Sucharita Mulpuru [Posted by Sucharita Mulpuru]

I used to swear by one of the big online photo printers. For years, this company generously let me store thousands of my pictures and printed them beautifully and inexpensively, sending them to me promptly whenever I needed. I even used this company to make novelty products like calendars, mugs and holiday cards. In the last year or so though, I started to notice some kinks; the company overhauled their eCommerce platform and my browser seemed to crash more than usual whenever I uploaded photo batches. Furthermore, it was much more difficult to navigate through my images, page refreshes seemed to take forever and I couldn’t edit any pictures as easily as I’d done in the past. I came to dread the photo ordering process.  When it came time for me to print holiday cards this year, I just couldn’t bear the frustration of dealing with my once-favorite photo company and went Googling for another. I ran across a stationery company called Tiny Prints and printed my cards with them.  I wasn’t alone. Of the dozens of holiday cards my family received this year, nearly a quarter of them (and all the best-looking ones) were all, incidentally, from Tiny Prints. This was no coincidence. They did so many things better than their competition. Here are a few of them:

  1. A shipping offer. On their Google paid search ad and on their homepage, Tiny Prints trumpeted a free shipping offer to all customers. The other company? They sent me a flier with a $10 off promotion but it had expired by the time I got around to printing holiday cards. There’s not enough that can be said about the psychology of free shipping in online retail and how effective it is at driving sales. Companies like Zappos which often have higher product prices but perpetual free shipping know this well. Sixty-one percent of holiday shoppers have told us in the past that they shop online more often with retailers that offer free shipping.
  2. Product search and assortment. This was why Tiny Prints won me over. I had visited no less than a half dozen other websites looking for a cardstock quality holiday card in the color pink that would let me upload two photos of my daughters. I was ready to just go to Target and buy something generic until I went to Tiny Prints. Tiny Prints had a parametric search and quick look function that efficiently let me find exactly what I was looking for, without extra clicks, without cumbersome page refreshes. Even the process of uploading photos and viewing my proofs seemed to be easier and faster here. This religious focus on a great product detail and search results experience is well-placed. In a survey we did last year with eCommerce executives, more retailers were focusing their investments on those two priorities over anything else.
  3. Fulfillment. At checkout, Tiny Prints told me exactly when I would received my purchase, and by that day, I had sure enough received my package. That degree of transparency and staying true to those details matter. It engenders trust, reduces unnecessary call center contacts and helps cultivate word-of-mouth enthusiasm. One of the biggest sources of frustration to holiday shoppers every year is that shipping takes longer than expected.

In the end, I ultimately spent a bit more than what I had planned to, but that was a tradeoff I willingly made to save time and get exactly what I wanted — which are the main reasons consumers in general shop online.