Why Ignoring Customer Service is a Terrible Idea (With 5 Case Studies)

Why Ignoring Customer Service is a Terrible Idea

That interminable wait time while on the phone with customer service. The ‘pleasure’ of repeating your problem to four different people over the phone before at least one of them comes close to a solution. The experience of being snubbed by a salesperson in a retail store. Getting a completely wrong dish from the one you ordered in a fancy restaurant. Sound familiar?

Who among us has not had a maddening experience with customer service associates of our chosen service providers in the last 30 days? My bet is, ‘very few’. How about in the last one year? That number probably veers closer to ‘zero’ than anything else.

Technology has progressed in leaps and bounds with hundreds of new apps and software that help businesses handle every tiny aspect of customer care. From Sales & CRM behemoths like Salesforce to customer care focused ones like ZenDesk, there’s a range of specialized tools that claim to make customer care a breeze.

Studies have even shown that good customer service has been consistently rated as the most important factor that makes a customer choose one brand over another.

And yet we are inundated with instances of bad, sometimes appalling customer service experiences.

What Science has to Say About it

Some of this may be down to the fact that human brains are hard wired into remembering bad experiences far more than positive ones. A study by Professor Roy Baumeister from Florida State University attributes this stronger impact of negative events on our brains to an evolutionary response.

In the early years of human evolution, remembering negative experiences helped humans avoid or minimize threats to their lives, hence ensuring survival of the fittest. Remembering good experiences on the other hand was not quite so crucial to the survival and evolution of the human race.

This is not just scientific mumbo-jumbo. Market research supports this scientific finding and goes on to prove that 55% of customers who suffer bad customer service switch to a different brand, 48% of them convince friends and family to stop using the offending brand. The positive effect of a good service experience is slightly less pronounced.

DimensionalResearch.com, Zendesk

Consequences of Bad Customer Service

Treating customers badly, as you might expect, is not healthy for your business or its longevity. Some of the immediate effects of poor customer service include:

    • Customers stop buying from you
    • Disgruntled customers spread negative word of mouth among their friends and family
    • Social media backlash
    • Sets a precedent to employees that treating customers shoddily is ‘O.K.’
    • Cost of making it up to a dissatisfied customer is far higher than getting service right in the first place
    • Acquiring a new customer in place of the one you lost is often 4 to 7 times more expensive than keeping existing customers happy

I could go on, but you get the general drift, don’t you? Now let me bring out the real eye-poppers.

According to a study by New Voice Media in December 2013, US businesses have been losing over $41 billion every year, owing to bad customer service. And this figure does not include the cost of replacing the lost customers with new ones.

Brands that were Burnt by Bad Customer Service

Most brands invest in customer service to avoid just such scenarios, yet customers are treated to some spectacularly bad service from time to time. Here are a handful of the most infamous customer service debacles in recent years.

1. United Breaks Guitars

United Airlines

When musician Dave Carroll flew United Airlines with his guitar checked in with the rest of his baggage, little did he expect to find a broken guitar at the end of his flight. Carroll took up the matter with the airline staff at Chicago’s O’Hare airport but got no response. On filing an official claim with the airline, United rejected his claim saying he had crossed the 24 hour deadline for making claims about damaged baggage.

On reaching a dead end to his situation, Carroll resorted to what he did best. He wrote a song ‘United Breaks Guitars’ and posted it on YouTube. It became a viral sensation with about 14 million views till date.

While the song and its popularity embarrassed United Airlines publicly and the Managing Director of Customer Solutions himself called Carroll to apologize personally, the damage had already been done. United lost about $180 million in stock value within four days of the video being posted on YouTube.

2. Netflix Charges Double

Netflix

In 2011, Netflix decided to expand from its DVD rental only service, to offering its content streaming online and spin off its original DVD rental service under a new brand name – Qwikster. There was one small glitch. They decided to charge customers separately for the Qwikster DVD rental service and the online rental service – even existing customers. That meant a price hike of 60% for customers opting for both services.

This move unleashed a maelstrom of negative social media backlash against Netflix calling it uncaring, greedy, insensitive to customers, and more. Netflix was lampooned on national television on Saturday Night Live and ended up losing about 800,000 subscribers and lost 77% of its stock value in a matter of four months.

