Online auto-parts retailer U.S. Auto Parts Network (NASDAQ:PRTS) was pondering whether to offer same-day delivery—would its customers actually be interested? The e-tailer's usual survey method involved a pop-up survey question for every hundredth customer, which would have taken too long to set up. Instead, the company outsourced the task and got useful data in about a week, according to Internet Retailer.
In fact, it got responses from about 4,000 customers the first weekend the survey was up, then tweaked its questions to see whether same-day delivery would get customers to buy parts online instead of from a local store and had the new survey up later that week.
The e-tailer did eventually launch same-day delivery earlier this year. The company's CEO, Shane Evangelist, wouldn't say how well the service is working out.
The fact that the company could actually launch same-day delivery on its own, at a time when much bigger players are still dithering over how much customers will pay and how many distribution centers will be needed, is remarkable. The fact that it made the decision based on hard data it gathered quickly—and, it turns out, fairly easily and cheaply—should be a lot less surprising than it is.
After all, online surveys are not rocket science, at least not to the companies who do them constantly as a business. It's exactly the kind of thing that no retailer's IT department should be doing. In U.S. Auto Parts Network's case, "outsourcing" really overstates the case: The retailer beta-tested a tool called OnCue, which costs less than $1,000 a month to use and doesn't require IT-department-level expertise to set up.
The fact that these kinds of third-party online survey systems are inexpensive reduces the barrier to using them. The fact that they can potentially answer critical business questions much faster than much more expensive approaches is non-intuitive. But retailers of all sizes really should get past that mental hurdle. The more cheaply you can do relatively exotic things like surveys without IT effort, the faster you'll get results—and the faster IT can get its other projects done, too.
- See this Internet Retailer story
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