What David Jones and Click Frenzy can teach small business

Online sales fails

David Jones Frenzy failure message

The lead up to Christmas is traditionally one of the busiest periods for retailers. This year, however, online sales in Australia have been poor, and some businesses have managed to do more harm than good to their reputations by hosting a string of disastrous online sales.

I’m referring of course to the David Jones and Click Frenzy debacles. Both big names have made headlines recently for all the wrong reasons by holding simultaneous online sales intended to shake up the online retail space, but instead they upset thousands of customers and prompted many to vow that they would never do business with them again.

David Jones, whose late-blooming online store had been in the works for years, had a simple premise: to introduce the new online platform and lure traffic to the site with promises of massive discounts in the hopes of generating future return business. However, the site wasn’t able to handle the demand that the sale generated, and instead of discounted goods, disgruntled users received the following message: “currently experiencing high levels of traffic”.

Click Frenzy’s sale that was heralded as ‘The Sale that Stops a Nation’ experienced the same problem only hours later, and tens of thousands of customers were left angry and without purchases. The disaster damaged not only the Click Frenzy brand, but also the many retailers who had lent their name, products and discounts to the site.

For both parties, the end result was a PR disaster and even the businesses that had offered their names to Click Frenzy were embarrassed to be associated with the site and entered into their own damage control.

[blockquote text=”Australian consumers have some of the lowest customer service expectations in the world. However, we are also more likely to share our good and bad experiences with friends, family, neighbours and strangers on the street. This makes it all the more important for businesses to create highly positive customer experiences!
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So, what should a small business do to make sure their website or online store is not a case study of ‘online fails’?

1. Make it easy for people to do business with you.

Believe it or not, there are potential customers out there that would like to do business with you, but something is stopping them from doing so. In fact, many businesses make the mistake of investing all of their marketing into convincing customers that they are worth doing business with, but they fail to take them from being interested through to becoming a loyal customer.

The thing that’s holding customers back from doing business with you could be anything from your phone manner through to your website. If it’s your phone manner then you should really work on that! However, if it’s the latter, you’re one of the many Australian small business owners whose websites actually damage sales. Having an online presence is great, but you need to provide a user experience that inspires repeat business. Poor websites leave customers disheartened and disgruntled and with little inclination to return. Why would they, when there are so many other online offerings?

2. Do your research before lending your name to third-party sites and prepare for spikes in demand.

Many small businesses use daily deals and group buying websites to attract new customers. These schemes can work you only if you consider them as promotional tactics and not new revenue streams. Be prepared to not make a whole lot of money, or no money at all! You may even need to invest in bringing in extra staff and materials to facilitate the temporary spike in demand that the deal generates.

Transitioning people from paying one price to another, irrespective of the value provided, is no easy task. You essentially need to give such a great offering that customers are willing to pay full price to receive it again. So, before the deal goes live, have a well-planned marketing strategy in place to create delighted customers and maximise repeat bookings.

3. Have a good reason for hosting a sale.

Freebies and discounts can devalue or cheapen your services, attract freeloaders, reduce your profit and make it difficult to charge full-price later. So, use them wisely and sparingly!

4. Put yourself in the position of a customer.

Your website and online store does not have the emotive components that a bricks and mortar retail store can use to encourage patronage, such as well chosen music, intuitive store layout, enticing interiors, human interaction and clever lighting. So you need to compensate for this by making your customer’s online experience as easy, enjoyable, personalised, intuitive and convenient as possible.

Put yourself in the position of your ideal customer and make sure that your online store conveys the feelings that people will experience after receiving what you are offering. Help people visualise what life will be like when they purchase what you are selling.

5. Prepare for traffic.

Anticipate the amount of visits that your online store will receive, and make sure it will handle the level of traffic. Test the store on multiple devices and browsers and also make sure loading times are acceptable. Sounds obvious, but David Jones and Click Frenzy really got this step wrong!

Hopefully online retailers will use the David Jones and Click Frenzy examples as a model for how not to host an online sale. I for one will only sit at my computer hitting the refresh button for so long!

Have you ever had a negative experience during an online sale or with a website in general? What sites do you think get it right?

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