What happened to Qwikster? Well, it died an unheralded death within three weeks of its launch.

3. Dell Hell

Dell

Dell made its name and fortune on the innovative premise of selling computers direct to customers with specs as per the customers’ requirements. However, as Dell has grown in size, it seems to have lost its finger on the pulse of its customers.

Jeff Jarvis, a journalist and blogger with significant online clout, bought a Dell laptop in 2005 which turned out to be in his words; a lemon. He experienced multiple problems with the machine and tried to fix them by calling Dell’s customer service department. He paid for a technician to come to his home and fix the computer, but the guy who showed up did not bring the parts along with him that he needed to fix the machine. In spite of a fruitless service visit, Jarvis was charged for the ‘service’ even though the shortcoming was clearly on the company’s part.

When repeated attempts to solve his problem through Dell’s customer service team came to naught, an enraged Jarvis took to his blog and posted the first in a series of hate posts against Dell calling it his ‘Dell Hell’. The posts quickly went viral around the world and Dell’s reputation took a beating among computer buyers worldwide.

Besides massive negative PR, blogger and social media backlash, Dell also had to suffer the ignominy of Google’s search results showing negative content for search terms containing ‘Dell’ in them. Dell tried to minimize the damage by refunding the price of the laptop to Jarvis, but by then; the damage was already done.

You might think that a customer service disaster on such a mega scale would make Dell reconsider its ways. But this ‘Dell Hell Redux’ story of yet another customer going through a similar struggle in 2014, makes you wonder whether anything changed in the 9 years since the original ‘Dell Hell’.

4. Delta Airlines Breastfeeding Debacle

Delta Airlines

Breastfeeding advocacy has reached a fever pitch in recent years, with medical science backing up what was long believed to be a healthy practice for both mother and child. However, instead of considering it as an essential child care act, breast feeding is still viewed from a sexual lens; prompting many businesses to ask breastfeeding mothers to leave their premises or stop breastfeeding immediately.

Emily Gillette from Santa Fe, New Mexico; faced a rather unpleasant situation in 2012 while on a flight from Vermont while breastfeeding her baby daughter. Gillette was apparently kicked off a Delta connections flight (operated by Freedom Airlines and Mesa Air) at Burlington, Vermont for breastfeeding her baby in flight.

Gillette filed a lawsuit against Delta and its allied airlines for discrimination, mental trauma and inconvenience caused. The airlines came together and offered Gillette an out of court settlement amount, which she accepted. Freedom and Mesa Air separately paid the Vermont Human Rights Commission $20,000 in a separate settlement.

The incident sparked outrage across the United States, affecting the reputation of all 3 airlines involved and uniting pro-breastfeeding groups against the big bad corporate enemy. 19 airports across the country hosted ‘nurse-ins’ by mothers showing their solidarity for the cause. Both Mesa Air and Freedom Airlines apologized to Gillette and declared their open support to breast feeding mothers on board in all their flights.

5. Toyota Vehicle Recall

Toyota

Vehicle recalls have become a part and parcel of the automobile industry. With prompt corrective action and swift apologies from carmakers, customers have started seeing them much less negatively than they did during an earlier age.

However, problems arise when a company is perceived to be callous and uncaring in the face of automotive glitches that can be potentially life threatening.

Starting in 2009, a spate of accidents resulting in 34 deaths were reported involving Toyota vehicles. All evidence pointed to an unintended acceleration problem causing the fatal crashes. All this while, Toyota denied any issues with their cars and did precious little to help the scenario.

In the meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times begins a series of reports exposing the flaws in Toyota vehicles and their linkages to the accidents. Following a public uproar, Federal authorities step in and Toyota is taken to court in a class action lawsuit.

Besides paying millions of dollars to the Federal authorities for the slip ups in their product, Toyota ended up settling the class action lawsuit for a sum of $1.2 billion.

The recalls led to a $21 billion drop in Toyota’s market value. The cover ups, early inaction and silence from Toyota on the issue, cost the company the trust of existing car owners as well as the chances of acquiring new customers in the immediate future.

