Yes, Iím from Mars, so maybe thatís why I find this so
bizarre: "Right now, about a third of U.S. e-tailers
use shipping as a profit center."1 Thatís
a business model? And a way to keep customers? Some people
out there clearly need to know, "60 percent of those
who abandon their online shopping carts did so because
shipping costs were higher than they had expected."2
And thereís no way to really know how many customers did
complete their purchases, but were outraged when they
discovered later they had been hit with outrageous
shipping charges that were not disclosed A bunch of those
folks won't be coming back, ever.
friend of mine needed a special microphone line level
adapter for a Macintosh and had to have it within two
days. Nobody locally carried this $20 item, so she went
cruising the Internet. She found several companies who
would supply it, for roughly the same cost, within the
two-day deadline. One company located only a state away
wanted to charge her $30 for 2nd
Day Delivery. The other company, on the opposite coast,
offered to send the item for just $12.60, the amount the
carrier would charge them for the service. Guess who got
the sale? And guess who is never going to see my friend as
a customer again?
customers aren't fools, and it's a rare customer who isn't
going to scratch his head when confronted with a shipping
charge that looks way out of line. Folks expect to get
charged something for shipping
after all, it's a trade-off for the convenience of not
having to drive anywhere or hassle with crowds. That's
worth something, and customers, for the most part, are
fair-minded. But theyíre not willing to get taken to the
cleaners. When you pull this sort of sticker shock with
your clients, your credibility isnít just weakened, itís
can you do? You certainly don't need to ship at a loss
(although 50% of e-tailers lose money this way - another
brilliant strategy). But you can charge at
cost, possibly with a nominal handling fee if
absolutely necessary. You will make it up on more
sales volume (assuming youíre selling your product or
service at a fair profit, of course). Or, you can build
your shipping charges into the price structure of your
products. Another option is a "flat-rate"
shipping fee, which represents the average of all your
shipping costs. Naturally, you need some good historical
data to set this fee wisely, but your prospects do
perceive a lot of value in policies that promise
"$3.99 shipping to anywhere in the U.S." (or
if not more important, donít make your customers wait or
guess about shipping charges. Most of them wonít; theyíll
bail. Make shipping charges (and any other extra charges)
clear before you ask for credit card information,
make sure the charges are fair, and make the bottom line
worth the convenience of foregoing a trip to the store.
you do, don't abuse your customers with unreasonable (or
hidden) shipping costs. Do so and they'll quickly become
customers of someone who doesnít.
"Five Battle-Tested Rules of Online Retail."
Paul Kaihla, eCompany, April 2001. <http://www.ecompany.com/articles/mag/0,1640,9599,00.html>.
Another Out-Of-This-World (And Free) Source of Valuable Knowledge
In my never-ending search to bring you the very
latest and best e-business info in the galaxy, I've
come across a truly exceptional resource. MarketingProfs.com
is a terrific site written by some really smart (and
really great) people, and it has a ton of practical
stuff you can use to increase your business
right away. They also put out an excellent
newsletter that I look forward to and read
diligently (don't even THINK of interrupting me). To
learn more and to subscribe, check out MarketingProfs.com.
The Technology Gap: Part I
someone who's green, I'm sure seeing a lot of red.
Because I do so much online ordering, I'm bound to run
into the odd problem. Normally, I'm really laid back about
(humans do make mistakes, after all), and as long as I
feel I'm making progress and getting cooperation from
the business in subsequent e-mail exchanges, I'm cool.
But this one really rubbed me the wrong way.
just had an experience with a dot-com that has suggested
some thoughts that fall under this general umbrella:
know when to let your technology work for you and when
to intercede and offer your customer the benefit of the
the story: I decided to order a digital camera. I went
and did my research, then did a little price-shopping.
Based on website look and feel, product cost,
availability and shipping charges, I decided to give my
business to Computers4Sure.com,
which happens to get a three-star rating in the Gomez
Merchant Review and is prominently featured in CNET
displays of product pricing. I figured that meant they
probably did a good job.
they do, in general, get the whole sales equation right.
But they blew it in my case. Pity, 'cause they did a
decent job setting up the navigation, making it easy to
find what I was looking for, presenting information well
and leading me through the order process. I got the
onscreen confirmation page (printed it out), got the
immediately-generated e-mail confirmation and sat back
to await delivery, thinking "Ain't this the
didn't have a spot of trouble until the day after I
placed my order. That's when I learned my order was cancelled
because my credit card had been declined:
you for visiting Computers4SURE.com. Unfortunately,
your credit card company has declined your intended
purchase. Computers4SURE.com would like to
successfully process and ship your order. Please
contact your credit card company for assistance.
approved, please visit Computers4SURE.com to reenter
your order. <http://www.computers4sure.com/>.
Where you always get more... 4LESS!
was nothing wrong with my credit. And it was impossible
I had botched the job when I placed the order (remember,
I had the print-out!). Turns out, according to my credit
card company, Computers4Sure manually mis-typed my
expiration date when they processed the order, so it
didn't agree with what was on record. But the email made
the whole thing sound like it was my fault.
where the human touch would have made all the
difference. If someone there had simply proofed their
data entry before it was submitted none of this would
have happened at all! Or, those keen on the
technological solution could have set things up so the
system processed credit card information in real time
(easy to do and lots of sites do it). Don't
misunderstand me - I'm fine with manual entry of this
stuff, as long as there are techniques in place that
prevent mistakes like this from putting the burden for
their mistake on my small green shoulders. Doesnít
exactly make me feel warm and fuzzy about them.
dear reader, it got worse. I returned a reasonably nice
e-mail in which I explained their problem. I asked if
they would consider simply reprocessing the order.
Nobody bothered replying. Nobody apologized. In fact,
there was no acknowledgment I even existed! If they were
trying to push me away they did a great job. And I donít
have to tell you once you've pushed a customer away, you
gotta move heaven and earth to set things right.
case, this is the sort of simple human touch that would
have worked wonders:
It was our mistake and we sincerely apologize. We've
set things right and are immediately reprocessing
your original order.
a gesture of apology we are not charging you for
nobody at Computers4Sure was doing that.
your tail. Whenever there is a possibility for human
error, make sure it wasn't yours before blaming your
customer. Most folks don't look good with egg on their
a wonderful old movie called "The
Go-Between", Edward Fox says something like
"A woman is never at fault" Of
course, sometimes customers are at fault, but don't
start the exchange with that premise. It is guaranteed
to backfire when you least want it to.
if it is the customerís fault, find a way to say it
that doesnít push them away. Itís not hard to do
if you try.
problem-solving letter requires some personalization:
"Dear Grok" will do nicely. Signed with a
human name works for me too. If I need to respond,
having to send my email to a department or a company
hardly makes me feel secure that a real person is
going to pay attention. And donít you just love
having to repeat the whole story umpteen times because
every letter gets handled by someone else.
a way to hold the order open pending resolution of the
problem. Because I reeeeally wanted the item, I
undertook the entire reordering process. But believe
me, I wasn't happy about it. I felt I was being
punished, and I didn't do anything wrong! And most
customers wonít do what I did.
to your customers - really HEAR them - then let them
know you've heard them.
all else failsÖpick up the freakiní phone!
like to think technology is the well-spring of making
this Brave New World run smoothly. But it's all for
naught if you can't remember there's a human on the
other end of the transaction who wants to be treated
like a human. And there are times when nothing but the
human touch will - or should - do.
Computers4Sure did acknowledge my second order - if not
me - processed it accurately, and my product arrived
fast. That's something, at least, sort of.
Grok Caveats in
Technology Gap: Part II