While e-commerce operations continue to gain market share from their traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts, all is not well in the world of online marketing.
Commissioned in the U.K. by customer experience management software company Tealeaf and conducted by Harris Interactive, the survey revealed that consumers are unforgiving of problems with online purchases; 37 percent of respondents stated that any problems with the transaction would cause them to abandon the purchase entirely.
The blame for this high percentage of total purchase abandonment may stem in part from the abysmal customer service provided by many e-commerce operators; while 43 percent of consumers will contact customer service about a problem with their purchase, only 47 percent said they had the problem resolved amicably.
Of those who experienced a problem with customer support in connection with an online transaction, 40 percent have decided to no longer do business with the company in question.
"After a decade of e-commerce, British consumers have very high expectations of their online experiences, yet many companies doing business online are still failing to deliver an acceptable level of customer experience and service to Internet customers," Tealeaf CEO Rebecca Ward said.
"Online businesses must pay attention to their customers' experiences and help them to succeed, or risk losing them and their business entirely. The only way to understand and pinpoint problems, improve conversion rates and better serve customers is to have visibility into everything that happens on your online channel."
The survey also revealed that few allowances were made for the fact that the transaction was not face-to-face, with 88 percent of respondents stating that they were unwilling to settle for less customer service online than they expected to receive in person.
Functionality also is a major concern, with 20 percent stating that the most important factor in their satisfaction was the ease with which their transaction could be completed. Relevant issues included problematic website navigation, which accounted for 31 percent of problems, as well as various technical errors in the checkout process which accounted for 29 percent of abandoned transactions.
Security issues and privacy also are major concerns for consumers; 32 percent cited website security as the most important ingredient for a positive experience. For those who have had problems with online transactions, 40 percent worry about a merchant's ability to keep personal information private.
Ensuring successful transactions may be more important than providing discounts or other offers as well, as 92 percent of consumers who for example had booked travel online stated that a successful transaction was important, while only 24 percent cited a loyalty or rewards program as being a consideration.
"The lack of face-to-face contact is an obvious disadvantage online, but customers must feel as though they are valued and that their issues are understood, processed and ultimately solved.
Businesses need to pay the same consideration to the experience of each and every online customer, just as they would in a physical shop or via a call center, and to achieve this they require a clear picture of where their websites work and where they fall short. Only then will they be able to take steps to improve the service they deliver to their online customers," Ward said.