June 30, 2005, 12:00 AM

Shoppers’ expectations outpacing online grocers’ web technology, study says

In a study of three online grocers, Michigan State University finds several areas where consumer satisfaction with web site performance has declined since 2003.

In a study of three online grocers, the Last Mile Supply Chain Center at Michigan State University finds several areas where consumer satisfaction with web site performance has declined since 2003. “Consumers are more demanding, and online grocers need to modernize,” center director Ken Boyer tells InternetRetailer.com.

The study is based on research the Last Mile Center has conducted over the past three years among 200 customers of the three grocers, which the study kept anonymous. Customers said that site search features at each of the grocers’ web sites had become more difficult to use since 2003, and that overall site use had become more difficult over the past year. In the case of one of the grocers, customers said its web-page loading speed had declined, while the download speeds at the other grocers’ sites remained virtually the same.

Boyer notes that as consumers get more experienced in using Internet search and web sites in general, they’re more likely to blame retailers for problems with their online shopping experience. “Two or three years ago, people were less comfortable with the Internet, and if they couldn’t find something, they thought they searched wrong. Now they feel they know what they’re doing,” he says. So grocers need to keep up with better-performing site search and other features, he adds.

The study also found that customers believed that the quality of products available online had declined at each retailer compared to products purchased directly from their stores.

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