Refining The Online Customer Experience At Dabs.com

Although the previous site was only updated 2 years ago, he describes the need to keep ahead of competitors as 'a cat and mouse thing'.

But new site advances must be combined with competitive prices, Wall says:

Online customers are price-loyal, not retailer-loyal. The customer is only as loyal as the cheapest price they can pay for a product. It means your competitors are only ever one click away. We have to do everything to keep our customers on our site. Getting them to pay that price to you, rather than your competitor, means that you'll need to exploit the constantly-evolving benefits of digital technology to make their buying experience on your site as fluent and satisfactory as possible.

On-site search capabilities

Part of the new site is improved on-site search capabilities from Endeca, which powers the search of Walmart and Circuit City sites in the US. Search is important to increasing conversion rates, and so increasing sales, since if a user is not presented with a relevant product when they search, they are likely to try another retailer. The search capability should strike a balance between delivering too many results and too few. Channel Register (2005) reports that dabs.com hopes to increase conversion rate by up to 50% by updating the site's search and navigation features. The current conversion rate is 3.5% and it is hoped this will be increased to nearer 5%.

Endeca's new search allows users to select products by attributes including price, brand and even size and weight. This method of narrowing down the search should result in the customer being left to choose from a list of 10 or 20 products rather than hundreds.

Another aspect of the business case for the new site is to ensure the customer makes the right decision since product returns are costly for dabs.com and annoying for the customer.

Dabs.com marketing director Jonathan Wall explained: 'When we launched the website in 1999 people knew what they wanted. Now we find a large tranche of customers might know the type of product they want to buy but not which model they want. The new site is about guiding them through the process.'

Accessibility

Since dabs.com has tech-savvy customers, it has to support them as they adopt new ways of browsing. Dabs.com found that by 1995 nearly a fifth of its users were using the Mozilla Firefox browser, so a further requirement for the new site was to make it accessible to users browsing with a range of browsers such as Firefox, Opera and Apple's Safari.

Marketing communications

Marketing communications approaches used by dabs.com are summarised in Chapter 8 in Mini Case Study 8.5 'Electronic retailers cut back on their e-communications spend'. For customer acquisition, the main communications tools that are used are:

Search engine marketing (the main investment)

• Referrals from affiliates (this has been reduced)

• Online display advertising on third-party sites (limited)

• Sponsorship (shirt sponsorship for Premiership team Fulham).

Sources: Channel Register (2005), IT Week (2003), NCC (2005)

Questions

1 The management of dabs.com have invested in several major upgrades to its online presence in order to improve the online customer experience. Assess the reasons for the need to invest in site upgrades by referring to the dabs.com example. To what extent do you think major, regular site upgrades are inevitable?

2 Compare the quality of the online customer experience of dabs.com by visiting the site and those of its competitors such as www.ebuyer.com and www.euroffice.com. Explain the categories of criteria you have used to make your assessment.

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