Customer Loyalty from the Viewpoint of a Multichannel Seller

Posted on January 22, 2009. Filed under: Amazon, eBay | Tags: , , , , |

I happened to be at the office for awhile on Monday, MLK day, and I answered the phone when it rang.  The caller sounded a little out of breath as he asked “Hey, you guys sell on eBay, right?” to which I responded “Yes.”  He proceeded to tell me that he was glad he got ahold of me, that he had saved our flyer that came in the package he bought from us on eBay, and that he was looking for a specific item that he had seen in our eBay store at one time but which was no longer listed.  He expressed his concern to me because, in his words, “you are the only eBay seller I have bought from before that is still around.  Everybody else is gone.” 

I spent a few minutes chatting with the gentleman, pointing him to our website online and walking him through the features of the site, and I helped him to overcome his concern about ordering direct from a website.  He admitted that he was not very computer savvy and that he had bought on eBay because he hadn’t felt comfortable navigating a website and because he was a slow typist which made it difficult to enter his shipping information from scratch.  I offered to take his order over the phone for the item he was looking for (which was no longer listed in our eBay store) and he couldn’t give me his credit card information fast enough.  He asked a few technical questions about the product line and about new product due out soon and I easily answered his questions.  He ended the conversation with “you’ve got a customer for life!”


What is really interesting is that this experience is completely opposite of my experience with Amazon customers.  It is almost impossible to get an Amazon customer to order direct from us even when we are pointing them to our Amazon webstore


Around Christmas, I received a phone call from a customer who had purchased some items from us on Amazon and she wanted help from us to know what items she should order since she wanted to make sure they would work with her original purchase.  We helped her choose an appropriate item and reminded her that she had received a flyer in her package which would give her free shipping by inputting a coupon code in our Amazon webstore.  We made sure she realized that by typing in our URL that she would be taken to an Amazon webstore and that she could see Amazon Webstore in the actual URL in her browser.  We assured her that she was ordering from us through Amazon.  She was definitely not interested and the offer of free shipping made absolutely no difference to her.  “No thanks.  I prefer to go straight to directly to order” to which we replied that we would be more than happy to process and ship her order the same day she ordered.  She thanked us, hung up the phone, and proceeded to place her order directly on the Amazon site and we shipped her order the same day, as promised. 


If a potential customer from Amazon has a technical question, they can send me an email inquiry and I can reply right back to their email address directly.  There is no big warning on the email telling me that it is against policy to deal “off-Amazon”.  However, eBay does everything in their power to make sure I do not have access to a potential buyer’s email address and I am sternly warned in every email that it is against eBay policy to conduct a transaction “off-eBay”.  Now, why is that?  And what kind of message does it send to the potential buyer when eBay “warns” them just how dangerous it is to do business with me outside of eBay?  So, I am not trustworthy enough to do business with on my own website but I am trustworthy enough to sell on eBay?  It really makes eBay look foolish and it gives the impression that eBay doesn’t think very highly of its sellers. 


On Amazon, I can (and most often do) own the “Buy Box” and so I get the sale.  But I know that I will never really own the “customer” and I am okay with that.  Amazon brings new buyers to the marketplace and they market to their existing customers in an amazing way.  As an Amazon 3P vendor I get to take advantage of Amazon’s hard work and, as long as I do my part to satisfy the Amazon customer, I get to keep getting a slice of the pie.  I feel like part of the team where we are all winners – Amazon, the customer, and me. 


In contrast, I feel like being a participant on eBay is a free-for-all where I often get my nose bloodied but can’t always figure out right away who sucker punched me – eBay, the other sellers, or the buyer – until I take a minute to wipe the sweat from my brow and wait for my blurry vision to clear once the sting from the punch has gone away.  Slugging it out on eBay is tough but it is always worth it when, at the end of the day, I have walked away a winner — and I consider myself a winner when the customer who buys from me tells me that they will be my customer for life.  Amazon is not worried about their customers buying outside of the Amazon platform and I am confident that my customers won’t be returning back to eBay to buy from a competing seller.  I “own” that customer much the same way that Amazon “owns” their customers.  No threats or scare tactics are needed to keep our customers loyal to us.  Loyalty, just like respect, cannot be achieved simply because one demands it.


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One Response to “Customer Loyalty from the Viewpoint of a Multichannel Seller”

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I know exactly what you are saying, JD was off on his ‘eBay is a much safer place to do business now and we are going to make it even safer this year’ on the Q408 call and I wonder if he hears his own message.

My website customers buy there because they get the same great service and better deals than I can give them elsewhere, they have been buying from me for years in some cases. I take care of them because they are important to me and they know it.

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