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Preface

Preface

Nothing would be more disturbing than discovering that customers find shopping on your website frustrating and confusing. Worse yet, what if most of them said they would not purchase from you based on that experience? It would not only be disturbing, it would mean disaster for your business.

Online shopping research we've conducted over the past several years confirms that people will purchase on websites that are easy to use. And, they won't purchase on websites that are confusing or take too long to find what they want. Confusing websites lack customer focus.

Creating a customer-focused superior online shopping experience is the key to consumer-centered design. By adopting the techniques in this book, you will improve the success rates and satisfaction levels of your customers, thereby increasing sales.

Confusing website navigation, minimal assistance during the shopping process, and information overload all cause the consumer to change the “currency” from “money” to “time” as they measure their experience online. Customers will look for ways to reduce the amount and increase the quality of time they spend on the process.

To the customer, quality means education—not a sales job. It also means relevant information and communication, control of when, where, and how to get information, and the ability to ask questions and get answers.

Does your website do all of those things? This book tells you how the customer shops, how to develop and manage your website to respond to customer needs, and provides the methodologies and techniques to employ. You'll also learn about the various disciplines of retailing, cataloging, e-tailing, and usability engineering. It will take integrated knowledge of each to compete in the online shopping environment of the future.

Customer-centered design must start with the customer and grow from there. Knowledge and insight of current shopping behaviors—at retail, in catalogs, and online—are blended with product category information and user-centered design methodologies to develop intuitive website navigation. As a result, customers are interested in your website and can easily find and purchase your products.

The most common form of e-commerce website today is the product-database approach. This type of website is usually designed around the products the online merchant has for sale. The website and category structures are constructed on database software code efficiencies and ease-of-maintenance goals rather than on customer needs, ease of use, or the entertainment value of shopping.

Merchants are usually concerned with abandoned shopping carts. But there are silent customers who get away because they can't find products to place into the cart. And, when the searching gets tough, the shoppers get going and won't hesitate to click to another store. They just don't have the time to spend on confusing or hard-to-use websites.

Although it is unpleasant to hear that customers don't like your store, it is important to listen to their concerns, observe how they interact with your website, probe why they click on selected links, and understand what they expect. You can't tell by merely measuring clicks and hits to pages. You have to know their purpose for shopping and other factors they consider as they shop. If you don't know why they found your website confusing or difficult, you can't improve their experience.

We've found that commerce, whether on the web, in a store, or through a catalog, involves market development, channel development, advertising, usability engineering, retailing, direct marketing, cataloging, and customer research—all disciplines we have worked in at one time or another.

We've discovered that it is not one element that is responsible for successful e-commerce website design, but it is the combination of many elements. The integration of all of the various disciplines provides a holistic view of the online marketplace that creates this novel approach to a customer-centric online store design. It's a blend of new and old rules with a redirected focus that will enable success for the future.

Today's marketplace has grown rapidly and is constantly evolving. We must anticipate and respond to these changes in business, technology, products, competition, and customer dynamics. In today's marketplace, consumers are driving this change.

We're now in a period of merging companies and channels—brick and mortar with web properties, web properties with other web properties—and resurgence of public confidence in online shopping. To win back the online customer, a re-balancing of strategies is required with more emphasis on the customer and more weight on the customer experience. The past was about attracting buyers not customers. The future will be about developing and keeping loyal customer advocates.

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