Why Internet Stores Fail to Stay In Business

29 Jan

As the owner of a small internet website that’s operated for 14 plus years and as an avid customer to hundreds of other online websites, I feel that I have my finger on the pulse of what it takes to run a successful online store.

There have been countless times that I have discovered a policy (or lack thereof) that made me think “whoa, how do they stay in business operating that way?” And inevitably the answer is “they don’t”.

So let’s look at the top 10 reasons that internet stores fail.

What can you do to keep online customers happy?

What can you do to keep online customers happy?

1. They try to be all things to all people. This might be the single hardest thing for a store owner to stick to but it’s one of the most important.  If a customer asks for something that you do not offer, you want to be able to give it to them.  DON’T. If you are going to specialize in making bracelets out of  stones and a customer calls or e-mails you and asks you if you can make earrings out of bottle caps, you should probably politely pass.  Why?  Well, do you have all the supplies without making a special trip? Do you have the time to learn how to make the “best” bottle cap earrings that you can make? Yes, I believe in good customer service, and yes I believe in accommodating the customer in every way possible but I stop short of filling special requests for products that are not something that we currently offer. It’s costly, it’s a time drain and if you’ve done your market research correctly, it’s really not something that’s going to make you money. When a customer calls our store with a request that is not something we do, we concentrate on explaining to them what we can do and this extra attention almost always results in a sale.

2. They fail to communicate in a timely basis with their customers.  If a customer e-mails and asks a question, that question should be answered within the next 2 hours, preferably sooner. This includes evenings up until 9PM.  How many times have you found an item that you’d like to buy in an online store, but you just have “one little question” that you need answered?  So, you click on the e-mail us link, ask your question and then….. nothing.  Just the other morning I needed 1 more of a particular plush animal that I didn’t have enough of in stock.  I scoured the internet and found what I was looking for in a small shop.  Since I was paying for shipping this lighter weight item, it was more economical to order multiples so I decided I to order three.  And because it appeared to be a small shop I e-mailed to find out if they had 3 in their inventory. I waited all day and no reply. Since it was Friday and I really needed them quickly I ordered 3 and in the SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS section I said, “I have ordered 3 but only really need 1. Please don’t hold up my order if you don’t have the full amount in stock. Just adjust my credit card and send what you have.”  I got the automatic order receipt but nothing else. There was a link in the receipt to check my order status.  I clicked on it the following Tuesday morning and what was my status?  Nothing. Grrrr.  No matter what happens from this moment on, how likely would I be to order from this store again?

3. They don’t offer PayPal as a form of payment. Let me just say that I don’t work for or own stock in PayPal. It’s just that if I’m doing business on the internet and am not familiar with a store, I am significantly more inclined to make my purchase if they offer PayPal as a form of payment. Why?  Well, I don’t have to hand out my credit card info to a place that I’m not familiar with. I am comfortable that with PayPal I have more protection from being a victim of fraud.

4. They don’t change their websites with the seasons/holidays. If a retail website has no indication on it that there is an upcoming holiday, I wonder about it.  Conversely, if I shop a website in February that still has Elf and Santa Claus pics, then I would worry about shopping with them too.  It’s like a huge sign that says “no one really monitors this website.”

5. They don’t put themselves in their customer’s shoes. Frequently, we get customers who are in a hurry and don’t read our “Delivery” section and aren’t sure what delivery method to choose.  Many times they will choose Standard Overnight delivery (very expensive) when Regular Ground Delivery would get it there in the same time frame.  We always e-mail the customer, explain the cost savings and offer to change their delivery and reduce their costs.  It’s what we’d want someone to do for us. Same goes for obvious typos on the enclosure cards.  We correct any glaring errors because we believe that part of our responsibility is to make our customers look good.

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