January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

The Price Is Right

Price still drives the purchase habits of new online customers, but companies need to offer more than good prices to keep customers, according to a recent online survey by Internet services firm Primix Solutions and digital opinion firm QuickTake.com. This has important implications for the long-term success of many online businesses, they say.

A survey of 500 Internet shoppers found that 71% consider price their most important decision factor in initial purchases at a site; however, the survey found that price's importance diminishes as consumers build relationships with companies online. Only 42% of participants ranked price as the most important factor in driving repeat business. Other factors increasing in importance for repeat visitors were product selection, the ability to track orders, the opportunity to obtain order status information after a purchase and the accurate and timely delivery of product.

The online survey also found that, after price, the ability to easily find products is the most important step in the purchasing process. In addition, the survey found that the biggest reason e-customers do not complete online purchases is the speed of the site.

"You need more than good prices if you want to get long-term value out of your e-customers," says Frank Mainero, senior vice president and Chief Branding Officer at Watertown, Mass.-based Primix. "E-tailers have to pay greater attention to their site's navigability and overall functionality. In the end, the e-tailer's brand must drive the end user experience, and that includes all facets of a site, from overall design to functionality."

The survey also found:

  • 65% of respondents say what they miss most about virtual shopping vs. physical shopping is the ability to inspect the goods.
  • Shopping on the Internet is still a relatively new phenomenon, with 57% of respondents indicating that they made their first purchase less than a year ago.
  • Online shoppers are no more likely to purchase products directly from the manufacturer than from online specialty stores, variety stores or even discount stores.
  • Some 66% of respondents had no retail market segment shopping preference.
The QuickTake.com survey also provides several insights into how businesses can improve the online shopping experience and keep their customers coming back to buy more:
  • E-tailers need to get creative about exploiting the information-rich capabilities of the Web. Features such as product comparisons and reviews, information on complementary products, images with multiple camera angles and size options, or the ability to interact with product experts or other customers online can give a site the competitive edge it needs.
  • E-tailers should be aware of the business they lose because of site performance, and make sure their technology is keeping pace with their business.
  • E-tailers should examine their site design and navigability to ensure that customers can easily find what they want to buy.

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