My biggest pet peeve, as a consumer and an E-Commerce Consultant, are companies that try and trick, deceive, or use shady practices to separate your money from your wallet. Lets look at a few of the popular techniques and why you should not utilize them.
1. Charge your customers monthly for product shipments that auto renew.
Theory: If you sell a product that customers order regularly, setting them for automatic shipments and billing will ensure that they never run out and that you have a recurring order. Everyone wins!
Fact: The subscription model fits magazines very well. Your homemade shaving cream, on the other hand, is not something that needs to be in the mailbox every month. The reality of this method is that customers will end up forgetting about it and will initiate a chargeback once they see this on their credit card statement. Most companies use this method because they hope that you will forget about it and ignore the charge on your credit card statement each month. They'd rather bank on you not calling to cancel instead of hoping you'll come back every time your product runs dry. The philosophy here is "Its better to ask forgiveness than permission."
Option: Instead of using this method, you should come up with promotions that will remind and entice past customers. Offer them promotions for consumable products they have purchased in the past or provide them with new products that are related to the products they purchased from you already.
2. If we make it difficult to cancel, you won't!
Theory: When a customer wishes to cancel, if you just make it difficult for them to file the cancellation, they will have time to rethink their reasons and forget about canceling the service.
Fact: Just because you make it difficult for me to cancel my account, doesn't mean that I won't do it. First, you had a customer who wished to cancel for whatever reason. Now, you have a customer that wishes to cancel and has a negative opinion about your company and I will be sure to share this opinion with no less than 5 people.
Option: Always communicate with your customers. Offer great customer service and if make it as easy to cancel as it is to order from you. When we get a cancellation, we find out why and if its anything we can change or fix, we will do so. Providing the same level of service when your customer entered your store as when they exit will ensure that they have a positive experience, order from you in the future and pass on a good word.
3. Bait and Switch
Theory: If we advertise something at a low price, it will bring in the customers. Even though we don't have it in stock or force them to buy it in bulk, they'll still buy from us.
Fact: For a great example of how this fails, do a search on craigslist sometime for an apartment. Realtors advertise remarkable properties for rock bottom prices and when you click on the ad you will see something quite different. For example; A headline will read "3 bedroom, 2 bath, 499.00 a month". Wow! Sounds like a great deal! Once you read the details, you'll see that the 499 special is only for the first month, then it goes up to 1499.00 a month. If you were a potential customer and your budget was about 500 a month, there is no way that this will convince you to rent from them. You've now turned away many customers, qualified or not. Nothing raises a red flag like a deceptive practice this early on in the relationship.
Option: Be realistic. If you can't offer the lowest price, offer the best service or the most cost effective shipping method.Offer promotions that are clear, concise, and have no stipulations or gotcha aspects to them.
The basic principles you need to exhibit as a store owner are simple. Treat your customers, like you like to be treated when you go shopping. Be up front, honest, courteous and offer world class customer service.