Conclusion

As we’ve seen, it takes all kinds to make up the wonderful, mad world of customer service. Being a completely customer facing function, customer service slip ups are out there for the world to see and react to. It is up to brands and their custodians to figure out how to make customer service work for them instead of boomeranging badly.

The New Voice Media study quoted earlier also showed that when brands do a good job with their customer service, 70% of satisfied customers tend to be loyal to the brand and 69% of them would recommend it to other people.

Even if people are pre-disposed to remembering the mistakes that you make more than the good things that you do, the payoffs are much higher in the long run by being in the good books of your customers. Try it once and see what happens. I have a sneaky feeling you won’t regret choosing to maximize customer delight instead of minimizing customer complaints. Here’s to happier customers all around!

(Image Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

How Cost Cutting Can Propel Your Business into 2014

Guest Author: Edward Hallinan

This article was written by Edward Hallinan on behalf of employee-benefits specialists, Unum. Edward is passionate about start-ups, having set up his own e-commerce music site and experience working for a digital marketing consultancy from the first day of its inception.

Scissors cutting costs

Infographic: Cutting Costs for Business

Good news! The latest research from Barclays and the Business Growth Fund has found that ‘one in five British companies can now be defined as ‘high-growth’’*. More specifically, the report also showed a 3.4% rise in the number of active registered companies in the first half of 2013 – glad tidings indeed for start-ups and SMEs.

But despite a clear bucking of the economic trend that’s blighted businesses for the last decade, now is not the time to act rashly. Indeed, the slump itself was caused by untamed growth, coupled with companies over-borrowing and over-spending. Indeed, that’s why the folks at Unum have collaborated with Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks to create the following infographic.

Entitled ‘Cutting Costs for Business’, it goes on to detail just how flippant companies have got with their spending. It found that over 50% of SMEs will go at least 6 months before reviewing costs, with a shocking 14% never reviewing their spending at all! Just in the way you wouldn’t accept a new car insurance quote without consulting a Russian meerkat first, the same applies for businesses – well, perhaps without the meerkat.

As small businesses and start-ups are building from modest foundations, it’s even more pertinent to make sure your company is working at 100% efficiency. For instance, did you know that not only are 75% of all water charges wrong, but also those failing to switch gas and electricity providers could be paying up to 61% too much?

These alarming findings are detailed in the infographic, coupled with strategies to make your business more cost-effective. And while this gives a great insight into the best ways to cut costs, it is by no means a complete list. Just take social media as a prime example. Instead of spending thousands on double page spreads in newspapers which are then thrown away, why not immortalise your marketing and advertising efforts via the world wide web? By utilising Twitter and Facebook, not only can you reach millions in one click (according to Statistic Brain, there were 554,750,000 active registered Twitter users as of July, 2013) but these interfaces are completely free to use!

By employing savvy techniques and updating marketing strategies in this way, coupled with adopting basic cost-cutting principles, you have every chance of rocketing your business into the New Year. Not only that, but keeping stock of spending will allow for steady growth which can be maintained beyond 2014.

Cutting costs for business infographic

References:

* http://startups.co.uk/fast-growing-firms-on-the-rise-in-uk/

Scissors ‘cutting costs’ image courtesy of Patpitchaya at Freedigitalphotos.net

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Advantages an Online Store Brings to Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

Guest Author: Gina Smith
 

Gina Smith writes freelance articles for magazines, online outlets and publications on behalf of a number of companies, including Global Response.  Smith covers the latest topics in the business, golf, tourism, technology and entertainment industries.

Online shopping Smartphone with ProductsMany brick-and-mortar businesses struggle with whether or not they should incorporate an online store.  This is an especially conflicting proposition for businesses that have been operating for several years.  Some business owners are simply just comfortable with their walk-in customer base. They have established a loyal following and prefer to remain status quo.  While this may work for awhile, it is not a sound long term strategy.

Change is scary, and not too many of us enjoy it.  However, for a business to keep moving forward, they must embrace change and be willing to incorporate new strategies into their marketing mix.  Whether we want to accept it or not, in today’s society, the Internet is king.  If you don’t have an online presence, sooner or later you will be isolating a portion of your customer base.  Let’s examine some advantages an online store brings to brick-and-mortar businesses. 

