How come folks seem to want it all right now? Some say the culture these days is a product of the MTV generation. Some suggest it's because lots of humans who are now decision-making adults cut their teeth on Sesame Street educational sound- and sight-bites. Others say “instant” is the inherent promise of the Internet. Whatever the reason, you need to hard-wire this into your brain: Most of your customers have very little patience online. They get frustrated easily. They want and expect instant gratification and when they don't get it, they feel like you've broken your promise.

Whatever your own opinion on the subject may be, if you want your online business to succeed, you've got to play by the rules your customers set up. They want instant gratification? You feed the need.

Many folks these days take the Internet speed of life for granted - and the wait through a long download is downright objectionable. The "Gee Whiz" curve is flattening out fast, particularly in the world of e-commerce.

"A web storefront operator has only to make one big mistake and the customer is gone forever. There are no second chances when it comes to shopping on the web."1 We've talked about lots of reasons folks bail from an online shopping session, but let's look at some of the things you can control that will meet their very real need for instant gratification.

· Get your site to the customer fast. A common benchmark is “The 8-Second Rule”. Your page needs to load in around 8 seconds, and do that on a 28.8K dial-up line -which is where most people still are, or your prospects will start bailing. But without getting out my intergalactic stopwatch that measures picoseconds, you certainly need to incorporate strategies that get your page to download quickly. Server speed and server capacity matter, but your own “page weight” matters most. If it weighs more than 35-40K, put it on a diet - ruthlessly. You also need to determine "how your audience accesses the Internet, as well as how many users might hit your site at once and where they're located … Without this information, you can never be sure your site will perform well."2

· Make sure your site is available 24/7 at least for shopping. If you're really serious, support (outstanding) customer service 24/7, too.

· Keep your navigation obvious and your design uncluttered, so folks can find what they are looking for fast.

· Be hyper-vigilant about the status of your ordering system. If it isn't working at the moment your customer decides to go for it, that's pretty much the end of your relationship with that customer. 

· Make sure your online ordering process is as effortless as a hot knife slicing through butter. There's instant gratification and then there's instant gratification - the perceived intensity of the latter, when the decision to act has been made, is more instant <grin>. 

· Being able to communicate the in-stock status of an item is a huge help. Making sure that information is correct is critical. Guess what happens when your website says an item is available and your customer, after ordering, gets your e-mail saying the item is on back-order for 30 days?

· Make sure your customer service is top-notch, and particularly that it has the ability to respond quickly to queries of any kind. A response that takes a week is almost worse than none at all, and it's criminal how many e-businesses are guilty of both.

· Keep your content streamlined: make it vital, concise, and only what is necessary to the 5-step sales process. Your customers have no patience for fluff.

You simply can't fight what your customers need, expect, and demand. If you can't or don't want to feed your customers' need for instant gratification, there are lots of companies just a click away who gladly will. 

© 2001 Future Now, LLC

1 "There are no second chances when it comes to eCommerce." David Strom, Web Informant #230, 3 January 2001. 
2 "Performance." Cade Metz, ZDNet, February 19, 2001. 

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