Electronic commerce, aka e-commerce, is the business of buying or selling products and services across the Internet. While e-commerce provides the convenience and flexibility of purchasing or distributing online, it often lacks the personal and human connection that in-store experiences can offer. Sometimes the nature of virtual commerce can have an adverse affect on both parties to the transaction.
This isn’t to say that every e-commerce company (in theory) doesn’t strive to provide 100% customer satisfaction . It just means that some do it better than others.
The customer-centric business model is a strategy by which a company consciously develops an internal culture (through a mix of core values, philosophy and mission) that manifest through every touchpoint a potential customer has with the company’s brand – from start to finish. Akin to marketing as a service, when successfully accomplished, customers will rant, rave and return. In an era when market forces are inevitably driving down the cost of tangible goods sold online, customers have been known to pay a premium for pleasurable and rewarding online shopping experiences. What does that tell you about the psychology of buying?
Zappos is the ubiquitous shining example of bringing commoditzed inanimate products to life through a series of remarkable customer experience strategies. As a result, Founder and CEO Tony Hsieh has redefined modern day e-commerce. Now an international speaker, author and serial entrepreneur, Hsieh recently sold Zappos to Amazon in the range of 847m-1.2b (depending on sources ( I II III ), calculations and market conditions).
Although Hsieh’s framework has been prevalent for some time, one local Internet venture, Fetch Delivers, is growing it’s business through the same approach. This Minneapolis-based e-commerce company was founded in 2006 by Jay Cowan to provide the convenience of “free to-your-doorstep” delivery service for pet food and supplies throughout the Twin Cities Metro.
Customers browse the online catalog, make selections, fill their cart, create an account and check out just like any functional e-commerce system. For added convenience, orders can be placed on a one-time basis or setup as an automatically recurring purchase/delivery. Additionally, single purchases are placed into an “on demand” queue for quick and easy access next time around.
Fetch Delivers orders are typically delivered within one week and recurring orders can set scheduled delivery dates. There are no same-day deliveries because Fetch Delivers doesn’t stock inventory, which allows them to carry less overhead expenses and subsequently, offer free delivery. Products are ordered from manufacturers/distributors only when an order is placed; no orders are charged to the customer until the week of delivery.
Deliveries are done on a route system so that the same drivers are consistently delivering to the same neighborhoods and houses. This allows customers to interact with a familiar face every time which fulfills (to great extent) the humanism of that in-store experience. By customizing special instructions in their account, customers can confidently make personal requests and delivery instructions.
To date, Fetch Delivers continues to grow its e-commerce business through a model of providing (ongoing and evolving) remarkable customer experiences. In return, they receive positive reviews and testimonials that lead to the loyalty, brand equity and word of mouse marketing necessary to remain competitive in the global marketplace.
“It’s a self-perpetuating cycle and if you can find it, you have to learn to embrace it,” says Cowan.