Nine out of 10 British online adults (89%) who have conducted transactions online in the past year have experienced problems, according to an independent annual survey into online consumer behaviour conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Tealeaf.
Of those who have experienced problems, nearly half (49%) say they would abandon their transaction entirely or switch to a competitor (either online or offline) if they experienced a problem, a significant increase of 12 percentage points in just one year (37% in 2007).
The 2008 rate of abandonment suggests that £11.9 billion in revenue could be affected by issues on shopping sites alone -- a huge opportunity for companies to harness, by ensuring their websites work. On the Web, the competition is a click away.
The ecommerce sector is buoyant in the UK, with shoppers spending over £26.5bn online in the first six months of 2008 (up 38% on 2007). Remarkably, the Tealeaf survey also found that, among all online adults in Great Britain, general preference for conducting business online (52%) has surpassed preference for conducting business in-person (41%) by more than 10 percentage points.
Simultaneously, expectations for online experience are also high. A full 87% of all online adults believe there is no reason why an online transaction cannot be completed first time, and 90% of those who have conducted an online transaction in the past year expect the same, or better, levels of customer service online as they do offline.
In addition to losing customers to the competition, companies that fail to provide high levels of online customer experience will likely see their reputation suffer as a result.
Online transactional problems may lead to negative feelings towards companies -- 83% of online adults who experience problems conducting online transactions say they feel frustrated when they experience problems.
The effect of this can be far-reaching, with 77% sharing their experience with others and with more than half (53%) telling their friends and family specifically in order to discourage them from using that website or doing business with the company.
Of those sharing their experiences, 56% use online channels to share complaints or reviews. Unlike one-on-one conversations with friends or family, these digital conversations can be viewed by millions and live online indefinitely, therefore amplifying their impact.
Customer Management Strategist at the University of London and Corporate Psychologist, Dr. Max Blumberg, said, “The effect of online issues is far reaching. Customers are operating in a digital age where they have a number of options to quickly make their thoughts known about a company. The ramifications of this can be huge.
"Online businesses need to make every effort to streamline and improve the experience of their visitors. The reward will be increased ROI, improved brand perception, and repeat business."
Other key findings in the survey include that a second wave of customer abandonment occurs at the contact centre -- 42% of British consumers who experienced bad customer service from a company’s contact centre when calling about website issues stopped doing business with the company altogether as a result.
When speaking to contact centre agents about their online issue, 51% of those who have ever contacted a call centre about website issues were still not able to have their issue resolved. The majority did not feel that the customer service representative was knowledgeable about the website (75%) or about their particular issue (73%).
Just over half (52%) of all online Britons generally prefer to conduct business online as opposed to in-person (41%). Nine out of ten (90%) online adults who have conducted an online transaction in the past year expect at least the same or better customer service online when compared to in-person shopping.
In addition, the knock-on effect of failing online transactions can be felt elsewhere, with more than half of all online adults (57%) saying if they experienced a problem conducting a transaction online, they would be less likely to buy from the same company offline.
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