Direct-to-Customer Commerce

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Strategic insights into the direct commerce industry, including ecommerce, direct marketing and related fields

What drives direct commerce?

This post is an exercise in reminding myself of the fundamentals.  And just like football, you’ve got to get the fundamentals right, before you move on to the more sophisticated permutations of the business.

The fundamentals of Direct Commerce are convenience, customer service and, sometimes, price.

Convenience
The reasons the direct marketing channels exist, at all, is because they are more convenient than the brick-and-mortar retail channel.  What is it about convenience?  Could be any of several things — which varies by the individual customer:

  • saves the time to drive to and from the store
  • avoids having to “rummage” thru a store to find what you’re looking for
  • avoids having to deal with untrained, poorly trained or rude retail clerks
  • avoids having to find a parking space
  • avoids having to “lug” stuff to and from the car
  • avoids the crowds at the mall — especially at heavy shopping seasons, like Christmas or Back-to-School
  • allows me to shop from anywhere — work, hotel, and now, with a mobile device, even from my car
How can you provide additional convenience to your customers and, just as importantly, to your prospective customers?
Customer Service
Customer Services has several components.

Pre-sale contact, when a customer is trying to learn more about a product so they can make a decision whether or not to buy, whether or not the product meets their needs or satisfies their desires.

Post-sale contact, when a customer is trying to resolve some issue which has arisen after the purchase decision.  This might be an exchange, a return, a simple “where is my order?” inquiry or anyone of about 20 or so typical customer service inquiries.
Finally, reliability and trustworthiness, which at the end of the day, determines if a customer wants to do business with you again.  Your customers need to trust that you’ll treat them right and that you’re not afraid to actually talk to them on the phone.
Have you noticed how difficult it can be to actually get a customer service rep on the phone?  Or, even get a reasonably prompt answer to an email?
A lot of companies spent a lot of time and effort trying to avoid dealing directly with their customers.  Ever tried to call Amazon?  It’s almost impossible to find Amazons’ customer service phone number.
Price
And I should emphasize that price is only sometimes a fundamental.   It seems to get more important as the product price points increase, but there is also a point at which price becomes irrelevant — either because the price is so high or the price is so low.
And the exact location of this price range varies by product category.
This is also why shipping cost is a factor.  My rule of thumb is that if shipping cost is more than 10 percent of merchandise cost, then the customer will at least “pause” to consider if it’s worth it.
So, be sure you spend a little time on the fundamentals each week — then move on the more esoteric stuff.
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Filed under: Direct Commerce, Opinion, , , , , , , ,

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