Almost all internet shoppers will abandon an online store completely after making three - or even fewer - unsuccessful attempts to complete a purchase, according to the 'Online Holiday Shopping Survey' from US-based web application management firm Gomez.
That survey found that, out of more than a thousand holiday shoppers, more than 90% said they simply abandon an online store after three or less unsuccessful attempts to complete a purchase.
But not every shopper will keep trying even that long. Three out of four shoppers complained that web sites generally load too slowly, and more than half said they would switch to a competitor's site when that happens. Enticing shoppers with great deals, free shipping and assurances of security won't work if a website is slow to load or if errors occur in searching or during checkout.
Bad news travels fast
"If one store can't deliver a positive online shopping experience, then a competitor's site is just a click away," said William Agush, VP of marketing at Gomez. "Online shoppers have exceedingly high expectations this holiday season, and they are an unforgiving crowd. It appears that ensuring a quality online experience trumps brand loyalty, and even savings."
The survey also underscored the interplay between various sales and marketing channels, as well as the power of old-fashioned word-of-mouth in making or breaking a brand. Almost half of respondents (47%) would tell five or more people if they had a bad online experience. Jupiter Research has forecast 114 million online holiday shoppers this year, so if only one in ten were to have a disappointing online experience, almost 27 million people could potentially hear about it.
But the problem is deeper than the online experience, Gomez suggests. Poor online experiences can harm bricks-and-mortar sales as well, as survey respondents said they research an average of 30% of all their purchases online before buying offline.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) said that if they had an unsatisfactory online experience, they would stop or reconsider shopping at that retailer's bricks-and-mortar store. Conversely, 71% of shoppers at brick-and-mortar stores said that a bad in-store experience would also make them stop or reconsider shopping at that brand's web site.
Surprisingly, 62% of respondents said they use printed catalogues to drive their online purchasing decisions.
Lessons to be learned
Although customer service problems can't be avoided completely, there are some errors every retailer can potentially learn from. The survey provided respondents with the opportunity to briefly describe some of their most frustrating online shopping experiences during the holiday shopping season, including:
- We were over-billed by 500%, and every attempt to solve the issue resulted in another charge.
- I spent almost an hour putting an order together, and when I tried to check out the site seemed to get caught in a loop and I couldn't complete the order.
- We ordered bandanas, but received bananas.
The survey of 1,173 US consumers was conducted by Zoomerang during November 2006, seeking to better understand holiday shoppers' behaviours, experiences and expectations. The full survey report, as well as the real-time performance rankings of the top fifty US online retailers during the 2006 holiday shopping season, has been made available from the Gomez web site - click here.