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Why You Should Never Accept Second Best When Shopping Online

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SHOPPERS have always wanted great service and value. The difference today is that within any sector online there are now at least 10 or 15 different choices available in a few clicks. So why should you ever accept second best?

In the early days of the internet, horror stories abounded about late deliveries, poor customer service and goods that didn't live up to expectations.

It's little wonder that despite huge bargains available online, for many years large numbers of consumers still chose to cling to the traditional model of shopping whilst surrounded by bricks and mortar.

After all, what you see in a physical shop is what you get. Today, there is no excuse why similar values should not hold true online. A new breed of digitally-savvy consumers have realized that in a world of constant connectivity they hold all the aces.

Transacting online has become second nature and customers typically make a decision about whether a website is right for them within three seconds. They know that there are endless competitors willing to step into the fold.

The knock on effect of this is that, ironically, new technology is driving old-fashioned customer service, with its emphasis on listening to consumer feedback.

So the good news is that these days you need never accept second best whilst shopping online.

A friend of mine recently bought a pair of shoes from a retail website. They were dispatched within 48 hours and arrived by courier at a convenient hour.

Unfortunately, he realised that he'd ordered the wrong design - so he simply used a pre-paid label to return them to sender by dropping them off at a local convenience store.

When the correct style arrived a few days later he decided he'd changed his mind. No problem: he simply returned them again and quickly received a full refund. Now that's customer service.

Thanks to social media, customers now realize they have huge collective muscle and this is changing the way that online businesses operate.

At companies like Madbid.com we pride ourselves on innovation and we are always looking for new ways in which technology can add fun and value to shopping online and taking part in the live auctions that we host.

But we also know that to survive we need to be fully accountable to our customers via multiple channels, whether it's via social media, email or a telephone line that is always staffed during office hours.

We typically auction consumer goods at 80% off from their retail value and we always ensure that what you see is what you get. Unlike on e-Bay, every auction results in a sale.

We listen to customer feedback and have introduced discounts on goods so that every penny that consumers spend on bidding can be recouped whilst shopping.

As a CEO, I know that monitoring customer behaviour online is fundamental to ensure you have healthy customer retention.

As we witnessed with Twitter earlier this year, sitting back is not an option when you are online, no matter how big your brand.

The social network giant reported a net loss of £396m for 2013 after its monthly users grew by 3.8%, which was a lower than anticipated.

As wisely summed up by Nate Elliott (an analyst at Forrester): "If you don't have an engaged user base, you don't have a business."

Of course, Twitter is a great brand and I have no doubt it will continue to go on to greater and better things - but most digital businesses never get a second chance.

In order to have an engaged customer-base, companies need to be able to listen to consumer needs or they will be gone in a click.

With mobile phones often dominating consumer interactions, companies should be focusing now more than ever to establish a two-way communication with customers.

This is only way that customers will connect with your brand and will want to use it time and time again.

When Madbid launched approximately six years ago, I had a strong idea of what I wanted the business to be. I could have never imagined for it to be shaping and expanding in the way it is now. Innovation is important but it's pointless if it's not innovating for the benefit of consumers.

So take it from me, the next time that you are transacting online remember that you hold all the trump cards. It's your opinion that counts.

It's an old adage but thankfully it's back in fashion: The Customer is King.