September 1, 2011, 10:11 AM

E-commerce grows, but some consumers seem less satisfied

Clutter on online retail sites shoulders some of the blame, says iPerceptions.

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Online shoppers were less satisfied with their e-commerce experiences in the second quarter than in the same period in 2010, suggest survey data released today by iPerceptions Inc., a firm that provides customer survey data to brands including Dell Inc., No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, and LG Electronics.

The overall satisfaction score for online shoppers in the second quarter of 2011 stood at 70, down from 73 for the same period a year ago; the scores are based on a 0-100 scale. IPerceptions based its findings on the responses of more than 170,000 consumers after they visited at least one of the 369 e-commerce sites that use services from iPerceptions.

The drop in satisfaction comes not only as e-retailers prepare for the holiday shopping season, but amid prosperous times for online retail, with e-commerce spending increasing 17.5% in the second quarter, to $47.51 billion, according to the latest seasonally adjusted estimate from the U.S. Commerce Department.

IPerceptions blames that satisfaction dip, in part, on the increasing clutter on e-commerce sites.

"A common challenge facing many e-commerce web site providers is the increasing amount of content being offered," says Claude Guay, President and CEO of iPerceptions. "There are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of micro-tasks that can easily overwhelm a web site, making it difficult for a majority of visitors to complete their purpose. Successful web sites continually evaluate and improve the performance of their top tasks. By eliminating superfluous information, visitors can easily find what they really want."

The report found that 69% of respondents in the second quarter said they were able to complete their e-commerce site tasks, down from 74% for the same time last year.

Most respondents, 55%, said they had visited the sites to shop or learn about products or services. Only 16% said they went to e-commerce sites specifically to purchase. The rest of the respondents said they visited sites for customer support, to check their accounts or for other, unspecified reasons.

42% of buyers said they could not find what they were looking for, however, compared with 23% of shoppers, according to the second quarter figures. (The survey defines buyers as consumers who visit an e-commerce site with specific purchases in mind. Shoppers are consumers who visit a site to compare prices and products.) 10% of buyers complained about unclear prices or product comparisons, while 30% of shoppers did the same. 12% of buyers said e-commerce sites lacked adequate product information, compared with 6% of shoppers. Only 2% of buyers, and 3% of shoppers, said that technical issues prevented them from completing the tasks for which they visited the sites.

For all respondents, 27% arrived at an e-commerce site by typing in the site’s URL. 21% came via search engines, 15% through e-mail links, 12% through other links, 11% through web browser bookmarks, 4% through ads and 9% through other methods.

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