When surfing the Internet, it is virtually impossible to ignore the ads of ecommerce sites that show up on almost all parts of your screen. You'll find one as you wait for your video to load or even a webpage to open and you will find them on Facebook (though you can get rid of these) – they're everywhere, tempting you with fancy products and the mind-boggling promise of discounts and irresistible deals.

While I won’t term myself as a serial e-shopper, I do quite regularly shop online for books. Apart from that, I have shopped for cosmetics, an MP3 player and my biggest online purchase has been a digital camera. I can’t say that it has all been a trouble free experience though. When there are hundreds of ecommerce sites to choose from, each of them practically selling the same stuff, which one do you shop at? The things that count apart from wide choice of products include factors like a good UI, good customer service support, prompt delivery and glitch free payment gateway. The site that tops my list of favourites delivers on all these counts. In fact, I must admit that it has spoilt me and I expect the same from the rest of the ecommerce sites as well. I mean if this site can do it, why can’t the others?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. I have never shopped for clothes online or even shoes, despite the assurances of immediate replacement if it’s not the right fit. It’s not just the fit that am worried about, it’s also the fabric and, of course, the inability to try it to see how it looks. But just recently, I was tempted when I came across an ecommerce site that was offering great discount on top fashion brands. A particular pair of jeans caught my attention; not only was it the colour I was looking for, but the price was simply irresistible. Six hundred rupees for something that would have set me back by couple of thousand rupees. Even though it was a site I hadn’t heard of before, I decided to go head and place an order. I added the said item in my cart and proceeded to make the payment. At first I had to create my account, which required my address and mobile number. This done, I clicked on payment options. To my surprise, a window popped-up saying that my shopping cart was empty! I went back to the product page and voila, the product was out of stock…it simply vanished! Needless to say, I felt cheated and not to mention robbed of good pair of jeans.

Convenience vs. customer satisfaction

Convenience vs. customer satisfaction

Discussing the misfortune with friends brought out tales of horror each of them experienced while shopping online. One reason why these problems exist is due to the business model that these sites follow. While some of them prefer to stock products in warehouse, many of them procure it form the vendors after receiving the order from the customer. So if they have a stock of products in their warehouse, they know their inventory and are thus in better control. However, maintaining a warehouse not only adds to the cost for them, but they also have to deal with the unsold products. On the other hand, procuring it from the vendor after getting an order form customer might be cost effective, but the site has little control over the inventory. And thus, while you may see the product in stock online, the reality could be otherwise. However, it’s hardly a problem that cannot be solved.

I don’t want to get into the commerce of the business or the cut-throat competition amongst the sites jostling for customers, which forces them to come up with offers and discounts at the risk of running into losses. I'm just concerned about us – the customers. While each of them is focusing on putting out great deal and offering the best discount to attract customers, unfortunately, most of them overlook crucial aspects like customer satisfaction. Instead of spending large sums of money on advertising about their sites, what they should do is focus on getting their back-end right. After all, no amount of crazy deals and discounts are going to help if the customer satisfaction is missing. If you ensure that you deliver what you promise, and without any hassles, then as a customer I wouldn’t mind paying a little bit more than than what I pay on a rival site,  as I am assured of service.  

And on a happy note, a person I know ended-up with two pair of shoes when she paid for just one, thanks to some goof-up at the merchants end. As they say, some people have all the luck. So did she return the free pair? Well, your guess is as good as mine.

Image credit: Getty Images  

Publish date: September 18, 2012 4:31 pm| Modified date: December 19, 2013 1:16 am

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