ISSUE 589: New economy- Feb 6 2001
The high-tech office
e-shopping still an unsatisfying trip
Despite the fabled dot-com collapse late in
2000, Christmas came and went online as well as off. And after the
cleared, some statistics have started to filter in about the state
ofChristmas shopping on the Web -- at least in the U.S. (But we're just
one big global economy, right?)
Overall, customers were reported to spend about twice
as much online this holiday season as last,though this still added up
to a small piece of the total pie.
Some good news, according to Andersen Consulting's
More attempted online holiday purchases were
successful this time than a year ago: 92 per centcompared to 75 per
cent. And, on average, it took less time to make a purchase: nine
minutes comparedto 12 minutes.
But some of the figures suggest there's still room for
Only 47 per cent of sites provided an expected
delivery date. While that's up from last year's 40 percent, there's
clearly a long way to go.
Far more sites (82 per cent, up from last year's 67
per cent) provided e-mail order confirmation, butfar fewer (26 per
cent, up from 21 per cent) bothered to inform customers that their
purchase had beenshipped.
All in all, said Jody Dodson of Cpulse,
a company that measures customer satisfaction,"online customer
satisfaction fell to a new all-time low," with a meager 35 per cent of
customerssaying they were happy with the process.
A leading problem is a long and tedious order process,
often made worse by slow processing speed. And,in marked contrast to
Andersen's statistics, Cpulse reports that nearly three out of every
four onlineshopping carts were abandoned during this past holiday
season. These were shoppers who had made it allthe way to the checkout
with a product in the virtual shopping cart, then gave up without
completingthe purchase. And once a customer leaves a shopping site
unsatisfied, they are unlikely to come back.They are also likely to
spread the word about their bad experience to their friends.
Customers try shopping online because they expect it
to be convenient. So far, reality has proven otherwise.
Test it out for yourself, especially if your own
business is selling online. How many pages do youhave to plough through
to find what you're looking for, and then to complete the purchase.
Don't dothis from work. Instead, use a phone line connection from home.
Then try to make a second purchase.Did you have to enter all your data
Dodson suggests that a key area for change is customer
support. And while, as we've seen, more remainsto be done with
automated support (look at those stats on e-mail confirmations), he
suggests thatonline shoppers need more human contact.
Yes, real live people.
Dodson suggests that e-biz Web sites offer toll-free
phone support, with the number prominentlydisplayed on the Web pages.
Add Internet chat-based support, again using real people. Make
itavailable during normal business hours and if possible keep it
staffed 24/7. And provide enough staffto keep times on hold to a
Encourage potential customers to use e-mail as another
way to reach support staff, but then make surethat their messages are
read and responded to, again by a real person, and again in
somethingresembling real time.
The point of all this is to get more of those filled
shopping carts to end up as actual purchases,build customer
satisfaction and create loyal customers who will come back and buy
again -- and telltheir friends.