What’s Behind High Shopper Satisfaction Rates for E-Commerce Sites?

Jun 11, 2013

According to a study commissioned by UPS, 70 percent of more than 3,000 online shoppers surveyed in February indicated they prefer to shop their favorite retailer online.

The second annual Pulse of the Online Shopper Survey conducted by comScore found customer satisfaction with online shopping to be exceedingly high, at 83 percent. Among the features particularly praised (scoring above 70 percent) were ease of checkout, variety of brands/products offered, the ability to track online purchases while in transit and the number of shipping as well as payment options offered.

Among heavy shoppers, satisfaction is high for shopping via both computers (86 percent) and tablets (92 percent), but markedly lower for smartphones (66 percent). That was largely attributed to the device’s smaller screen size.

Shipping and delivery issues were holding back even higher satisfaction rates. Shoppers want the ability to control where they receive their packages and when. Environmentally friendly shipping choices were also in demand.

On the omni-channel side, 44 percent would more likely shop with a retailer if they could buy online and pick up the item in the store. Sixty-two percent wanted the ability to buy online and return items to a store. Forty-seven percent of smartphone owners were likely to shop with a retailer who provides location-enabled coupons or promotions to their smartphone.

The latest eCustomerServiceIndex report from IMRG, an association for online retailers in the U.K., also found some shoppers were looking for a better delivery experience (23 percent). Ranking highest were improvements to their customer service contact — whether a live chat facility or free phone contact number (40 percent) — while 17 percent wanted a quicker response to queries.

But IMRG likewise found virtually the same high online shopper satisfaction level of 83.4 percent in the six months ending in January 2013, the highest score since the study began in 2008.

"The reasons behind this rise in satisfaction are twofold," said Andy Mulcahy, head of communications at IMRG. "Retailers have invested a lot of money in enhancing the online experience by really focusing on their customers, while supporting technology elements such as rich media and social tools have greatly enhanced the idea of a site providing ‘virtual assistance.’"

What improvements would enhance the online shopping experience further? What lessons should brick ’n mortar operations draw from the quality of the online shopping experience?

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21 Comments on "What’s Behind High Shopper Satisfaction Rates for E-Commerce Sites?"

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Debbie Hauss

A continued focus on personalization will improve the customer experience both online and in-store. A consistent pricing strategy across all channels also will help improve overall customer satisfaction.

Interactivity offered online is a capability moving quickly into many brick-and-mortar stores.

For online-only, merchants must continue to test and improve the functionality of their sites, ensuring that shoppers are not forced to spend too much time or too many clicks to get from research to purchase.

Paula Rosenblum

I think the message is the same across the board. There are times when shoppers need to speak with actual humans. Whether it be in the store, or when they get in a jam online.

Nothing is worse than Voicemail hell…”press 2 to go here, now press 3, now press 9, are you sure you can’t find the answers online at http://www.whatsmyname.com? Alright, I’ll connect you to the next available agent.” And then you get connected to someone in Indonesia.

Same with the store. On one level, it’s about laziness. If I can get what I want online, it’s easier than getting in the car, braving the traffic, all to get a roll of scotch tape. But on another level, when you actually get to the store, if you don’t find a helpful associate, you feel totally annoyed.

At RSR, we’re starting to believe that the re-invigoration of the in-store experience is the next great frontier. And we think it’s going to be very disruptive to existing business models.

Max Goldberg

Online merchants should streamline their sites so consumers can quickly find what they are looking for, make checkout a fast, simple experience, offer package tracking, and follow up after the sale to see how the each facet of the experience could be improved.

Brick and mortar stores should design the shopping experience to save time by making it easy for consumers to find what they want, easy to navigate aisles, speed up the checkout process, and avoid out of stocks.

Roger Saunders

Retailers need to start with the consumers’ view. As the authors point out, online earned their chops by paying attention to “quality and selection,” “convenience and ease of use,” “value and price,” and “service” as the broad categories.

No surprise here. Those are the leading areas of importance for consumers as they choose grocery stores, department stores, mass merchants, or specialty—quality, selection, location, price. There are 20 different reasons why consumers shop a particular retailer MOST often that Prosper Insights & Analytics follows each month. These four are consistently the most prominently mentioned reasons.

