Four Things Carrefour Has Taught Me About Online Business

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Lessons learned from Carrefour's appalling cutomer service

Our local Carrefour supermarket is an infuriating shop. It is huge and stocks a wide range of products at low prices. However, Carrefour also seems to abhor its customers with a passion. Every time I go there I swear I will never return.  

The basic things that Carrefour gets wrong are as applicable to websites and online business as they are to supermarkets. Here are the four things that Carrefour's ineptness has taught me:

Barriers to entry

Before you even get into Carrefour you are reminded that the brand regards all its customers as potential thieves. You can’t come in with a bag from any other shop unless it has been sealed inside a plastic sack.

There are two problems with this anti-theft system. The first is that Carrefour shows all its customers that it doesn’t trust them. This must cost them far more in bad PR than they save by putting off genuine thieves. It's hard to feel like a valued cusstomer when you might as well be carrying a big bag marked swag.

The second problem with the bagging system is that the effort involved puts people off going into the shop. I don’t have seal my bags to walk into the Hiperdino around the corner. That’s why I shop there instead of Carrefour.

The lesson here for websites is simple. Don’t put anything in between the customer and your goods. Any silly musical intro or Flash presentation is the equivalent of Carrefour’s bagging system. Make life difficult and a large number of visitors will simply go elsewhere.

Make sure that visitors to your website can find what they are looking for as quickly as possible and your conversion rate will increase.

Pointless redesigns

Carrefour recently redesigned its entire store layout. It put big purple and orange acrylic disks over different sections of the shop and moved everything else around. The store looks a bit better but I don’t know where anything is any more. Since it doesn’t bother to put decent aisle signs up shopping at Carrefour is a pain in the backside.

The Carrefour redesign did nothing to improve my shopping experience. In fact it made it more complicated. The net result of this is that I don’t want to shop there any more.

Rebranding or redesigning your website for the sake of it is just like Carrefour’s store redesign. It may look good but it unless it makes life easier for customers it’s a total waste of money. Change for change’s sake is likely to cost you customers as previously happy punters decide that they can’t be bothered to master the changes.

Ease of payment

Carrefour's single payment queue isn't a bad idea but it has been executed terribly. You have to queue in main corridor of the shop, making it impossible for other shoppers to get past. Carrefour never has enough cashiers on the tills so the queue is always long. It makes paying the shop's reasonable prices a chore. 

Make sure that your website doesn't have the same problem. Create a payment system that is as simple as possible by stripping out all unecessay steps and including several payment methods. If your site has a complex payment system or few options many potential customers will give up and buy elsewhere.

Loyalty is earned

Every time I stand at the checkout in Carrefour they ask me if I have a loyalty card. When I say no they look at me as if I am mad and tell me I can get one by queuing at the customer service desk.

I don’t want a Carrefour card because I think the store is dreadful and I feel no loyalty towards it at all. I don’t see why I should give them any information which allows them to make money if they can’t get the basics right.  The idea of having to queue to save a few cents make me grind my teeth.

Carrefour may stock some great products but it fails epically in the customer experience department. Brands and websites inspire loyalty by selling their customers great products in a great environment and by making them feel valued and understood. One out of four isn't good enough!  

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