How online feedback is helping retailers survive and thrive

Online shopping

One can easily describe the current retail market as “it was the best of times; it was the worst of times”.

On the one hand, retailers are getting slammed from a number of directions. Uncertainty about interest rates, rising utility costs and a global recession has given shoppers pause as they scramble to pay-off debt, stabilize their shrinking portfolios or even just get by.  To worsen matters for brick and mortar stores, a strong Australian dollar has simultaneously slowed the flow of tourists down under while incentivizing Aussie consumers to shop outside the country via international online retailers.

But on the other hand according to international consulting firm Deloitte, Australian internet activity has doubled in the last 4 years and will directly contribute $70 billion to the economy within 5 years. Reflecting this growth, initiatives like Getting Aussie Business Online (which offers businesses free website setup and support) along with the rollout of the NBN are making it easier than ever for retailers to take advantage of all e-Commerce has to offer. This all bodes well for retailers going online.

In fact, growing number of businesses recognize that strengthening their online presence and strategy is what can really make all the difference. Not only do retailers reduce overhead costs with virtual stores, but more and more consumers are turning to the web for a majority of their purchases.

Online customer feedback is the starting point for success

But simply building an e-Commerce site with your products or services and investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not at all a guarantee for retail success.

For example, if your site does not provide an excellent user experience – something which is subjective and can vary for different target markets – your visitors will simply find a competitor’s site that meets their needs and expectations. Similarly, if your prices are too high, or you are not carrying a particular brand or size, customers will search elsewhere.

And without online customer feedback you might remain clueless of these or other reasons your visitors are bouncing from your site. You might also be losing anonymous, potential customers who will leave your shopping cart never to return.

But with online feedback, not only will you know where and what to fix on your site, you will have a powerful lead generation and marketing tool whereby you can reach out to your feedback providers and convert them into sales – now or sometime in the future.

Because for all you know, your visitor might really have been interested, but just not quite ready to buy. By gathering their feedback and contact details, you can ensure that they receive the appropriate follow-up and targeted marketing so they convert into sales when the right time rolls around.

How exactly does online customer feedback work?

Online customer feedback is simply data on how your visitors feel about your website along with their contact details. By providing unobtrusive and intuitive feedback forms on your site, you can easily discover which part or processes on your website are working brilliantly for visitors and which less so.  Visitors can easily provide feedback and let you know if they are dissatisfied with pricing, site navigation, support or any other relevant variable.

This feedback can then be used, among other things, for optimizing user experience, providing customer support, and lead generation.

And that is why retailers like GetPrice, Grays Online, City Beach, and SurfStitch and many more have found that online customer feedback can be extremely valuable in creating a successful online store.

Take for example City Beach, a popular retailer for surfing and skating goods. With dozens of locations in Perth, Darwin, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, City Beach wanted to replicate their brick and mortar store experience in their online store. But to get it right, they really needed to hear their online customers in a simple, organized and comprehensive fashion. Using online feedback, City Beach was able to easily field large volumes of web-based comments and inquiries– and clearly identify the areas their customers wanted to see changes in. This feedback allowed them to optimize their online store experience and keep visitors happy.

At the end of the day, no matter which way the economy swings, an online presence is essential for retailers. And online feedback is essential for success!

- Zev Schonberg is the Marcom Manager of Kampyle, an online feedback and lead generation software company. Kampyle provides comprehensive feedback solutions to over 100 Australian companies such as Fairfax, Telstra, Flight Centre, City Beach, GetPrice, Grays Online, Surf Stitch and more.

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