Computer Mouse wrapped around globeYou’re Now Global

A website can transform a local business into a global enterprise.  People from literally anywhere in the world now have access to your store and products.  This is especially beneficial for boutiques and specialty shops who carry hard to find products, handmade items or local artwork.  For example, when my husband is in need of a rare part or fixture, he visits the online store for a local hardware store he use to shop at when we lived in another state.  They always carried items he had difficulty finding.  Even though we now live hundreds of miles away, he is still one of their best customers! 

Clock, 24 hours, 7 days a weekOpen 24/7

An online store allows customers to shop 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  This is especially convenient for people who work restrictive hours which prevent them from coming to the store during regular business hours.  Then, there are others who prefer to shop or browse from the convenience of their own home.

Seasonal Customers Can Make Purchases Year Round

I see this all the time living in Florida.  Business tends to be slower during warmer months, then picks up during the winter.  This is primarily because of the growing population of people who spend summer up north and head to their second homes in the south when the cool weather starts to set in.  Establishing an online store means customers have access to your products, whether they are “in town” or not.  I frequently visit the North Carolina mountains and can always count on discovering a new, unique shop with interesting and eclectic merchandise.  Those who have websites generally earn my business year round because I have ready access to them all the time.  I even share my favorites with my friends and promote them across social sites.  One customer armed with your online store can generate an impressive amount of residual business!

So, while taking the step incorporate an online store can be intimidating, it is very manageable and can open up new opportunities. Browse the Internet to get an idea of the types of online stores out there. Once you know what general style you like and function(s) you want, a qualified website design and marketing professional can help develop the best option for your business.  Be sure to do your research and choose a firm with a good track record and excellent references.  There are even some website design and marketing companies who specialize in small business, offering customized services at affordable prices.  Good luck!

We’d really love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Images Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net: Smartphone and products: Naypong, Globe and Mouse: Master Isolated Images, 24/7: David Castillo Dominici

10 benefits of getting your business online and ecommerce ready

 EcommerceEcommerce is here to stay

With unparalleled, and in all likelihood, continued growth in information technology, internet access and online consumer spending, getting your business online and ecommerce enabled should be a priority. Not only does an online presence open your business up to exciting new opportunities, but in order for most businesses selling products or services to really thrive long-term, providing an online sales channel is essential.

“Ecommerce sales topped $1 trillion for first time in 2012…This year, sales will grow 18.3% to $1.298 trillion worldwide” eMarketer

Tapping into this growing pool of online consumer spending should be something your business is making the most of. There are of course things you need to consider and address when moving online, such as security concerns, data-protection, possible technology gaps between providers and users, levels of online customer service and fulfilment and so on. But any potential teething problems are minor in comparison to the opportunities the internet provides.

10 reasons to get your business online and ecommerce enabled

1. Reach a new, global audience

The internet enables even the smallest of businesses to access audiences far vaster than can be reached through traditional channels alone. A small business or start-up can reach corners of the globe previously only accessible to multinationals’ with large marketing budgets. The internet can help maintain a competitive advantage by opening your business up to a new global audience and also through sourcing potential new suppliers and distributors.

2. Increased interaction with your customers

An online presence provides your business with the opportunity to increase communications with customers  through interactive elements such as product review’s, customer feedback , email newsletters,  discussion forums and blogs. Through real-time feedback you can get to know your customers’ expectations and thoughts on your products and services. This insightful information can then be used to improve customer relations and fed back into business planning.

3. Your business is open 24 hours, seven days a week

The beauty of ecommerce is that your business can be taking orders and purchases all day, everyday. Whilst you’re tucked up in bed your business is still working for you, processing orders from customers from the other side of the world – ensuring you don’t miss out on valuable sales.   An online store gives your current and potential customers the convenience and ability to shop when they want.

4. Level playing field

The internet enables  businesses the opportunity to compete on a level playing field with even the biggest of competitors. In addition to low start-up costs, the availability of a number of excellent free tools (webs analytics, DIY site builders, social media and so on) gives even the smallest of businesses an equal footing with the big guys.

