By Elyse Desmarais on December 17, 2015
Online shopping is convenient, easy, and a quick alternative to heading out of the house and into stores. There are no crowds or long lines. In fact, you don’t even have to get out of bed. But aside from conveience, how else does online shopping affect the customer experience? Does lack of face to face interaction positively or negatively affect consumers’ perception of retailers? What strategies should E-Commerce companies and online retailers have in place to ensure a positive customer experience?
This past Cyber Monday, Americans bought more than $3 billion worth of items online. A recent Gallup poll also found 35% more of American adults are shopping online compared to 2014. Sounds like a good thing for E-Commerce companies and online retailers, right? Unfortunately, not all companies are reaping the benefits of online shopping’s rising popularity.
Some retailers succeeded in angering customers this past Cyber Monday due to malfunctioning websites and an inability to handle heavy web traffic. Target was one such retailer who suffered to perform on Cyber Monday, placing online shoppers in a "virtual checkout line" to better control traffic and prevent the site from crashing. After putting much effort and funds into promoting Cyber Monday deals, for Target to fall short in this area most likely left customers frustrated with their shopping experience and less focused on their savings. Even more unfortunate for Cyber Monday shoppers is that Target wasn’t alone in it’s difficulties to please customers, with both Wal-Mart and Neiman Marcus experiencing technical issues with their websites over the shopping holiday.
Although these mistakes by companies such as Target may seem small, they ultimately lead to customer disengagement and disatisfaction. With research showing that customer engagement is already low when it comes to online shopping, retailers can’t afford to further hurt that low level of engaged with website malfunctions and poor customer service.
So just how many online shoppers are actually engaged? How many are actively disengaged? According to Gallup’s analysis, only 16% of online customers are fully engaged when shopping, with 53% being indifferent and 32% being actively disengaged. In comparison, of in-store retail customers 17% are fully engaged, 58% are indifferent, and 25% are actively disengaged.
Now that we know only a mere 16% of online shoppers are actively engaged, what can E-Commerce companies and online retailers do to improve and retain engagement?
In a study from this past March, Gallup found online shoppers are more likely to become "antagonistic" toward brands compared to in-store customers. Since online experiences often lack the emotional connection many consumers need to be engaged with a brand, retailers need to go the extra mile to spark engagement. Providing good service is one area these retailers must perfect to create a positive emotional response as online shoppers often place more importance on service than product quality. But how else can retailers work to engaged these virtual customers?
Nielsen Enterprise Architect, Ian Dudley, calls the lack of emotion E-Commerce companies and online reatilers suffer from “sensory deprivation.” In store, customers can react to products on many levels - they can see it, touch it, or pick it up to judge quality - but online, those experiences are inaccessible. A solution he suggests is for retailers to go beyond simple product descriptions. Providing customers with richer product information not only helps them better understand items for sale, but makes the decision to buy easier and the experience more seamless.
Dudley goes on to say that in order for E-Commerce retailers to “bridge the digital/physical divide” that creates this emotional void, they should also consider developing “compelling digital packaging” for their goods. Compelling packaging can, and should, include images, interactive images, videos, advertising shots, and serving suggestions (if applicable). It’s also been found that,
67% of online shoppers won’t purchase a product without an image
There is a 40% lift in sales if a product is accompanied by multiple images
There is a 33% boost in sales if a product is accompanied by an image of it in use
E-Commerce companies and online retailers can no longer rely on the convenience of online shopping to bring-in and satisfy customers alone. In order to draw in new business, keep current customers happy, and counteract low engagement, online retailers need to provide excellence service, ensure their website and virtual check-outs operate seamlessly, and make sure products are not only visually appearing, but contain all the necessary information to make a purchase a no-brainer.
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