by October 26, 2010 0 comments



Adeesh Sharma and Patanjali Pahwa

A friend stumbled across a new travel portal that was supposedly offering the ‘best deal’ on airline tickets.Not to be left behind, he decided to book tickets through it for an upcoming trip. The portal looked quite jazzy with the latest Flash animations and cool images. And browsing through its pages was like visiting an upmarket mall. After working his way through the booking process for a while, he started getting edgy for no apparent reason. It was no sooner than 15 minutes that he realized the site was taking longer to respond than what he was used to all these years. The result?He quickly went back to the older, time tested portal he was used to booking tickets from, and at whatever rates that were on offer.

The lesson: No matter how good a business proposal, what reigns supreme on Internet is ‘the end-user experience’. It’s the only mantra that’ll decide your business destiny. PCQuest,in association with CompuWare, organized a CIO Forum in Mumbai on the 14thOctober to explore what CIOs of popular e-commerce portals feel about the subject and what steps they have taken to ensure the same. The Forum was organized as a series of speaker sessions by eminent speakers from the in-dustry, rounded-off by a panel discussion on the subject.Quite a few key observations came out of it. The following sections elaborate them in detail.

What does the customer desire?

There are close to 10.1 million Internet subscribers in the country. The concept of physical purchasing has been supplemented by the quicker Internet experience. Business is now reaching out to customers through another channel:an e-commerce portal. An eBay.in has no physical presence but still features on the search coordinates of many young shoppers. These facts can be ignored by retailers at their own risk. E-commerce has now broken into your world, it doesn’t matter if you’re ready or not.

The customer is looking for an experience which gives him instant results, while not compromising on performance.The customer is looking for ease in operability as well as a pleasing experience to the eye. Several major portal managers affirmed that they would sacrifice a fancier look if it gave them performance which would help them in retaining customers.Google.com, the yardstick, runs on a plain white screen with a simple doodle to remind you, that the economic model doesn’t only depend on the number of advertisements but also the placement of those advertisements. It is advisable to fall back on the oft-repeated business model: KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid).

The more the customers appreciate your website, the better response it gets on forums and other portals and that’s how you attract more customers. On the Internet, is usually the best way to attract business. Don’t believe us? Ask Google.

Learn from the masters

While there are more than a billion websites crawling the cyber-space, there are very few that could fit into the mould which would help you build from. Google, is the leader of the pack, and Amazon.com is the golden rule as far as retail is concerned. It has a simple but clear design with the built-in search capability driving the whole experience. A look at the popular travel portals in India provides more examples. Cleartrip has a non-abrasive way of advertising and it does not intrude your travel experience. The advertisement blends into the website experience. Apart from just the visual element, the website, is one of the most popular travel sites and has a very simplistic way of breaking down airline and train prices for you according to date and time. Though the tools used while designing the website aren’t special or ground breaking the simplicity is heart-warming.

Importance of Search

Search engines have changed the way the world looks for information.Websites were never as dependent on search as they are now. Search engines are the principal drivers to bringing customers to a website. The search tool within the website hence becomes important. A large percentage of customers use the search tool for navigation and a fragile tool without in-depth personalized support would result in a high bounce rate. A search box helps the customer sift through the kind of information they are looking for on your website, and is also the point where you disseminate data to help them spend more time on the website and hence boost your chances of doing business. The search tool is, effectively, next in line after content in your list of priorities.

Expert speak

“There is no magic formula to what drives online success,”said Belson Coutinho, General Manager eCommerce & Innovations, Jet Airways. Coutinho insisted the success of his web-site was dependent on not only the design and branding but there was an equal focus on usability and transactions. Coutinho built a team around him to drive ecommerce. “The balance of the team should be tech and business,” he said. The first step, Coutinho said, for a successful website was to identify the audience and then take shape from thereon.

Vikas Prabhu, CIO and Business head – Mobile Service for The Mobile Store insisted that end user satisfaction cannot be restricted to the online audience but needs to be extended to other channels-physical stores and call centers. “Every channel that touches the customer should have the same experience,” Prabhu said. He insisted that all information should be shared with the user.

Neeraj Dev, Regional Director, Yatra.com said his company came up with an innovative plan to help customers understand the fine print-a chat window. Yatra is working on a chat program which will spring to life when a customer is on a page for longer than a defined period of time. “A travel advisor will ask you on the chat window, on how he can help you,” explained Dev.Dev also insisted on shifting the call center back into the company. This allows users to have a quality experience online, with a personal touch. Dev explained that apart from the ability to adapt to trends, fraud analysiswas equally important. With identity fraud in India taking root, fraud analysts should be constantly measuring transactions and identifying illegal transactions.

Prashant Pawan, Product Manager,Rediff.com, agreed. “Information should flow to the user not from the user.” Small print will only discourage the customer to come back again. He ex-plained that the best way to move forward was to move back. The man behind Rediff’s Song Buzz portal, described the process in building the web-site. He explained that the simplest way is often the right way. “Your agenda should be pushed slowly to users. Let it flow.” For a social platform, he advised Twitter’s ‘follow’ method to collate customers than Facebook’s friend method.

Vivek Sharma, Managing Director, CompuWare, described very simply: an application is never whole some until it reaches the end user. He explained that the best way to monitor an application that was in focus is to have a good unified dashboard across various plat-forms. Finding a solution to a problem was as important to serving up a quick website. The best way to find and solve a bug, he explained, was “to prioritize,isolate and solve.” He presented some of CompuWare’s flagship solutions for monitoring Web application performance and impressed upon the audience the need to monitor these applications at multiple points: data centers, firewall,routers, branch locations; right up to the customer’s browser.

He showed how CompuWare’s monitoring solutions,provide intricate details about an applications behavior, some of which routinely get unnoticed by admins while searching for bugs. Pawan insisted that though Flash made websites look jazzy, Web 2.0 would be the next step forward. Coutinho agreed, he insisted the person who could explore the full potential of Web2.0 would be able to drive the market forward. “Adoption to alternate channels will go up six to seven times within the next three years,” Sharma said. As the shift from physical shopping to online shopping increases the end user experience will become the determining factor in deciding who rules the roost!

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