Loyalty needs to win over online promiscuity

Because websites eschew personal interaction, they need to develop new approaches to customer loyalty

One thing I have noticed about the Internet – when looking to make a purchase or strike a deal – is my increased propensity for promiscuity.

Normally, I like to buy from people. People are a big part of my purchasing decision. Sometimes, I’ve even resisted getting rid of less than efficient suppliers simply because they are so nice. How many agency pitches are decided not so much on the quality of the work but rather on how well the client gets on with the people concerned?

The Internet, though, removes people from the process. And without the personal bias on decisions, the practical issues get renewed precedence. For example: is the product good? How easy is the site to use? Is the transaction safe?

This is the real stuff behind marketing strategies. Because your competitor’s site is no more than three clicks away, if I get bored on your site, I will go and check its site.

Ironically, few marketing strategies go into detail about people’s niceness. There again, there’s nothing more disturbing than people who have been trained to be nice in an over-the-top sort of way.

All of which raises a couple of key points: firstly, the Internet will force your business to become genuinely customer-focused. If you aren’t giving your customers exactly what they want through your site, then they are going to go elsewhere – very quickly.

Secondly, the sites that can build in some human element into their websites are going to do better. Let’s face it, human beings are gre garious creatures; no one really wants to spend their life marooned on a website, or even at the end of an automated phone line.

I’ve noticed a lot of the larger mail order catalogues come online with their telephone number proudly displayed. When a Web consultant says that you can get rid of nearly all your customer service staff and replace them with an auto-responding server, take it with a pinch of salt.

I’ve visited some very lovely sites but my impulsive nature has frequently got the better of me as I wait for what seems like hours for some designer’s beautiful creation to download. Since there was no human interaction to hold me there, I was gone before you could say “page impression”.

Online marketers should spend less time talking about customer loyalty and pay more attention to customer promiscuity.

Bill Fryer is creative director of Bill Fryer Direct

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