Brick & mortar still has leading advantages. If they run to their strengths and manage their perceived weaknesses among consumers, they can participate online, as well as offline. Listen, watch, and learn about the consumer.

Ryan Mathews

These questions are a bit broad to answer with any specificity so just let me say the survey results seem to indicate most people would like to remove the pretense, hassle, hard sell and—yes—people from the retail equation.

When the absence of a person represents better service, it’s way past time to rethink what’s happening in physical retailing.

The other point surfacing here is that people are increasingly more interested in shopping on their own—as opposed to the retailer’s—terms. Hence the popularity of various platforms, shopping at 4:00 a.m., etc.

This also shouldn’t come as too much of a shock.

Want to catch the mouse? Build a better mousetrap!

J. Peter Deeb

The two biggest enhancements in my opinion would be more flexibility in delivery time and location, and in-store pickup of purchases. The ease of ordering is getting better and better as retailers continue to streamline the process. Retailers with more flexible delivery and pick up programs will further enhance the experience.

Ken Lonyai

As far as the UPS sponsored study: without seeing the questions or knowing exactly what pool of respondents were targeted, we have to be cautious about interpreting the results that coincidentally benefit UPS. Additionally, large vs. small retailer, chain vs. independent are all important considerations in making judgements about online shopping comparisons.

UX/CX is where the rubber hits the road for e-tailers and retailers. At every touch point it’s crucial to satisfy, respect, and listen to the customer. The convenience of anytime/anywhere (inherent to a well designed/managed e-commerce site) is a major factor in producing great shopping experiences and something b&m merchants are at a disadvantage with. So for them, implementing flexible and customer-centric in-store merchandising and communication can begin to capture some of the elements that the study claims customers desire. For example: online it’s usually easy to know if an item is in stock whereas in a local store you have to go there to see for yourself or trust what an associate tells you over the phone.

W. Frank Dell II

The future is one channel with online being supportive of the stores. The online advantage is greater merchandise selection. More colors, sizes and features should be offered online. Free shipping for store delivery helps bring the consumer into the store. Return to store also brings the consumer into the store. Free delivery for orders above a dollar transaction is the accepted norm.

One retailer I purchase from is presenting a picture that suggests they don’t even want me to visit the store; they prefer I purchase online. While a retailer makes a greater profit margin online, if all they are doing is transferring store to online sales, this strategy will decrease overall sales long term.

Shep Hyken

This post makes me believe that several things are happening at once.

First, the customer is becoming used to shopping online. Just a few years ago it was a new experience, now it’s normal.

Customers are more comfortable shopping with retailers that have a bricks and mortar presence as well as an online presence.

In general, reputable online retailers (Amazon.com, Zappos.com, etc.) have the customer’s confidence.

The websites are much more consumer friendly.

The best retailers provide live support as a back-up to the website, should the customer need it.

Online retailers are getting reviewed by organizations like StellaService. And there are social reviews on sites like Yelp. Customers can see who is “safe” to shop with.

All of this adds up to a better experience for the online shopper. The key is confidence. If the customer has confidence in the online retailer, the customer will buy.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Smoother experience, more convenience, more speed, and a better delivery experience seem to be critical for online success. Whoever does that better, considering that the bar will continue to rise, will be more successful.

If the online experience is providing the information, flexibility, convenience, and desired delivery option better, then retailers’ employees and shopping experience are apparently offering no value. Asking how the experience and employees could add more value is an important question for retailers to ask.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Paul R. Schottmiller
4 years 5 months ago

The major shipping companies including FedEx and UPS are already going down the path of offering more specific choices for delivery dates and times—evening delivery, appointments, 2 hour windows, and more.

That coupled with pick-up lockers in-store and out-of-store will continue to drive convenience for shopping and buying online.

Warren Thayer

The companies that already offer live customer service reps and online chat already do a good job. Would just like to see more companies offering it, especially on complex/expensive purchases. Brick and mortar operations might want to consider more kiosks so you can order from them for rapid delivery, in case you don’t find what you need in-store and don’t feel like continuing the search at another store on the same trip. For me at least, store parking and ease of access (i.e., not on a road that is always jammed with traffic) are important when I shop brick & mortar. So I expect the location mavens will be pressured even further on that.

