I’ve been thinking (again). Is online shopping really more impersonal than buying from a retail store? Is it? No really? Do you need to be face-to-face with someone… to get a personal experience? (Dangerous question that one.)
Anyway, I don’t think so. Just because you are not physically in our store, that doesn’t mean we don’t interact with you. In fact, I think customer interaction is an advantage for e-commerce stores over retail stores and here’s why….
E-commerce stores get to interact with customers more often than retail stores do.
While retail stores generally only interact at the point of sale, we interact through-out the whole sales process. From start to finish. We email our customer their order details, we send them updates on any ETA changes with their orders, we answer their private messages, and emails…. and we still get to talk to them on the phone.
We’re also very easy to contact. Our customers let us know then they have big issues, but more importantly when they have small ones. This helps us to help them, before the small stuff gets big… and well before they decide to shop somewhere else (heaven forbid!). Do retail stores have such a luxury? Do retail stores know their customers as well as we know ours? Even though we rarely get to meet them?
Back to the original question: Do you need to be face-to-face with someone… to get a personal experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts…
I don’t know where the last two weeks have gone — but I guess we’ve been rather busy. A few random thoughts from the last two weeks:
It was a bugger to see England win the Test series 2-1 over the Black Caps. But hey, it was great cricket to watch.
It took a 19-year-old to show some “experienced” players what can happen when you let go of your fears and swing for the fences. Great stuff.
GPstore hired another content person last week (Welcome aboard Kristen!). We’ve had to order more desks and computers as we struggle to keep up with our staffing needs. Nice problems to have…
I bought Vicki, my lovely wife, a new laptop for her recent birthday. I then borrowed it to do some work in front of the telly — I’m happy to say, even with two laptops in the lounge, we didn’t use MSN to communicate.
Super 14 rugby is boring me. It seems so predictable and formulated. Sport is supposed to be unpredictable, spontaneous and err exciting. The Super 14 feels a little stale. The NRL on the other hand…
I’m sick of categories and category trees. If I spend any more time hanging out in trees I’m going to start feeling like a monkey… a web monkey perhaps?
We’ve had a very busy few weeks; meeting some very interesting people. Its great to get new perspectives on the same old stuff! We’ve been running our online store since 1998… 10 years later and we still learn something new everyday.
Hopefully things will quieten down a little in the coming weeks… and you might see a few more posts than the last two weeks!
I remember reading a study many years back, that suggested a 19″ monitor could increase your work efficiency by something like 25% over a crusty 17″ monitor (of course efficiency shouldn’t be confused with productivity, but hey!).
These days, I’m really taking that idea to heart though… and I seem to be upgrading one of my monitors every few months. A couple of months ago I upgraded one of my 19″ monitors to a new 22″ wide-screen. Loved it. This week, I’ve upgraded the other 19″ to a new 24″ wide-screen, one that does the lovely 1900×1200 screen resolution and has HDMI inputs.
And what’s the first thing I tested the new screen resolution on? World of Warcraft of course. WOW running at 1900×1200 is very very cool. Big monitors for the win!
Its only been a few days, but so far we’ve been pretty chuffed with how our new baby, happysheep, is doing. That’s probably down to a mix of realistic expectations and mild joy that people are using the site as we intended. Local content can be really cool and compelling when presented in simple fashion. Compelling content is good.
But happysheep did get us thinking. Over the past 12 months there have been very few high profile New Zealand web sites developed. There’s been Marc Ellis’ www.mintshot.co.nz which has slowly declined back to minor status. But there’s not been a heck of a lot else?
Is this down to a lack of capability in New Zealand for developing major projects? Is our countries too damn small for big ambitions? Are big projects likely to be unprofitable in NZ? Or is it a case of new projects lack serious marketing? Or are we still failing to think global?
Kiwis are know to be a resourceful lot, but at times it seems like our small size is a bigger barrier in the online world, than in the old.
Very few businesses are instant hits. After the sale of Trade Me, there’s been an expectation that everything needs to be as big as them to be successful. It’s as if they were an instant success — and you better be too. The reality is it takes years to build a business like Trade Me… heck it even took them 7 years! So what’s the big hurry?
As New Zealand is small, sites need to start small (to be profitable)… but keep thinking big. Work smart and grow as fast as you can. Over the next year I hope we see more New Zealand web sites reaching the mass market. More importantly… hopefully one or two of them will be ours!
The Black Caps scored a memorable victory in the first test at Hamilton yesterday — and its one that we shouldn’t forget in a hurry. England went into the game as firm favourites with the big guns like Harmison, Vaughan, Panesar and Hoggard back to bolster their ranks.
But poor Steve Harmison went from saviour to second-change in the space of 5 lovely days. In New Zealand’s second dig he came on after Collingwood (a part-time bowler), proceeded to concede 6 runs an over and bowled just 4 overs. He’s a heck of a lot better than that — but hopefully he’ll save his best for the Aussies and the 2009 Ashes!
Dan Vettori had a heck of the game with bat, ball and his captaincy. It was great to see Ross Taylor finally playing straight (someone passed the comment it only took him 23 years but hey — finally) and he looked all class in his 120. Jamie How looks in his element at the top of the innings (scoring 92 and 39). The bowling was also excellent with both Mills and Martin bowling beautifully and the spinners tying the English up in all sorts of knots.
Rarely has a New Zealand team been so sharp, for so long. They dominated all but one hour of the 5 days. It was brilliant stuff. Every moment of it. A great win.
Now how can anyone call test cricket boring with games like that? No really!
Today marks the birth of our new pet — happysheep!
We created happysheep to be an online version of the public notice board that sits outside your local dairy.
Obviously a lot of the inspiration for this project came from craiglist.org and the things they stand for. “Restoring a human voice to the Internet in a non-commercial environment and providing an alternative to impersonal, big-media sites”… to quote Dylan word for word from the press release.
We’ve designed the site very much with the user in mind. We built the best site possible, with the least number of features we could. People should find happysheep an easy concept to understand… and equally easy to use. Well that’s the plan at least!
We’re also happy to leave complicated things like business models until later. Much later preferably. There’s probably a few entrepreneur folks scolding us for our lack of a model. But lets face it, Trade Me started without a business model… and well, there’s no point in having one unless the site is a success anyway! For now, we’re happy to run a low-cost site and use Google Adwords to cover its running costs (funnily enough the site is probably profitable already).
Most of all, happysheep is something we wanted to do. We set out to have fun doing it… and its very much mission accomplished!
One of the things we’re constantly asking ourselves is what really matters to our customers? At times it can feel like one of life’s great mysteries. What is it? Great prices? Free this? Free that? I mean, what is it exactly? What is… it?
Asking these questions often certainly keeps you stay focused on the right stuff. Meanwhile, new stores seem to pop-up weekly… some trying to offer something unique and new (and some not so much).
And while the newcomers focus on this feature and that feature, we reckon we’ve got it figured out. And its pretty simple. Happiness. Happy customers are it. What better competitive advantage is there, than keeping your customers happy? Here’s hoping we never forget to keep asking the right questions!