Time to raise sites, 1 in 4 online shoppers dissatisfied

Articles
January 02, 2009

Time to raise sites, 1 in 4 online shoppers dissatisfied

Similar to in-store shoppers, who vote with their feet, buy from stores they like and shun the rest, online shoppers quickly leave retailer websites that annoy them and seem only to happy to post negative reviews online. This added twist comes with the speed, access and anonymity of the Web, and it is challenging retailers who aren’t used to such bluntness. The contrast between good and bad performers online has never appeared as stark. Amazon, which just rang up its best holiday season ever while most retailers struggle, has long embraced the culture of shopper empowerment. CEO Jeff Bezos said to Business Week in 2004, “we make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.” Indeed, “customers who read reviews and find them valuable are more likely to be more loyal to that store, shop more frequently with that store, and are less likely to return the item,” Patti Freeman Evans, vice president and research director at Forrester Research, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently. Unfortunately, retailers that needed a terrific online holiday season came up short of expectations, according to a Foresee survey of shopper satisfaction, which uses the methodology of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index. It predicts purchase intent, loyalty and recommendations, and has proven predictive abilities.

Similar to in-store shoppers, who vote with their feet, buy from stores they like and shun the rest, online shoppers quickly leave retailer websites that annoy them and seem only to happy to post negative reviews online. This added twist comes with the speed, access and anonymity of the Web, and it is challenging retailers who aren’t used to such bluntness.

The contrast between good and bad performers online has never appeared as stark. Amazon, which just rang up its best holiday season ever while most retailers struggle, has long embraced the culture of shopper empowerment. CEO Jeff Bezos said to Business Week in 2004, “we make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.”

Indeed, “customers who read reviews and find them valuable are more likely to be more loyal to that store, shop more frequently with that store, and are less likely to return the item,” Patti Freeman Evans, vice president and research director at Forrester Research, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently.

Unfortunately, retailers that needed a terrific online holiday season came up short of expectations, according to a Foresee survey of shopper satisfaction, which uses the methodology of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index.  It predicts purchase intent, loyalty and recommendations, and has proven predictive abilities.

This early report card showed less satisfaction than last year, most pronounced in the week of Dec. 8-14 (the latest available figures) of 75.2% on a scale of 100; that’s down 3.09% from the same week in 2007.   Customer satisfaction with site navigation was at its lowest score in nearly month. And likelihood to purchase both online and offline were at the lowest level since the start of November.

Foresee had collected data from more than 65,000 visitors to more than 80 online retailers during this week.

Many chains apparently failed to heed the online customer satisfaction tips of a Hewlett Packard source in a SupermarketGuru.com article that appeared prior to Black Friday.

This cold splash in the face could well inspire retailers to engage online shoppers more fully through greater site capabilities. With that, Christmas ’09 could be a far different experience than Christmas ’08, and positive buzz could be the byword next year. One thing is for sure: shoppers are increasingly vocal and willing to share their experiences, so online performance standards will be higher with each passing year.