By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
If it takes more than a few seconds to access or navigate a retailer's Web site, potential customers can grow impatient and jump to another.
Instead of taking this as a negative, consumer electronics retailers can use this as a competitive edge by providing the most convenient and time-efficient Web buying experience possible. That means eliminating barriers to completing transactions and ensuring consumers have the ability to make a purchase at the very instant they decide on a product.
Narrowing the gap between customer desire and product purchase equals increased sales. Consumer electronics traditionally have a relatively high average price point. As a result, savvy retailers are offering online consumers immediate access to private-label credit cards via apply-and-buy capabilities.
Private-label credit card programs are experiencing exceptional growth because of the increased loyalty they foster between the retailer and consumers and the reduced cost of transactions to the retailers. Customers feel a closer bond to the retailer, and merchant fees for private-label cards generally are substantially lower than fees for general-purpose cards.
In addition to offering instant online private-label credit decisions for consumers, retailers can incorporate pop-up messages and personalized offers similar to store point-of-sale suggestions from cashiers and sales staff.
For example, after a customer adds a VCR/DVD player to his online shopping cart, the retailer can provide customized messages, such as, "If you purchase $20 more, you qualify for free shipping."
These techniques have proven to boost average tickets and increase upsales significantly. What's more, new Web promotions can be tested, revised and rolled-out within minutes, without the expense and time-delay of printing and shipping point-of-sale pieces. If a promotion is working exceptionally well, it's easy to expand it. Promotions also can be adjusted based on customer reactions.
Amazon.com, widely considered an e-commerce pioneer and a growing force in CE retail, is a good example. A simple click on the site's "Amazon Credit Account" link leads consumers to a user-friendly page that offers benefits such as expanded buying power, valuable offers, flexible credit terms, direct monthly billing and no annual fee.
The online credit application can be completed quickly and a response is generated immediately — replete with an account number and a credit limit if the application is approved. The whole process can take less than a minute.
After customers are approved for an account, they can make purchases immediately, while their interest in purchasing is still high. They also can check their account to view new charges, make payments online and, if they have questions regarding their account, send secure e-mail.
Although the operations of private-label accounts are generally managed by an external resource such as Citi Commerce Solutions, consumers experience seamless customer-focused service that is branded by the retailer.
While the Internet is a distinct retail channel and customer expectations must be served in a personalized manner, it's key for retailers to focus on ease of use.
By providing consistent branding messages, services and private-label financing across brick-and-mortar and online sites, retailers can improve efficiencies, increase customer loyalty and establish the retailer as a first-choice supplier.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.