring to the line above, because of the way search engine spiders and algorithms work, a non relevant page buried in a website could appear close to the top of a search result.  So, althought there are things you can do to prevent this (like making sure few pages link to a page you’d like to bury) it can’t always be helped.  Something to keep in mind.

  • http://www.MartialArtsPartyStore.com Jane

    There’s a good reason why Polaroid’s own site didn’t come up in the top ten results when you searched for Polaroid cameras.  Many manufacturers prefer to sell through their distributors or retailers, and they make sure they do not compete with their own distributors or retailers by outbidding them in searches. For the same reason, you will often find a product is more expensive on the manufacturer’s own site than on a retailer’s site.

    Manufacturers are structured to innovate and produce the product.  Retailers have different resources and skills to process the sale and satisfy the customer. Rarely does a business model support the entire spectrum from R&D and product testing, through packing the order and sending out a shipment for every single customer.

    The relationship between manufacturers and retailers is a balancing act of partnership and competition. In fact, one of the most effective marketing messages a manufacturer can deliver to retailers is: We won’t compete against you!

  • http://www.catskillwebsitedesign.com/ Scott (CWD)

    Great info… It is a shame that more designers are not using a "customer centered" design approach (or clients not accepting it when it’s offered) which is sorely needed. Keep up the good writing!

  • http://handmadebyannabelle.blogspot.com/ Annabelle

    Great article.

    One thing to add … if I have a choice of going to the store or buying online, I’ll buy online.

    The main reason is because gas prices are so high in Ohio.  I’ll look for a "free shipping" site as you mentioned and purchase from there.  I haven’t been to a mall in over a year.  If you know exactly what you need, buying online with free shipping can save you money in the long run.



  • http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com ron

    when buying from a smaller company, before doing so I try to get through on the telephone if I cant speak to a person then I go elsewhere. The reason is that if I have a problem before buying then after sales service for faulty goods will be impossible to resolve.

    • http://www.digitalovercast.com Ken

      @ron – this is the best advice to anyone buying online. The small company may have the better price, but going with a bigger company can save you a big headache if anything goes wrong.

  • http://www.efabe.co.uk eFABE

    Jason, you always deliver, another great article and one I will be using a lot as like many others who have left comments, I to have several websites and I hope to put into practise very quickly your suggestions.

    Good luck to everyone else on making their websites a great customer experience to.


  • http://www.lastpiecesoftware.com Brian

    Customer reviews are a great way to promoto products and fill the information gaps.  I’m bias because my company does sell review software.   For dropping in a few lines of javascript to the site, these solutions are now easy to implement and the benefits are there.

    Higher conversion rates – due to more information available.  Larger basket sizes when using top rated products in a category.  Better SEO supported by the long tail and specific search terms in user generated content.  Another key is fewer returns when people are happier about a purchase.

    I’ve always seen free shipping as a key incentive.   I like the font ideas.  I never thought about letting people change the font, but that’s an interesting idea.  Why not just use the bigger / smaller in the browser?  Most font issues I see are because they are too small. 

    Great post.



  • http://www.tmdesigner.it Tmdesigner

    Gran bella ricerca..! Complimenti! Secondo me i venditori dovrebbero trovare il giusto compromesso tra il prodotto offerto(in chiave sistemica) ed il prezzo (del prodotto materiale e servizi annessi). Le pratiche descritte sopra sono molto valide, ma molto spesso il problema

  • http://www.econceptinfotech.com/online-public-relations-agency.htm Online PR Agency

    Online public relationship is important aspect to build trust, awareness and generating viral marketing on net.

    econceptinfotech.com is expert Online PR agency based at India.

    We help you to create online BRAND and TRUST with our proven service.


  • http://www.babypushchairsonline.co.uk baby pushchairs

    Tons of new online stores spring up every week. It seems like everyone is starting an e-business because the barriers to entry are low. Many of them launch their web stores having no idea or experience in what they are doing. These guidelines will come in real handy for those who want to make a difference. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.babypushchairsreviewed.co.uk/pramspushchairs/ Prams and Pushchairs

    What a good article- although I enjoy most of them. This was a real eye opener to read and has made me think a little deeper on the subject!
    I can always be sure I’ll find useful and up to date information here regularly. Thank you for your great info Jason ..

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