5. Data tracking and gathering

Analytics provides instantaneous access to your websites’ data. It can tell you all sorts of insightful, real-time information about customer behaviour, web traffic, conversion rates, bounce rates – all of which can be fed into your business planning and strategy. And a lot of it is available for free.

6. Low start-up and maintenance costs

Getting your business online needn’t cost the world. The are a number of free do-it-yourself website platforms available to get you started no matter how new or small your business is. And, the cost of maintaining a virtual store is far lower than the bricks and mortar equivalent.

7. Reduce marketing and advertising costs

There are all sorts of low cost digital marketing activities you can engage in to improve your online visibility. If you are prepared to put in time and effort you can undertake inbound marketing techniques such as Search Engine Optimisation, link building, social media, blogs, Pay Per Click advertising, none of which require a large marketing budget.

8. Flexibility and Speed

The internet provides your business with speed and flexibility. You can set up an online shop in a matter of minutes and adapt your website quickly and easily to respond to market trends or competitor activity. Mass communication with customers can be almost instantaneous through social media and email.

9. Keep up with your competitors

You need to stay competitive and not get left behind – the likelihood is that even if your competitors aren’t all online yet they will be soon. And because the internet provides transparency – there is no quicker and easier way to keep on top of what your competitors are doing than monitoring their websites.

10. Reduce processing costs and receive payments quicker

An online store can reduce many  processing and transaction costs and enable you to receive payments into your bank account much quicker than through more traditional methods.

Finally, if you’re still hesitating….

How is this for an encouraging  statistic. According to a recent report by the Lloyd’s Banking Group (Britain’s Digital Opportunities Report 2012), there is a distinct link between having an internet presence and growth in turnover. Findings indicated that the businesses who were reporting an increased turnover were more likely to have a company website, felt the internet was very important to their organisation and used the internet daily.

Getting your business online and ecommerce ready really isn’t as daunting as first it may seem and there is plenty of help out there. Most website platform providers offer some excellent templates and hosted, third party shopping cart software can be a quick and simple way to turn your website into an online store. And if you’re just starting out, don’t worry, your website and online shop doesn’t need to be all singing and dancing straight away.  The beauty of the internet is that you can evolve and adapt your presence with relative ease to reflect market trends, consumer expectations and your own business requirements.

Image courtesty of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Sun Tzu and “The Art of Small Business”

0548d8fGuest Author: Bryan Clayton

Bryan Clayton is a serial Entrepreneur and Co-founder of GreenPal

He helps consumers source lawncare providers via an online marketplace.

 

 

“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

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On the battlefield 2500 years ago Sun Tzu could not have ever known that his philosophies and teachings on warfare strategy would be immortal doctrines implemented into business strategy today.  His ancient text, The Art of War, has been highly regarded as a source of insightful strategic thinking for the Business world. But what do military generals and entrepreneurs have in common?  Are there parallels that can be drawn from military strategy and entrepreneurialism? Anyone who has ran a business knows the feeling that sometimes its outright war. Businesses by nature are competitive with each another. Sun Tzu’s thesis is to “win all without fighting,” or to win market share without heading into a bloody battle against your competitors.

Sizing up the competition

Sun Tzu says, If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

Sun Tzu advises us to intensely observe our competitors to identify what areas in the market place they are underserving, mainly with the intention to avoid a head on conflict, and a possible financial bloodbath.  By utilizing innovative technologies and consumer trends, he advises us to “know our competition’s weakness as well as our own, and more importantly, our strengths.” Ultimately, the discipline is to attack the opportunities in the marketplace underserved by competition, while not confronting your competition directly on their strengths.  

