Getting the basics right makes money – Ascent

Yesterday I went shopping for a laser printer. I went to Pricespy and Trade Me, along with Ascent where I have successfully purchased before.

Pricespy sent me to a few stores, including Ascent, but I will pick on Computer Direct who came back  as the cheapest. They have a good url, but they are not a company that I have heard of. Still, they looked professional enough, and so I placed printer into the cart.
All good, if a little dated, but when I clicked on check out I was confronted with this:

Sorry – I don’t know you, and although I’d buy a printer from you I have no wish whatsoever to register on your website. You have also not yet told me how much shipping will cost, and given that I do not trust you I choose to stop. Goodbye.

For a simple lesson on how to do this (and to buy my printer), I headed on over to Ascent. Here is their cart:

and here is the next screen, which is excellent. I can simply click the center button and buy what I want to buy. I don’t have to register, I don’t have to remember a login and password.

Oh – and before you can say lock-in and email spam, you should know that not only did I buy something else from Ascent two days ago, I have also purchased several expensive items from them over the years. Each time I just go through a normal checkout process. What I am trying to say is that it is not being registered that increases loyalty, it’s the site usability and the service. And that’s clearly worth a few extra bucks.

Ascent were first recommended to me by a red headed chap at Trade Me a few years back, and I’ve since recommended Ascent to others over the years, and I also commend them to you.

From Twitter @normnz agrees – “Ascent are worth every extra penny. Their service levels are extra-ordinary” and @vavroom says “Been dealing with Ascent for years. Service is *exceptional*. Would not think about using anyone else.

This sort of word of mouth marks the difference between really successful businesses and lousy businesses.

What are you doing for your business to generate this sort of response? How do you stack up versus your competitors? Do you even know?

Published by Lance Wiggs


10 replies on “Getting the basics right makes money – Ascent”

  1. I totally agree.

    Computer components are many and varied, and I just love their product-specific product filter; it’s second-to-none. So easy to find what you’re after. No other PC/electronics retail website that I’ve seen has anything like it.


  2. I think the main difference of what you point out – especially with the pricespy purchase method is that online shopping solutions are not as mature similar to where CMS systems were a couple of years back.

    The majority of the sites listed on pricespy use default installations of OSCommerce or similar open source shop system, which often lacks easy customisation for those simple tasks instead frustrating both users and developers/designers.

    While some solutions like Cubecart and Magneto are starting to make inroads, often you don’t see shortcomings in key issues like stock management, user registration, payment gateways etc. Then you have to do workarounds to futz the solution.

    I’ve done 2 online shops and in the process gone through 4 systems, now settling on Magneto but often the “I need an online shop” and fix the systems later is a common attitude. But if the base layer is broken, the agile process doesn’t work as well.

    Ascent is the best shop, and they actually invest in their infrastructure, so their site improves from year to year. Also their customer service is second to none.


  3. I absolutely agree with you here Lance.

    Here’s the bit I really love:

    If you do struggle through that shopping cart disaster, add shipping, add the “extra heavy item” fee, GST, the “pay by credit card” fee (if they accept them), and finally get an actual price to pay; it is almost always the same (within a few dollars) as the Ascent price.

    Once you do that a few times you realise that while items may appear cheaper on pricespy, when those other costs are included, the Ascent price is just fine.

    Then you add in the easy of use, speed, customer support and service and it becomes an easy choice to just use Ascent.

    I am sure you could potentially save yourself a few tens of dollars a year if you are a heavy purchaser by doing a rigorous comparison of items, but nothing that would come close to the time it will take you to that comparison. If you put a value on your time its not even close.

    Finally, Ascent always seem to ship one day faster than everyone else. I often get things the next day. I think they have all the accounts lined up so that as soon as you hit the button the order is placed directly with the supplier. The others seem to wait a day while they sort it out, sometimes the even call you to confirm, and the items never arrive next day – more typically 2-3 days later.


  4. Boy I wish someone like you would fix legal Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw…they’re designed so well they’re supported with (1) on-line help, (2) cheatsheets, (3) quick references to the cheatsheets, (4) classes, (5) on sight library representatives, and (6)24 hour live attorneys, all there to help you navigate a disasterous screen of text. Abysmal.


  5. I agree with you but I have a question.

    I’m interested in knowing why, even though you have used Ascent before, had a great experience with them and would clearly recommend them, you continue to shop around. Particularly the fact that you were initially swayed to buy from their competitor. Does all this not matter because you wanted the cheapest price?


  6. Julian
    Good question, and usually I would jut use Ascent.

    This time I wanted to make sure that Ascent were there or thereabouts with price (we have to keep them honest), secondly I was also looking for which model to buy as well as a good price, and thirdly it’s been a while since I’ve shopped in NZ and wanted to make sure nobody else had taken the Ascent slot.
    And also I am always looking for things to write about ;-).

    Meanwhile a competitor to Ascent – c1 – has apparently gone into receivership.


  7. Teri Oh yes – I wish I could have a go at fixing LexisNexis. Actually I wish I still had access to Lexus, as it is an amazingly cool system.

    Andrew – yes they shipped the next day, which is impressive. I don’t see it outside yet though.


  8. Lance, The question from Julian was great. So, was that printer really any cheaper from Computer Direct. I don’t know if you struggled through to a payment page?

    My guess:
    Ascent Price: $360: includes everything (GST, shipping, pay by credit card)

    CD: $300 (looks good but) + GST $37 + Shipping $10 (thats a guess) but also +$15 (for shipping a large item, also a guess) + ? = something close to $360

    I am sure there are many exceptions to that, but the thing that makes me smile is everytime I went through the exercise, the prices were virtually identical.

    I love the pricespy site, but the one big flaw is that it is unable to work out all the shipping and added extras to give you the real price comparison at the till. I have seen book sites that can do that, but not hardware. With multiple items it can get quite complicated, but I think it would really make pricespy a powerful way of really tracking the hardware market if they could get that level of sophistication and calculate that.

    I guess I just don’t bother going through the exercise anymore and as Julian says, you just go straight to Ascent. Game over.



  9. I hate to break in on the we love Ascent party but I wonder whether it is fair comparing apples with oranges here. Ascent is predominantly a web based portal which enables consumers to purchase directly off Ascent’s suppliers. The service provided is normally just direct shipping of orders where the supplier includes a packing slip made to look like it has come from Ascent. Whereas Computer Direct operate a real bricks and mortar store with service technicians who you can come in to. The Ascent Website is great but lets not lose sight of what real service means… not just a cheap price and nice website. Ironically, we expect to see online only companies struggle going forward as there is very little value add (maybe ask our customer whose LBP5000 died out of warranty and got a replacement from us anyway)


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