When an internet-based application such as an e-commerce web site fails, 82% of British consumers blame either the business that owns the web site or the web hosting company, according to a study by IT management software firm CA.
The '2009 CA Web Stress Index' survey explored levels of stress and frustration among consumers when surfing the web and concluded that, in today's economic climate in which customer retention is key to business survival, it is more important than ever for organisations to minimise what CA terms "web stress" and to optimise consumers' web site experiences.
The study confirmed that consumers often conduct online research before making a purchase. Of the 500 adults surveyed in the UK, 88% reported using the internet for research while 94% used it for shopping. This suggests that, even for companies that are not directly selling their products online, the web experience is still of vital importance.
Most consumers were found to visit several web sites to find information and research a product or service before making a purchase, presenting a good opportunity for marketers to provide both compelling and memorable interactions that can positively influence buying behaviour. In contrast, the study found that a single negative online experience elevates web stress levels to the point where customers will "click away" to another web site.
The study also observed that consumers usually have very high expectations of the performance of web sites they visit. For example, when customers experience a problem or an error online, 16% expect it to be fixed within ten minutes. This increases to 58% within one hour, and 96% within 24 hours. But, with only 15% of web site users saying they take the time to report a problem, it is essential that companies should proactively monitor their systems to identify performance issues as soon as they arise.
According to Kobi Korsah, director of EMEA product marketing for CA, "Marketers should always have application performance management tools in place to help identify and resolve problems with web applications. This in turn will help to ensure that consumers have a positive experience."
Consumers also said they expect web sites to be "always available" and "instantly responsive", with 25% giving a web site a maximum of 10 seconds to respond before clicking away. By 20 seconds, 57% have lost patience and moved on. After a single minute on an unresponsive web site, all but 12% of consumers have left.
The severe impact of not resolving web application problems was also highlighted by the study. In fact, if consumers encounter problems and cannot finish what they are trying to do, 46% said they will immediately go to an alternative web site, and 44% said they will abandon the transaction completely.
Among the other key findings of the study:
- Common causes of web stress including slowly loading pages (92%), error messages (79%), and erratic website performance (64%);
- 59% of consumers have experienced difficulties when conducting financial transactions online;
- 74% of the regular users of social networking sites suffer from web-related problems;
- 94% use the internet for shopping, 88% use it for research, 87% use it for banking, 79% use it for socialising, 70% use it for travel, 59% use it for entertainment, 35% use it for education, and 11% use it for filing their taxes.