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Keeping the Balance

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Posted September 25, 2001 By Staff     Feedback

E-tailers that have customer-retention in mind need to offer a well-balanced online interface.

E-tailers that have customer-retention in mind need to offer a well-balanced online interface.

Most experts would agree that arranging a site so that information is presented in a pleasing and well-balanced manner is mission critical when it comes to catching the eye of potential customers. Furthermore, keeping the site experience relatively uncomplicated is essential when it comes down to engaging increasingly finicky online consumers.

Research done by the Usability Science Corporation has shown that the first impressions of a site visitor go a long way. A web site should, however, ultimately be more than just an advertising vehicle and product order form, they opine. USC researchers found that many sites present potential customers with cryptic or misleading links whilst bombarding them with flashing ads and unnecessary applets. Caroline Cofer, marketing manager for Internet strategy firm Resource Marketing Inc concurred with the USC's observations and noted that customer retention comes down to how well a site provides all the information that a customer needs in a simple and easily recognisable manner.

"The customer experience altogether is what keeps customers coming back to a site," she added. She added that customers who are bombarded by a deluge of irrelevant information and wait for slow page-downloads would invariably go elsewhere

The USC counsels that buttons or links must be as straightforward as possible. Sites, they believe, need to be designed so that users can intuitively navigate their way, performing tasks, finding information, and making purchases with as little effort as possible. "Essentially the check-out process should involve three or four screens, rather than the usual five to ten," argues Cofer, "and transaction processing should be clear and fast."

Jim Farrell, a consultant in A.T. Kearney agrees that a ensuring a shorter buying process is crucial when it comes to retaining buying customers. "Consumers shouldn't have to go through the entire catalogue to get to where they're going," he stated. "The likelihood of an abandoned shopping cart and a distraught customer is greatly reduced by a shorter buying process." Both Farrell and Cofer agreed that letting shoppers know in advance how much shipping and postal costs will amount to is another way of preventing customers from abandoning their shopping carts and taking their money elsewhere. In addition, Cofer recommended the addition of running totals, itemized lists, and the provision of quick access to shopping cart details (enabling customers to compare products as they browse).

"When you keep the customer in mind everything else tends to automatically come together well," she concluded.

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