It's a new year--and that means it's time for resolutions. How about kicking off this year with a resolution to improve your website operations? That's just what these e-tailers are doing. Here's a sampling of key initiatives.
Resolution #1: Focus on the customer. "Improving the customer experience--from the customer's interaction with the website and customer service to order fulfillment--is what will retain a customer," says Jen Frazier, creative director and co-founder of ThinkGeek Inc., a Fairfax, Virginia, business that sells novelty products for "geeks" (such as programmers, engineers and students) via its website, www.thinkgeek.com. To accomplish annual sales of more than $20 million, Frazier will run informal listening labs in places such as the company office, coffee shops and the local college's student center.
"We will invite customers in, ask them to go shopping [on the website] and do what they normally do, but talk aloud about it," says Frazier, 34, who started ThinkGeek with co-founders William Vadnais, 36; Scott Smith, 37; and Jon Sime, 29. "We'll see how customers are interacting with the site and [see] any problems they may encounter. If you tackle basic things--search, navigation or adding product information--it can make a really big difference."
Resolution #2: Provide personalization. Whether customizing products or marketing, savvy e-tailers are working to get closer to their customers this year. Bake Me a Wish! Inc. in New York City, for example, delivers gourmet gift cakes overnight in elegant boxes with personalized gift cards through its site, www.bakemeawish.com. The $2 million company lets customers request certain edible "Congratulations" or "Best Wishes" plaques for some cakes, but they're about to take that a step further. "This year, customers will be able to personalize about a dozen cakes for any occasion," says Eric Stamp, 34, who co-founded the business with Josh Kaye, 51. "They won't be locked into getting a carrot cake with a white birthday plaque, for example. [More personalization is] more fun for the consumer, more sensible and more in line with my company's mission."
Resolution #3: Increase SEO efficiency. "We seek top-five placement for our top five keywords on the organic listings of Google, Yahoo! and MSN," says Stamp. "We took away some imagery on our landing pages because search engines [only] read text." Stamp hired a company to work solely on search engine optimization.
Resolution #4: Add customer reviews and feedback. "Customers want to give feedback and feel validated when they provide feedback that is valued," says Frazier. As a result, Frazier will add a feature later this year that allows customers to review products on the site.
Melissa Campanelli is a marketing and technology writer in New York City.