New Product Development

Sun Tzu says, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Sun Tzu’s teachings educate entrepreneurs as to the practicality of lean product development methodology. In its essence lean product development is creating a minimal version of the product with basic, core features. Starting by test launching that product to gain early user feedback while improving it little by little throughout the user feedback cycle process. This conserves resources and aligns the team’s attention on the actual product itself. Once the product is improved time and time again to a version with features influenced by user feedback, then it will be perfected for a full scale launch.  This is a “win” before going to war.  Sun Tzu says, “Defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Team Building

Sun Tzu Says, “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death”

Without happy loyal team members, your startup or company will probably not achieve greatness.  Sun Tzu teaches us, as the leader of your team you must focus on growing yourself by serving your people; leadership is servitude.  If you care about them, they will care about the organization’s success.  A unified culture will be instrumental in success of your team’s success and will add real purpose to your company’s mission, and why it even exists.   While your competitors will be dealing with redundant issues such as employee turnover and quality control, effective and authentic leadership will enable you to focus on the strategic direction and the growth of your company. Sun Tzu’s teachings are practical, focused principles that can guide entrepreneurs and business leaders have clarity of their vision, their mission, and their commitment to the success of their teams’ goals and objectives. While it might seem farfetched for entrepreneurs to relate themselves to warfare generals, Sun Tzu’s philosophies are relevant, and are implemented by successful business owners of today and ignored by the unsuccessful. SunTzu_smallBusiness

Getting To Know Your Competitors

Competition in Business

Getting to know your competitors is essential for any business – whether big or small, an established brand or new start-up. Love your competition because not only does it keep you on your toes and motivate you, but knowledge is power and understanding your competition provides you with lots of interesting information that can be used to mould your business and shape your marketing strategy.

I have always loved the competitive forces in this business. You know I certainly have meeting where I spur people on by saying “Hey, we can do better than this. How come we are not out ahead on that?” That’s what keeps my job one of the most interesting in the world. Bill Gates

Competitor Analysis

Competitor analysis is simply the process of monitoring and reviewing your competition, the products and services they offer and their adoption by their customers. Through this gathering of ‘competitor intelligence’ you can gain real insight that can be used to feed into your business strategy and marketing plans.

When undertaking competitor analysis keep in mind that your overall goal is to collate useful information that puts your business in a better position and gives you a competitive advantage over other companies in your industry.

The competitor landscape

There are a number of questions you should think about being able to answer from the competitor research you undertake. Beginning with a good understanding of who your competitors are.  Your competitor landscape is made up of both direct and indirect competitors. For example in the world of film magazines, Empire probably considers Total Film its most direct competitor, however its competitor landscape would include film bloggers, Guardian film online and even other interest magazines that may get chosen by a potential customer as an alternative reading choice that day.

Identify who your key competitors are but keep in mind the wider competitive environment and don’t forget to include international competitors if they are relevant. Remember if your selection of competitors to research is too narrow or excessively large you will struggle to get meaningful results.

Competitor SWOTCompetitor SWOT analysis

Carry out a competitor SWOT analysis on each of your chosen key competitors. What are their strengths and weaknesses – what do they excel at and what could they improve on? Are they doing anything that could be a threat to you?  For example have they just launched special price promotion,  new product or brand extension? What are they not doing (or doing) that provides a potential opportunity for your business?

When researching and comparing your competition,here are some questions you might find useful to think about including in your analysis:

  1. Where are you in position to your competitors? Who are the major players and who is the market leader. Where does your business fit in? Are you competitors growing  or shrinking?
  2. The four P’s. How do your basic four P’s (product, place, price and promotion) compare to those of your competitors.
  3. What are they doing well and what could they improve? How do your products or services compare with those of your key competitors – for example on quality, price and customer service.
  4. What is your USP and your competitors USP? What might make a customer choose your product or service over your competitors’ offerings?
  5. What partners and affiliations do they have? Are there opportunities here for you to develop similar affiliations with suppliers or associations?
  6. Brand and reputation. How strong is their brand? What is their brand image? What is their reputation within the industry (both with consumers and trade)? How successfully are they promoting their brand?
  7. Trends. What market trends do your competitors appear to be following (or not following)?

Start by researching online

A great starting point for small business is to do some website analysis by looking at your competitor’s websites. Creating a simple comparison table and undertaking an online competitor benchmarking exercise is a good way to get the ball rolling. Think about and compare competitor websites.  From this you can get a great overview of your competitors’ online presence and start  identifying potential gaps, opportunities and areas in which you could improve your own site.

And don’t forget, any kind of  competitor analysis should be continuously reviewed and monitored at regular intervals. Enjoy getting to know your competitors, and remember the better armed you are with valuable information the stronger position you are in for being both reactive and proactive in your business planning.

