Consumer purchase process improvements in e-tailing operations: A case study

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Purpose ‐ The advent of the internet has dramatically changed the retail landscape. Online purchases have been increasing annually for the past several years, yet only account for 6 percent of total purchases. With the potential for growth being relatively unlimited, many online businesses have been created, and conventional stores are questioning whether their current brick and mortar business model will continue to be successful. The operational processes of online companies are difficult to formulate, as evidenced by their high failure rates. The purpose of this paper is to examine one online business, Bellacor, to determine whether there are operational efficiencies to be gained, that errors can be reduced and whether they are operating in conjunction with customers' expectations. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The design methodology used involved an examination of Bellacor's service blueprint, implementing the Six Sigma DMAIC cycle, developing cause-and-effect diagrams and creating poka-yokes to modify the existing service blueprint to improve the operational process. Findings ‐ The "improve" phase of the DMAIC cycle produced several poka-yokes to overcome numerous failures in the current service blueprint. It is the authors' opinions that implementing the new proposed blueprint will likely result in improved customer service, improved delivery tracking, fewer errors and a better overall experience for the customer. Research limitations/implications ‐ The main limitations of the survey surrounded the time frame allotted to complete the study. Had more time and resources been available, a more robust survey could have been created and additional order data could have been gathered. Practical implications ‐ With a better experience for the customer and improved accuracy throughout the process, profits will improve. There is considerable market share available for a successful operation and management needs to continually revisit the current process to ensure that it is as efficient and customer-friendly as possible. Originality/value ‐ The value of the study goes beyond Bellacor as a successful online business. The study attempts to lay the groundwork for what is successful and needed by today's consumer. Lessons and procedures learned in the paper can be translated to any company with a similar business model.

Keywords: Customer service management; Electronic data interchange; Internet; Shopping; Supply chain management

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

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