Thursday, January 31, 2008

Online Shoppers' Expectations are Rising; Retailers Have One Chance to Make a Great Impression

The 2007 Holiday Shopping: Online Customer Experience Survey by Allurent, Inc., revealed that while consumers might be buying more online, their expectations are also on the rise. In fact, 67% of consumers said their expectations about the quality of their online shopping experience increased since the 2006 holiday shopping season. Major reasons cited include:

  • I know that technology is constantly changing and improving and I expect that online shopping should also be getting better (66%)
  • I see that most retailers consistently advertise their websites so I expect to see them invest in making those sites better than they were last year (46%)
  • I have high-speed bandwidth and expect to see more online stores better presenting products in a way that takes advantage of my faster Internet speed (41%)
  • I am familiar with interactive and visual sites like Google Maps or Facebook and I expect to see more online stores being innovative like these sites (29%)

It's no surprise that young consumers' expectations are more influenced by Web 2.0 sites like Google Maps and Facebook. Nearly half (48%) of 18-24 year-olds cited these interactive Web experiences as the reason their expectations are rising. Retailers will need to learn how to better target this young group of consumers as their purchasing power becomes more influential.

Negative Online Experiences Damage Brands
Consistent with the results of Allurent’s two previous holiday surveys, the results confirmed that consumers do not differentiate between channels. In fact, nearly 40% of consumers revealed that a frustrating online experience would make them less likely to shop at that retailer's physical store. And 60% reported that when they have a frustrating shopping experience online, it negatively impacts their overall opinion of the retailer/brand. An overwhelming 80% would not return to the site after having a negative online shopping experience, meaning with most customers retailers have one chance to make a great impression.

Customer Service Features are Valued, Especially Among Female Shoppers
When asked to rate customer service features that are most important to them when buying online, 74% of consumers rated a perpetual shopping cart as an important feature (ranking it a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5), and 70% rated one-page checkout as an important feature, rather than having to click through multiple checkout pages. These two features were rated above other options such as access to a toll-free telephone number, available live help, and accessible contact information. When results are segmented by gender, more women than men found customer service features to be of high importance.

Interest in Desktop Shopping is Strong
More than half (53%) of consumers surveyed expressed interest in virtual catalogs and circulars that can be downloaded directly to their desktops, so retailers could update information on new merchandise and special offers.

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