Growing pains of dotcom start ups



Five e-commerce companies tell E-Business Review how they overcame initial teething problems Customer Service

Simon Lubin
Marketing director and founder of Quip!

Following the launch of Quip!, an internet based telephony company, we experienced phenomenal growth, reaching over 80,000 customers in less than six months. Each day we were receiving between 1,200 and 1,600 emails from prospective customers, with a promise to respond to all enquiries within 24 hours. The volume of mail meant that additional functionality was needed.

Quip!'s objectives were to implement the system in less than four weeks in order to substantially reduce email volumes. The solution had to be externally hosted to avoid the need for a system and database administration resource. We implemented Zerotouch and RightNow Technologies. The system, which is fully integrated, comprises of web self-service, email management and live chat.

After one month, the number of emails had been reduced by 33% whilst the volume of sales had significantly increased. The decision to implement this technology was crucial as we had just embarked on an expensive marketing drive to secure new customers.

Branding

Lawrence Lawson
Commercial director of Teletext

One of the principle problems facing e-commerce directors in established companies within the B2C sector, is the potential brand erosion that can occur as new services and technologies are rolled out. A classic example was the launch of Teletext football scores service on SMS. At present 15 million people, every week, look at football scores on their analogue TV's. They use the service because they trust it to be accurate, so naturally expect the same trusted relationship with the SMS service.

Unfortunately, problems can occur when you are reliant on other people's delivery platform. Initially the football service experienced some problems, with many goal updates not being delivered to users phones until after the game. The situation was unfortunate as the delivery mechanism was out of our hands, and it left us with a serious dilemma. Do we run with services that are not running to maximum potential and suffer brand erosion, or do we not run and leave ourselves open to the accusation of not being a cutting edge service?

By forging stronger third party relationships the problems were resolvable. The pilot service has now become a fully live service, highlighting the continued need to work hard towards excellent third party relationships.

Order Delivery

Mark Fane
Co-founder of crocus.co.uk

The initial market research that we undertook showed that a number of customers were worried about buying garden plants over the internet. Their concerns were focused on the quality of the plants and, in particular, how they would be delivered.

We were also concerned that relying on third parties to deliver our goods would water down the brand impact and reduce customer loyalty.

Our solution was to turn this significant liability into a massive asset. We established a delivery infrastructure of trained gardeners in Crocus vans around the country. It allows us to deliver the brand right to the front door of the customer. It also allows us to sell other services that no other company can, such as a planting service and a maintenance service.

As a result, customer satisfaction is very high, repeat ordering is strong and product returns very low.

Site Design

Jason Gleave
Chairman of FlyOnTheWall.com

As a webcam and streaming video Internet Portal, it was important that the site design for FlyOnTheWall.com reflected its dynamic and leading-edge content. However, at launch, despite all the investment that was put into sourcing content and enabling its availability, it was only too apparent that the design was seriously undermining the brand.

Users were failing to discover areas of the site and its functionality - all too often those of us closest to this industry assume a level of knowledge that most Internet users just don't possess. As our marketing partner, Carlson Marketing Group developed three design options all of which were a marked improvement from the originals. But having already gone through two site re-designs in its short life span, we needed reassurance that the option chosen would have longevity.

CMG enlisted Incite Consulting who put the designs through focus research groups and also solved many of the navigation issues that FlyOnTheWall.com had been unable to resolve.

We have learnt an important lesson - investing in design and usability research before launching is money well spent.

Marketing

Charlotte Johnston
The Gentleman's Shop

We originally developed www.gentlemans-shop.co.uk as an advert for our traditional shop in Hungerford by putting the url on all our stationary.

At the start we submitted the site to search engines, first by ourselves and then using a professional outfit. However, because the software we use, Actinic Catalog, is search engine friendly, all our catalogue pages get indexed and rank in excellent positions on searches.

At the moment all the shopping sites we have links from are on a commission only basis and produce little, if any, sales. We have an affiliate programme that has also been a waste of money as the quality of our affiliates is particularly poor. Later this year we will look at changing this programme and will look more closely into the programme provider. Hopefully, then we can appear on some more prominent sites, and not chancers' homepages.

This was last published in February 2001

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