Recently, I found myself in the middle of a discussion about how long it took to actually place an order on a particular cataloger’s Web site. Granted, this particular company admits it’s not on the cutting edge of online selling. But the result was an eye-opener. Knowing the product number, it still took me 22 clicks to buy an item on its Web site. Would anyone really put up with that? It actually surprised me how many customers did.
We, of course, began a search of this company’s competitors’ sites and found the same product could be ordered with far fewer clicks in much less time. Essentially, the site designs were very different. One was built by programmers; the other by marketers. One was intuitive, and the other was oblivious to any customer need or want.
Most catalogers receive more than half their orders online. On average, about half of those online orders are actually driven by a catalog. Customers know what they want when they hit your site. So it’s critical to make it dead easy to order by item number — dead easy, as in fewer than six clicks. That’s especially true if it’s a repeat customer ordering with an account number and an item number. You’ll see many sites clearly invite catalog customers with “ordering from a catalog?” or some similar “easy order” systems.
Ask yourself how easy your site is. Ask a person totally unfamiliar with your company to order your top-selling item. Give this person an item number. Then stand back and watch. What online users do vs. what you think they’re going to do is often very different; such fundamental customer research here is important.
Also, order something from your top three competitors online. Take copious notes, then revisit those sites and order again in three to six months to see how they’ve changed, if at all. Try to find out the details of your competitor sites. Are they in-house or third-party? Who manages them? What are their strengths and weaknesses, and are they structural (not so easy to change) or marketing driven (easier to change)? What can you learn about their search engine marketing expertise by examining their sites?
Do this in the same way you examine a competitor’s print catalog — studying the paper stock, ink coverage, addressing, cover changes and other key factors. Online is no different; study your competitors closely to know their weaknesses.
Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fl., that services clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 383-5221 (direct line).Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services B2B catalog company clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at tjukes @ b2bdmi.com or (954) 383-5221
Comments or questions are welcome.