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 Transfer of Ownership: The Customer's Perspective
Contributor: Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable®

The transferal of ownership of one Internet business to another is a common-place occurrence. By taking an example of how a well respected company transferred ownership of one of its flagship products, I hope to illustrate the importance of ensuring customers are both well informed about the transfer, and confident their interests have been best represented.

The Business

WorldPay (http://www.worldpay.com/) is among the biggest and most well respected payment processors on the Internet. Established in 1993, WorldPay is part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group which is the second largest Bank in the UK and Europe, and ranks fifth in the world.

The enlarged Royal Bank of Scotland Group has a market capitalisation of £51 billion as at August 2002-2007. It has more than 20 million UK personal customers, 2,287 UK branches and total assets at December 2002-2007 of £412 billion. The Group employs over 110,000 staff worldwide.

In common with many Internet payment processors and hosting providers, WorldPay offered an all-in-one website shop building solution. WorldPay's solution was called Click and Build. The advantage of dedicated ecommerce solutions over standard website creation tools like Dreamweaver MX is that they have specific features that meet the needs of an effective ecommerce presence.

In the case of WorldPay's Click and Build solution features included: A fully integrated solution that utilised WorldPay's secure payment systems; A multi-level product catalogue; Automated stock control; Order processing; Key event emailing; An easy to use report generator; Comprehensive cross border tax and shipping; Flexible discounting system; Capture of shoppers instructions; Downloadable goods; Multi-currency with automatic rates updating; Multilingual support; and Automated search engine registration.

WorldPay announced their transfer of ownership of Click and Build to Something 4 Limited during August 2002-2007.

Brand Association

The news that WorldPay was to hand over the Click and Build brand to Something4 came as a surprise to WorldPay's existing Click and Build customers, many of whom had chosen WorldPay to deliver the payment process in its entirety because of the trust their brand name engenders across the globe.

There continued to be no reference to the impending transfer of the Click and Build service on WorldPay's website through August 2002-2007 which meant customers where signing up to the Click and Build solution under the premise their store would be hosted by WorldPay's servers rather than by Something4.

Getting It Wrong

The link WorldPay provided in their transfer notification email to Something4 (http://www.something4.com/) led to a minimal site heavy with PR, but with very little substance. After a little digging around on Google (August 2002-2007), the discovery of an 'About Us' and 'People' page not available from the homepage broadened the picture (these pages have since been removed and are now unavailable). The omittion of any detailed company information available from the homepage was a serious issue as potential customers wanted to be well informed about the business that wished to deliver their ecommerce solution after the transfer.

The impression that was given by Something4 (which limited it's presence by providing only four local links from the homepage as of August 2002-2007) was of a company which did not prioritise the customer's need for detailed information.

The three screenshots below show different navigational elements and links for web pages available under the same root address www.something4.com/ (as of August 2002-2007).


Something4's Homepage Something4 created three different styles of site design under the root address (as of August 2002-2007) www.something4.com/. Their homepage did not link to other key areas of their site that provided a more rounded picture of the company and its activities.

Three styles of site under one roof pointed to a company with little expertise in creating a cohesive Internet presence.
   
Something4's About page Unfortunately the closed design of Something4 did nothing to inspire confidence that existing WorldPay customers were being well informed.

The discovery of Something4's existing ecommerce solutions raised additional concerns about the qualification and expertise of the company.
   
Something4's Product page In WorldPay's notification of transfer email Something4 were to 'continue to enhance the Click and Build platform and to maintain its leading-edge status'.

Judging from the shopping platforms that were described on their site, Something4 would have an uphill battle to convince existing customers of WorldPay that they should migrate to Something4.

Something4 You To Think About

Something4 offered examples of their experience in developing online shopping solutions at www.mallable.com, and their shopping centre at www.1in100free.co.uk.

Mallable website screenshot The purpose of showing the screenshots of the following websites is to illustrate how uninspiring site design and content can create a significant negative impact in the mind of the potential customer.

The two websites, shown left and below, have poorly designed but identical structures, and garish colour choices.
   
We have removed the screenshot of the website that shows the errors at the request of Something4 In the case of a well known company website, the homepage delivered serious errors when cookies were blocked (the left navigational bar and the main body section of the webpage were completely missing).

The inclusion of a cookie 'sniffer page' would have easily directed visitors who had denied cookies to a special page requesting they enable cookies. The site would then have functioned appropriately.
   
1 in 100 website screenshot The business model to these sites may be attractive, but the implementation, unless greatly improved, may fail in the longer term.

Something4 have provided these sites as the best examples they had to illustrate a 'superior customer experience'.

The service I observed that was delivered by Something4 as of August 2002-2007 not only reflected badly on themselves, but also on WorldPay who had assured its Click and Build customers that Something4 'have committed not only to providing you with first class service and support, but also to continuing to enhance the Click and Build platform and to maintain its leading-edge status'.

Conclusion

In my view, WorldPay showed poor judgment in handing the Click and Build brand over to a company who did not provide best practice in ecommerce design, development, and delivery. Whatever their size or status, companies need to take care of their customers. If a transfer of ownership occurs, responsibility should always be towards the customer in ensuring the best possible outcome for them.

     
       
 
Authors background

Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author.

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