March 9, 2007, 12:00 AM

Size and money don’t matter when gauging what shoppers want

For smaller retailers or ones with little cash on hand, there are simple customer research techniques that can yield very helpful and measurable results, says Maris Daugherty, senior consultant at J.C. Williams Group.

When it comes to taking the pulse of customers to ensure their e-commerce site experiences are everything they want them to be, size and profitability typically dictate what an Internet retailer can or cannot do. However, for smaller retailers or ones with little cash on hand, there are simple customer research techniques that can yield very helpful and measurable results-when the techniques are used with clear, objective and good hypotheses as well as a fixed set of goals to measure success, says Maris Daugherty, senior consultant at J.C. Williams Group Ltd.

“Create a customer advisory panel,” she advises. “These panels should consist of a few customers who agree to become members of your team to help filter priorities and provide feedback on your ideas. And when it comes to feedback, the unsolicited kind can be acquired by listening in on customer service calls and reading complaint e-mails.”

Daugherty, who is speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, June 4-7 in San Jose, in a session entitled Identifying the E-Retailing Solutions Shoppers Find Most Useful, also suggests having a key senior executive call and discuss hypotheses with several customers.

“And you can invite local customers to your offices, give them a specific task such as ‘choose a product and check out,’” she says, “then watch them surf your site for insights into your messaging and navigation.”

The key to any changes or new implementation on an e-commerce site, she adds, is test, measure, refine and test again.

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