E-retail problems shared with peers, not brands

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on October 20, 2009

More than half (53%) of British adults who use the internet say they are now conducting more transactions online than they did in the past, mainly due to the current economic climate, with 74% saying they compare products and prices online, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Tealeaf.

The '2009 Survey of Online Consumer Behaviour', found that businesses are generally failing to fully capitalise on this phenomenon, with 77% of consumers who had conducted an online transaction during the past year saying they had experienced problems when doing so.

Of these, 46% said they abandon problematic transactions, and 40% said they would switch to a competitor as a result. In the British retail sector alone, Tealeaf estimates that sales of up to 11.2 billion could be affected each year by e-commerce web site problems.

Consumers, empowered by social media, are increasingly likely to share their experiences and opinions about companies with other consumers rather than share them with the companies and brands concerned. In fact, 13% of those who had encountered problems with online transactions said they had shared those experiences via a blog or a social networking web site (compared to 8% in 2008).

Direct communication with companies has also decreased, with only 25% of those experiencing problems bothering to post a complaint on the company's own web site (down from 29% in 2008), and 35% contacting the company's call centre (down from 42% in 2008).

The study also examined the long term effects of short term e-commerce problems, and found that 74% of consumers said that negative comments they read online would influence their likelihood to do business with a company. Social networking web sites can also be highly influential, with 51% of respondents saying that social media content directly influences how they conduct online transactions, and 75% of those saying that it had already affected their choice of vendor.

However, those whose transactions are influenced by social media content also respond to positive reviews (35%) more so than negative reviews (26%). This suggests that good online transaction experiences are actually amplified online just as much, if not more, than bad experiences.

The percentage of consumers who had experienced problems (77%) when conducting online transactions has improved over the past two years (down from 89% in 2008 and 86% in 2007), as many companies have realised the benefits of becoming more customer centric, having invested in either usability or customer experience management solutions for the e-commerce operations.

Despite this finding, customer service teams are still generally unable to efficiently deal with web site enquiries, as 51% of consumers who had contacted a call centre after encountering a web site problem were unable to have their issue resolved, and 77% reported that the agent was not knowledgeable about either the web site or about their particular problem.

"Over the past few years, companies have increasingly focused on the online customer experience, mainly because the impact of that experience on their business results has become more apparent," concluded Rebecca Ward, CEO for Tealeaf. "In fact, the focus on the online customer experience accelerated in 2009 as the economy drove more transactions online and the web became an increasingly critical channel for organisations."

The survey report has been made available to download for free from Tealeaf's web site - click here (free registration required).

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