Contest May Show Whether Online Retailers Learned From Mistakes
When the dot-com intelligentsia commence with their annual ritualof opining on the winners and losers of the holiday E-retailing
season, one company will rely on the most unlikely of sources for
its information: the customers themselves. For the second year,
eConvergent Inc., which specializes in E-business customer-
interaction software and services, is inviting online shoppers to
share their best and worst experiences. It's dangling $250 gift
certificates as motivation.
After being overwhelmed with entries for last year's inaugural
competition, which identified Amazon.com, Buy.com, and
SmarterKids.com as the kings of holiday E-retailing, eConvergent
reports that entries for this year are already streaming.
Regrettably, eConvergent didn't divulge the three sites that
provided the worst shopping experiences of 1999, and it hasn't
decided whether it will do so this year. CEO Clyde Foster says,
however, that the company is contacting last year's E-retailing
lemons to find out what they're doing differently this year.
What's most surprising heading into this year's contest is that
the company, which gets a front-row seat for its clients'
E-commerce activities, expects a repeat of 1999, when things got
bad enough that the Federal Trade Commission stepped in and
ordered a handful of problem sites to whip their back-end
fulfillment systems into shape or risk further action. "Our hunch
is it's not going to get a lot better," Foster says. "Pure
E-tailers haven't invested enough in customer service and
fulfillment." Of course, the worse things are for E-retailers, the better 2001 is likely to be for eConvergent.
Forrester Research analyst David Cooperstein is more optimistic.
He says many E-retailers have been improving the online shopping
experience. "People learned their lessons, and they're thinking
like catalog companies."
As for the validity of the contest findings, the fact that a more- scientific Forrester study also gave Amazon and Buy.com high marks for the 1999 holiday season leads Cooperstein to believe that eConvergent's contest participants were genuine in their submissions. Foster admits the company isn't employing any
technique for checking the validity of entries, but he says
interviews with last year's winners didn't raise any red flags:
"We didn't get the sense that we were being led on."
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