If you are looking for a textbook example of how not to design your website shopping experience, take a look at what has happened recently with Target.com. They left their partnership with Amazon earlier this summer and started using a bevy of consultants and VARs to create their own ecommerce site. It has been one mess, to say the least.
We aren't just talking about broken links, or pages that are slow to load, or problems with search, although there are plenty of all of these issues to go around. It is the totality of the screw-up that has gotten attention. The latest recounting of woe can be found here in AdAge.
So what can you take away from all of this? Join our six-step program, and you too can recreate a miserable Web shopping experience and drive your own customers to your competitors quicker than you can say Pets.com.
- Hire multiple dueling consultants to develop different pieces of your site, and then make sure they don't talk to each other.
At one point, more than 20 different vendors were working on the project under the lead SapientNitro integrator, the same one that brought trouble to Singapore Airlines website earlier this summer. Perhaps naming the relaunch "Everest" was a sign that things were not going to go well with this project.
- Don't build any scalable infrastructure. When the big traffic comes, you want to make sure that your site crashes and burns and can't scale up to meet demand. Last month, a run on Missoni designer fashions crashed the site because of too much traffic, and many orders were cancelled automatically by the retailer.
- Don't implement an effective customer support call center. There have been many complaints about shopping carts abandoned because check out times were stretching to half-hour or more, and faulty bridal registries. If customers can't buy from you, or call you to resolve problems, they are going to leave.
- Make sure your marketing and IT departments have as little contact as possible. If you don't have a common vision for the site and what you are trying to accomplish, then you are doomed. Granted, Target is a big company and there are lots of players on both sides. But they should be playing on the same team. This could explain the Missoni September disaster, which was heavily promoted - some stores were sold out of inventory in a matter of minutes - but didn't have the Web chops behind the campaign.
- Use the wrong metrics to measure performance. AdAge reports that time spent on the site is up 19% from this time last year, but "that increase could be due in part to the difficulties consumers are experiencing using the site," and not because people are more engaged or buying more stuff.
- Don't engage your customers on social networks. Target's Facebook page continues to get comments about items with multiple prices listed, shopping cart problems, slow responses, and more. And the reps from Target? MIA. Don't bother with all this social networking stuff, better to let the customer sit on hold on the phone.
Granted, Target.com is a big Web property. It is the 22nd largest Internet retailer in the U.S., with $1.33 billion in sales last year, according to trade publication Internet Retailer. In contrast, Amazon is No.1, notching $12.95 billion in sales last year. Maybe they do know a few things about ecommerce after all.