Nine Essentials for Enhancing the Online Customer Experience
Focusing on the basics may be the easiest rule of thumb for providing the on- and off-line customer experiences that women demand. Especially within the online realm, women want relevance, not glitter, and effective relationship-building efforts on your part will seal the deal. Following are some customer service best practices that should help strengthen long- term relationships with your female customers:
Post your URL. Start by securing an easy-to-remember URL. Then, make it easy for people to find your site by including your URL in all your customer materials and advertising. If the most popular area of your site is buried deep within its architecture, consider creating a separate, easy-to-remember URL to pop up that area. For example, a bank might register WomensRetirementCalculator.com.
Post your contact information everywhere. An 800 number should be prominently displayed on the home page and on all other pages. Just seeing it there will give both male and female customers a sense of security, and posting it freely also implies that your company welcomes questions or comments.
Simplify product searches. Include a search window on every page and spend the money to provide a full-bodied search engine. If your site is complex, include a site map.
Make answers easy to find. If it takes more than three clicks or eight seconds (the industry benchmarks) to find the answer to a question, your site is poorly designed.
Avoid mandatory registrations. Site registration forms feel like a waste of time to most site visitors and may frustrate them into leaving without buying. If you must register site users, make your purpose crystal clear; for example, to set up a customer account online or to be e-mailed about member-only promotions.
Shorten form pages. If you can't avoid including forms on your site for some reason (beyond the basics of billing and shipping), keep them to their absolute minimum length. Once customers have a long history of loving and using your site, they will have more patience and will be more inclined to answer in-depth questions and fill out longer forms.
Keep prices visible. Wherever the product first displays, make sure to include the price. When you save customers time by not forcing them to delve further into the layers of your site at the very beginning of their research, you generate much brand goodwill.
Organize products intuitively. Forget how you organize your product line in your warehouse inventory lists. "Shop by age" and "Shop by room" are great examples of organizing products according to how people think when shopping. Make it easier for customers to find a toy that's perfect for a four-year-old, for example, and they will spend more time shopping overall.
Simplify navigation. Find objective outsiders to test drive your site and its customer experience before you go live. Since they haven't been staring at the site for several months as you have, where they get stuck on your site may be a surprise to you, revealing areas that need improving.
Trust, privacy and security. The main reasons some female consumers prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores include: reluctance to enter credit card data into the computer; worries that their personal information will not remain confidential and concerns about the proper delivery of their purchases. But, good online privacy and security standards have now been established, and the industry seals of approval are quite recognized (take Verisign, for example), so these concerns should be alleviated. To reach women consumers more effectively, make sure your site achieves industry standards, and make sure site visitors know that it does.