Despite the internet being a vital sales channel, consumers in the UK are still feeling let down by online businesses, according to research from e-service provider Transversal, which found that 66% of consumers could not find answers to their pre-purchase questions on retailers' web sites.
According to Transversal, poor online information (and in some cases a complete lack of it) is driving consumers away. An overwhelming 94% of those surveyed said they commonly abandoned transactions due to a simple lack of information, with 66% saying they would even switch to a competitor that did give useful information online. Given that the average respondent was spending over 500 per year online, this represents a significant loss of sales for those companies that fail to provide what consumers need most: product information.
Turning their backs
According to Davin Yap, CEO for Transversal, "With UK online spending predicted to hit 19.6 billion this year (according to IMRG's E-Retail 2005 Annual Report), companies must deliver the same level of service online as they would in a physical shop, or risk losing significant revenue."
As Yap points out, a lack of useful information on an e-tail web site can be thought of as the online equivalent of sales staff in a shop turning their backs on customers and ignoring their questions.
Speed means loyalty
The research went still further, aiming to find out what drives customers to buy from retail web sites. The survey found that the easier a web site is to search, the more loyal the customer becomes, with 94% saying they were more likely to buy from sites that provided answers quickly.
The company also found that, in order to retain customers online, the right information must be provided in a timely and user friendly way. Almost half of the consumers (47%) said they spend less than two minutes searching a site - a very similar level of impatience to that commonly observed in consumers calling contact centres.
The research surveyed 200 consumers during August and September 2005, asking questions about how easy they found it to get answers to specific questions online and their resulting behaviour. It also queried their online spend and the accuracy of search methods. More information about the study can be obtained directly from Transversal.