I’ve been buying all my office supplies and many non-perishables online for the past year just to save time and hassle. (For a Luddite like me, that’s significant.) So I’d also think that sharp retailers will cut back on items that are increasingly being bought online and devote the space to items that still move well in their stores. Considering the pullback on dry grocery and the rise in perimeter perishables, this is already underway, albeit for a long list of reasons.

Ed Rosenbaum

Brick ‘n mortar will soon get their online shopping experience down to a science, making it easier to navigate and select. Having the ease of returning to a store should make it more convenient to shop on line in the future.

Ralph Jacobson

What improvements could be made? What can brick stores learn? One word: CONVENIENCE. Taking unnecessary steps out of the shopping process draws shoppers. If I have to wait in line at a store, FIX THAT PROBLEM. Once and for all! You are losing customers because of it.

Kinshuk Jerath
Kinshuk Jerath
4 years 5 months ago

The main driver for this is convenience and the fact that online retailers have truly made the shopping experience better over the last few years. But don’t read too much into it either…this 83% number is for the FAVORITE online store, not all online stores in general.

Brian Numainville

Make it easy and convenient to shop, carry desired variety products (and stay in-stock), and provide excellent service. Period.

James Tenser

Satisfaction is (as consumer behaviorists like to say) a summary construct. We can be generally satisfied with something even though some of its component factors are less than perfect.

AS the data show, online shopping is certainly growing. The state of the art for online and omni-channel retailers is generally improving. Shoppers seem to favor the option of obtaining instant access to certain product choices online.

But there are still plenty of technical fails occurring on a daily basis. There are persistent security concerns and human help is frequently inadequate. Online retailers are generally pretty poor at managing exceptions when they occur, which is a lot.

I would call out some virtual retailing practices that are spilling beneficially into the physical world. These include observing and analyzing the purchase paths on each shopping trip, tracking conversion rates and measuring performance. I expect these activities will reveal numerous factors that can be improved for the benefit of shoppers.

gordon arnold
The problem with the e-commerce internet highway is the vast majority on it are driving blindfolded. Limited Information Technology (IT) training makes the user a slave to his/her memory and so only the sites that stick in their minds get the visits. The reason most new sites are visited only once or twice is that users simply forget how to get there or it no longer shows up on the first page of a GOOGLE search report. This places the need of getting consumer in practice and fact the e-commerce retailer’s dilemma. Limited IT awareness and capability are firmly present amongst the retail hierarchy as well so the prospects for double digit expanded user increases are a matter of whole present-day enterprise systems retirement and replacing them with technologies that will assist with navigation using intuitive interaction with the user and so on and so on. We are in truth several generations of practical very large scale integrated enterprise systems away from seeing full independent user interface at elementary levels. Ease of use, access time, quick checkout, security and the others listed in this discussion as priorities for retailers to create satisfied users in the e-commerce arena are in no… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
4 years 5 months ago

Online shopping can enhance the online shopping experience by reducing delivery time and further reducing prices. Both of these are being addressed. The major lesson B&M should take from this survey is that service is their only salvation! B&M should transform themselves into service providers who also happen to retail. Instead of selling clothing concentrate on altering clothing. If a consumer saves hundreds on a dress, she won’t mind spending another $50 for that perfect fit. Don’t concentrate on buggy whips, look at what else you can do for the horses.

AmolRatna Srivastav
AmolRatna Srivastav
4 years 5 months ago

I would start with flexibility to get the delivery on a particular day at a particular time. There are other parameters around faster checkout and security. One aspect for me personally is a better search option which includes ease of looking at price/brands/availability of the product, product specs, etc. Also, product recommendations. When we translate this to brick ‘n mortar ops, it becomes ease of shopping, faster checkouts, and ease of finding the right products.

Mark Price

To improve the online experience, ecommerce retailers must incorporate human touch into the process—popups with offers to speak to an associate, customer service phone numbers that are large and visible, and real people giving advice on products and navigation.

In addition, the most retailers can personalize the experience by showing products that appeal to individual customers on their unique home page, the greater the sense will be that the retailer is interested in that specific customer, rather than in treating all customers “the same.”


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