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Online shoppers favour basic, really useful features

March 19, 2001
PricewaterhouseCoopers recently conducted a survey in order to find out the site functions online shoppers liked most.

I find this survey very informative as it indicates very clearly what Internet users find important when they shop online.

In the way Internet users use eCommerce sites, they put forward two functions:

- Search engine (77% use it).

Close-up images (that can be enlarged) of the products.

These same Internet users also indicate the site features that might help them select an online shopping site:

- Search functionality (43%).

Product information (40%).

As a result, all the other online shopping site features become minor functions: for example, only 19% of online shoppers have ever used wish lists and among them, only 13% report they have forwarded filled out wish lists to friends and family, which does not represent more than 2.47% of all online shoppers.

Personalisation features that are not frequently used get the same poor results.

Once again, we're faced with the same technology trap. Last year, encouraged by their web agencies, online shopping sites multiplied initiatives around these new services. They were convinced that the novelty effect would contribute to increase conversion rates of lookers-to-bookers that proved extremely low.

Instead of investing time and money in order to improve the range of products offered to online shoppers, many e-retailers thought they could get round the problem and customize visitors through these new additional functions.


In my opinion, this is a case of priority reversal.

As of today, what sites really need to do is launch easy to use web sites, that can be easily accessed, and that respect the ergonomic codes that have become a standard in the online shopping sector.

And yet, apart from a few striking exceptions, many shopping web sites have not yet been able to get over this stage.

And yet, this is a sine qua non condition for the sites willing to go forward and add new features to their site in the near future.

Unlike what many Internet analysts seem to believe, online shopping web sites presently suffer more from a lack of supply than from a lack of demand from the part of their online shoppers.

We recently conducted a survey with BVA TFC Research, the first French research agency of whom I am the founder and partner, that studies Internet usages on the French market. This survey indicates that customisation rates on online shopping sites are extremely high (they can exceed 80%)…due to a lack of supply!

It is only when the quality of online shopping sites has improved and their number has increased that they will be able to try and customize visitors through features with great added value, centred on personalisation.

Nevertheless, such evolution is not expected to take place in the near future.

PricewaterhouseCoopers asked online shoppers what features were more likely to turn them from shoppers to buyers:

- 44% said they appreciate close-up views of the products offered.

- 39% like to have immediate access to product availability.

34% appreciate product comparison guides.

30% praise the search function. It is interesting to notice that even though the search engine helps 43% of Internet users to select a shopping site, the importance of the search function goes down to 30% when buying is concerned. As the search engine is only one of the elements that lead Internet users to make a purchase, this difference does not come as a real surprise.

25% named the customer service.

And finally, 24% named product reviews as well as an evaluation by online shoppers.

Source : PricewaterhouseCoopers



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