November 15, 2001, 12:00 AM

Online shoppers are happy with experience, but retailers can still improve

Nearly two-thirds of online shoppers are satisfied with their shopping experiences, but more than half cited areas of frustration, says Retail Forward. One area for improvement: CRM, says Datamonitor.

Nearly two-thirds of online shoppers are satisfied with their shopping experiences, but more than half cited areas of frustration, says a new survey from consultants Retail Forward Inc. And those levels of frustration are harming online retailers. A third of consumers told Retail Forward researchers that they no longer visit or they shop infrequently at specific sites because of frustrating shopping experiences in the past.

Here are the major beefs that Retail Forward identified in its survey of its Internet Users Consumer Panel in September:


Top Five Online Shopping Frustrations (among online shoppers)

Pop-up boxes when visiting/shopping a site: 52%
Banner advertisements: 50%
Congested web pages (e.g., too many advertisements, images, or information on web pages): 35%
Slow load times: 26%
Difficult to find a specific product : 20%

Interestingly, online shoppers between 45-54 are more likely than younger shoppers to be extremely satisfied with their online shopping experiences. “This finding serves as a reminder – or perhaps a warning – to many online retailers not to make the common mistake of assuming that younger cohorts of shoppers are the happiest – and potentially most profitable – online customers”, says Mary Brett Whitfield, director of Retail Forward’s E-Retail Intelligence Program.

The good news for e-retailers, Retail Forward says, is that a relatively small percentage of online shoppers mentioned the inability to talk to a customer service representative, the check-out process taking too long, small product images, or inaccurate color representation for product images as areas of concern.

Retail Forward also talked to consumers who abandoned shopping carts online. They said improving site navigation, better categorizing products into categories and sub-categories and a streamlined check-out process are key to completing more sales.

In a separate but related survey, Datamonitor says online retailers will lose out on $13.5 million in 2001 due to poor online customer service.

According to Datamonitor, 8.1% of online retail transactions were lost this year because retailers failed to offer consumers a method to have queries answered while they were shopping. "While online retailers did increase their investment in CRM technologies over the past year, it will take a shift in strategy to avoid future losses. Online retailers have been too focused on the logistics of selling over the Internet. In order to adequately service customers, they must focus on the customer rather than the channel," said Brian Huff, technology managing analyst, Datamonitor.


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