March 12, 2009, 12:00 AM

Customer service and site usability drives online sales, expert says

Good online customer service can give e-retailers an edge in the market, but it must coincide with things like a transparent returns policy and a user-friendly web site, says David Smith of the London-based Interactive Media in Retail Group.

Good online customer service can give e-retailers an edge in the market, but it must coincide with things like a transparent returns policy and a user-friendly web site, says David Smith, director of operations for the London-based trade organization Interactive Media in Retail Group.

“Attracting repeat business is all about customer service and web site usability,” Smith says.

Online retailers should also ensure that customers have access to clearly listed contact details so they can call or e-mail with questions about a retailer’s products and policies, he says.

Some retailers are finding value in providing customer service through mobile technology, he adds. “A simple text message can let the buyer know their goods have been dispatched,” Smith says. “It creates a dialogue and can help uncover any problems early on.”

Retailers should also consider offering exclusive buying opportunities to their best customers, Smith says. “It can also be a way of getting customers to sign up to certain offers or become part of special club,” he says. “This can make people feel valued and therefore more likely to come back to you rather than to a competitor.”

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