E-commerce must deliver on promises

The experience of Simon Carter (Letters, MW January 13) may well have been typical of many first-time Internet shoppers.

One brilliantly disastrous example of this, featured recently on BBC’s Watchdog, was the company that failed to deliver Christmas trees, ordered way in advance of Christmas, until January 5. Couple this with an article in the FT late last year about consumers receiving hidden charges from goods they had ordered through the Internet, and e-commerce may well have suffered a setback.

However, any setback – real or perceived – appears to be only minor. A survey by Ernst & Young predicts that e-commerce is to triple its share of total consumer retail spending in the UK by 2003. For us in the industry this is good news, but we need to ensure we can provide consumers with what they want, when they want it. This includes staff with a full knowledge of, and ready access to, consumers’ products of choice.

However, these are not the only important criteria that need to be considered when undertaking e-business.

E-commerce has given business a great new medium with which to communicate to consumers – but in the rush to join the party, it is important not to forget that for years most companies have made huge brand promises and then broken them by failing to deliver at the point of purchase.

All too often, the way in which goods and services are delivered seems irrelevant to marketing departments. But it is crucial to get to market in the right way, whether an item is delivered through manufacturers’ own networks or through third-party retailers. It is only by enfranchising the supply chain that products and services are consistently delivered at the point of purchase.

It is ironic that at a time when “integrated” agencies promise expertise on a supposedly wide scale, they still concentrate on traditional executions and ignore the actual delivery of brand promise. Making sure goods are presented to consumers in the right way should also be a key service.

Increasingly, companies are adapting to the e-commerce culture to ensure consumers purchase with their fingers – and that includes having enough product in stock, especially close to important dates. Companies such as Amazon have set the service benchmarks that others will have to match. If they fail to do so, they will fall by the wayside.

Jerry Smith

Director of marketing

The Marketing Organisation

Newport Pagnell

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