2 min read

The limbo of lost e-commerce

Brief examples of bad e-commerce sites and how not to emulate themrn

You’d think that, after this long, e-commerce would be old hat to most Internet-enabled companies.

Apparently, this is still not so. Many e-commerce Web sites are stuck in a kind of limbo, functioning in a way that would have been greeted with glad cries several years ago, but not living up

to their true potential today.

Case in point: I belong to a book club that offers online response to its monthly flyers and online ordering at any time. It positively crows about its online ordering — in the last bulletin, there were a dozen “”order online”” exhortations. It’s faster, they enthused. It’s easier! It’s more convenient! Start your Christmas shopping now!

But, if you want to take advantage of its “”buy two, get one free”” deal (also heavily promoted in said bulletin), guess what — it’s not available through online ordering (or, for that matter, through its automated phone ordering system). You have to mail or fax the order.

When asked the reason for this rather odd state of affairs, a helpful customer service person said the online system was not set up to accept discounts. She could not say when or if it ever could.

What’s wrong with this picture?

This company, which has been around for some time, has offered online service for years. Yet it seems to see nothing wrong with continuing to push its inadequate system. Order online, customers, but only at full price. Which poses the question, why order online for the full price? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

I’m sure I’m not the only customer who is annoyed by the inconvenience of having to deal with snail mail to take advantage of a special. I’m also sure I’m not the only one who decides it’s too much aggravation and doesn’t order anything at all.

I wonder if this firm realizes that what it apparently consider a minor flaw is costing sales.

I can understand a small operation, with a limited budget, dragging its feet on upgrading an application (but hopefully not if it’s impacting revenue), but this organization is huge.

Then there’s the somewhat smaller site that marches prospective customers through item selection, takes them to the checkout (on a secure page — they do have their security sorted out), obtains payment info — and only then tells them that it doesn’t ship to Canada. Would it kill them to say so before people go through the ordering process? Again, they’ve lost a sale, and probably a customer.

Are you global enough?

This site begs the question: Why are they on the Web if they are not going to be global?

Both sites work fine, as far as they go. But each suffers from short-sightedness on the part of its owner — a common enough problem when you’re up to your ears in other business issues. Even if a site’s owners are Internet-savvy, it often takes an outsider to point out the (to them) the obvious problems.

While these situations, and others like them, are a major pain to customers, the gaps do provide a nice potential market for enterprising souls who can plug the holes without breaking current functionality. And they also serve as bad examples to those of us with e-commerce sites of our own.