I had one very good and one very bad Internet commerce transaction today.
The horrific first. One of my best friends lives in a small berg near Placerville, CA. the town is called "Rescue" and it's a 10 minute run from my friend's vineyard to the supermarket. To get to a decent mall is a three hour round trip exercise. I forgot about My friend's birthday but didn't want to not get her anything. So, I went shopping on the web. I thought "hell, there's a Sephora store in Sacramento so I'll just jump on their web site and get her a gift certificate."
It seemed simple enough but i soon realized the clowns who built and run Sephora.com have probably never used it to actually buy anything. What should have been a 15 minute task took 30 minutes. At the end of that period, Sephora.com had not asked me for the recipient's address, although they had got mine twice. The one bright shiny part of the transaction was that they did alert her via email that she had a $50 gift certificate which through a long and involved process could actually be used to purchase something at any one of their stores.
I came away shaking my head. It's going to be a cold day in hell when I ever shop at Sephora.com again.
I had the exact opposite of this experience this weekend. It was on HPShopping.com where in recognition of my continued loyalty to their brand they gave me a nifty new all-in-one printer when I purchased a new machine for a family member. I timed the transaction. The total time from log-on until I received a confirmation email and jumped back to my blog was six minutes. And, at the end of this period, i knew that the new notebook and printer will arrive at my home in Escondido on Tuesday. the value of my transaction on HPShopping.com was about $1,500 and know what? I trust HPShopping.com a lot more than i do Sephora.com. And when i enroll on the HP site, I stay enrolled.
Internet commerce has to be drop dead simple and build a consumer's confidence. There are two computer purchasing sites that I do business with and which come close to replicating Amazon.com's gold standard. In addition to HP's commerce site, I also like Lenovo. And Lenovo comes close to establishing a sense of community. If i have a problem with a ThinkPad notebook one of the first places i go is to Lenovo.com. The site queries my computer, determines what model i have and establishes its configuration. Logic trees take over from there and pretty soon I've found the answer to my question, or more importantly, a solution to my problem.
The evolution of the ThinkPad site should be a case study for anyone who wants to build a site. It not only sells products, it also helps me maintain those products. The combination of those two features help determine the success or failure of an Internet destination. HP has a way to go before it's on par with Lenovo. But to look at and use the site, it's safe to say they're getting closer everyday.
Compared to Amazon, both of these companies have a long way to go, but I'm confident they're working on it-- Jim Forbes, from a small town called "Azusa" at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, the tops of which are now dusted with snow. On dial-up with a drop dead simple ultra portable ThinkPad X41.
disclosure statement: I am not a paid blogger. The reason I know about Lenovo's efforts to build a good site is because for about ten years I was an unpaid member of IBM's Mobile (Computing) Advisory Council. When Lenovo acquired the ThinkPad line, it also got
IBM's ThinkPad organizational DNA (one of the better parts of the deal)