How to screw up your web store (Guaranteed)

Jesse Berst, Editorial DirectorZDNet AnchorDeskSooner or later, your company will be selling your products or services on the Web. When you do, I want you to make these six blunders.
Written by ZDNet Staff, Contributor on
Jesse Berst, Editorial Director
ZDNet AnchorDesk

Sooner or later, your company will be selling your products or services on the Web. When you do, I want you to make these six blunders. I promise you they'll drive away customers and cause a massive failure.

Oh sure, you could join the many Web stores that had a smashing holiday season:

  • Total sales of US$7 billion (Jupiter Communications)
  • Contented customers (69% mostly satisfied, according to Cognitiative)
  • Soaring transactions (up 325% from a year ago, says BizRate.com)

Why bother? It's much more fun to mess things up:

  • Like eToys did with sloppy service that left customers dissatisfied. Click for more
  • Like Beyond.com having to lay off employees because of sluggish sales. Click for more
  • Like music e-tailers struggling to keep stock prices from falling. Click for more

(BTW: If your business isn't online, it will be soon -- or it'll be dead. Worldwide business-to-consumer sales are expected to continue booming, with total sales of $105 billion in 2002 -- up from nearly US$23 billion last year, according to a Banc of America Securities analyst. Click for more. Gartner expects the worldwide business-to-business market to jump from US$145 billion in 1999 to US$7.29 trillion in 2004.)

So here's how to be a big online failure:

Don't deliver goods on time, especially toys. When you anger an adult only one person gets mad. Screw up a kid's present, and you've got a whole family ticked off at you. Click for more.

Run cutesy (and expensive) dot-com TV ads. That way you'll be just like all the others and get lost in the hype. Click for more.

Make sure customers have to click six or seven times before they can purchase a product. That's assuming anyone does find your site amidst all the clutter. Click for more.

Make sure shipping fees are well hidden so customers get the shaft right after placing an order. Click for more.

Treat customers so poorly they put up a complaint site. Then threaten to sue the complaint site, thereby winning a bad reputation you might never shake. Click for more.

Trash customer privacy. That way you'll be sure to trigger a class-action suit just like the big boys. Click for more.

You could do your Web store right, of course. If you fall into that moronic camp, there are Web sites that help get your Web store up and running for free. Click for more. Here are three that help you avoid some of the mistakes others have made:

Got any better ideas for screwing up a Web store? Let me know by hitting the TalkBack button below:

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