Mobile commerce – is your website multi-device friendly?

Mobile ecommerce shopping cart checkoutThe rise and rise of mobile and tablet commerce

In a nutshell, mobile commerce (m-commerce) is the use of wireless electronic handheld devices such as mobile phones and smartphones to conduct business. In this blog we’ll also be including tablets under the m-commerce umbrella.

The last few years have seen a near explosion in the use of handheld devices and there is no sign of a slow down. In the US alone 54% of adults now own a smartphone and by 2016 it is estimated that 450 million tablets will be sold annually worldwide (Business Insider).

In terms of online shopping ComScore Research shows that during Q4 2010 mobile commerce accounted for just 3% of US e-commerce but by Q4 2012 this had risen to 11%.

So what does m-commerce mean for you as a small business?

OK, so you could argue that the 11% figure quoted above is relatively small in the grand scheme of things, but the important point is that the trend is upward and looks set to continue upward.

As a business you also need to take into account of how devices are used and your customer’s overall path to purchase. For example according to Google, 67% of shoppers start on one device and finish on another. I know I often browse an online store using my iPhone whilst out having a coffee only to complete the purchase later at home on my iPad watching TV .

It is important not to lump together devices. Research indicates they are used by the consumer in different ways. Tablets are used primarily around the home, mostly in living room 96% and bedroom 94% (Monetate). Whereas Smartphones are more ‘on the go’ and still chiefly used for email, making calls and accessing social networking sites like Facebook (Adobe 2013 Digital Publishing report).

“Companies should work to deliver device specific experiences to visitors in order to maximise the likelihood of purchase.” (Forrester)

An often quoted statistic is that by 2014 mobile internet access will overtake desktop internet access. There is still somewhere to go before handheld devices displace the PC for research and purchase usage, but as a business you need to be flexible enough to cater for each specific device.

Tablet usage is having a momentous rise. Indeed Monetate note a whopping 348% growth in traffic from tablets between 2011 and 2012. This supports the rise in what is  often refered to as ‘sitback shopping’ or, as in a great infographic from Monetate ‘couch commerce’ http://monetate.com/infographic/couch-commerce-how-tablet-shoppers-are-changing-online-sales/.

Consumers continue to move away from desk-top and lap-top computers when shopping online, requiring e-commerce businesses to rethink the consumer experience on smartphones and tablets (Monetate).

As a business you need to be looking ahead and ensure your business is geared up for m-commerce. Mobiles and tablets may not have displaced the desktop for online shopping – yet – but the upward trend continues and they are an increasingly important part of your customers purchasing journey.

How to make your online store multi-device friendly

We’ll leave you with a few simple steps to help get you started on ensuring your website is mobile commerce friendly. Google notes that 67% of mobile users say that when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they’re more likely to buy  a site’s product or service.

1. Check how your website looks on different devices.

Look at your website on different devices.  A great place to start is Google’s GOMO http://www.howtogomo.com. You can test your site on multiple devices and they’ll give you some really useful introductory advice.

And, don’t forget to think about your cart and checkout. If you are using a third-party e-commerce make sure that their shopping cart and checkout are multi-device compatible.

2. Make sure your website is ‘fat finger friendly’.

A great term I read the other day for making sure you think about how your users will view and use your website. Use large fonts, drop down menus, big buttons and limit text entry (especially form filling). Remember on a mobile device viewing takes place on a much smaller screen.

3. Simple site design and keep content clear, short and simple

Keep your website design clean, clear and clutter free and content short and to the point. This is essential as no matter on what device your website is being used it will make navigation simpler for your customer.

4. Responsive design, plug-ins, mobile apps or mobile website

There are different options available for you to get your website m-commerce ready.

Plenty of companies out there now offer responsive design. Responsive design effectively adapts your website to fit the device on which it is being viewed without having to create a multitude of device specific websites.

If you are using a Content Management System as a website platform then some CMS like wordpress and drupal offer plug-ins that will reformat your pages to adapt to different devices.

Alternatively, you could consider building a separate, independent website for mobile traffic or create a mobile app.

Whatever route you decide to go down just keep in mind that it’s all about the end users experience on the device that they are using to view your website.