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Online customer satisfaction: 1 ; offline customer

December 5, 2000
According to the last report released by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, customers are usually more satisfied making retail purchases online (78%) than they are shopping at traditional brick-and-mortar stores (72%).

Let's remind you that this study only took into account the most important e-Commerce sites (Amazon.com, eBay, Yahoo, Schwab, etc…), which left aside most of the small-sized and less experienced websites where problems are more likely to happen.

Besides, the more complex the products sold, the lower the satisfaction rate, which is easily understandable when you consider how limited web technology still is.

And yet, this figure comes at the right time since it is presently fashionable to laugh at e-Commerce websites (poor logistics, privacy problems, difficult navigability, etc…) but let's keep in mind that it will eventually be up to consumers, and not to financial analysts, to decide whether a site is successful or not.

And customers are now overwhelmingly supporting e-Commerce. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group (BSG), 96% of the consumers who made an online purchase last year intend to do it again this year even though quite a lot of them (27%) experienced a purchase failure.

How many other distribution channels can pride themselves on such a high customer satisfaction rate ?

It only means that consumers find the online channel more and more convenient, despite the navigability and delivery problems they might experience.


What's most important for consumers who always seem to be in a hurry nowadays is to save time but also to be sure that they are making the best possible choice, as far as price and quality are concerned. Customers do not always seek the most discounted offer, at least not the better informed ones.

Customers will find the answer to all their new needs online, at the cost of brick-and-mortar companies, at least for the most dematerialized products (economic information, plane tickets, books, broking).

But despite the fact that consumers show a keen interest for online purchase, this is not the only explanation. Let's be more specific.

More and more consumers are now giving on / off line synergy nearly the same status and they tend to see less and less difference between the synergies for the brands that can be found in both sectors.

On the one hand, the fact that there still is a physical network with a logo remains an important credibility factor (reassuring as far as the brand lasting quality is concerned, possibility to talk to real people or to go back to the products).

As a result, more than two-thirds of a multichannel retailer's online customers also shop at the retailer's brick-and-mortar store or catalog. This is the so-called on/off line synergy as it is usually meant.

But, on the other hand, websites also exert an influence on the brand. And consumers who buy indiscriminately through the web or in a brick-and-mortal store, will associate a bad experience online to the brand itself. They might be deterred from shopping through the retailer's other channels as well, and this would cause a turnover decline that would be "invisible" for the company.

Such synergy between the on/offline only represents the hidden aspects of the problem that lies in the relationship between these two worlds.

In my opinion, the most important concerns the search for information functions.

As far as this search for information is concerned, the web offers the best possible solution for those who look for fast and exhaustive results and every single Internet user has to resort to these functions.

And this is even the reason why many people get connected at all! What's more, the databases that can presently be found on the net have reached a level that ensures customers reliable results. What I have in mind are things such as job offers, classified property advertisements, car sales. I would also add to this list sites of geographic location or city-guides which have become services that most Internet users use daily (when they want to find a restaurant, or the films that are playing, etc…).

In principle, all these services do not hold any monetary value for the brands which are concerned (restaurants, manufacturers, car dispensers, real-estate offices, firms that are looking for partners). And yet, for all these fields, the pre-selection which is made by the Internet, has already deeply modified the user's behavior

The first consequence is that the services and products that are not part of this pre-selection have little hope of affecting consumers. It goes without saying that a brand can still get round the problem by remaining constantly in the consumers' mind but this implies very high communication and marketing budgets… the same amounts dotcoms have been spending far too fast in the first quarter and for which they are now being blamed.

The second consequence is that the exhaustive aspect of the results that can be obtained on the Internet suppresses the advantage the seller gets over the consumer. The latter, once he has entered the shop, has already invested time and will be ready to make concessions in order not to loose such investment even though he knows that he would have probably found a better and cheaper product somewhere else. On the contrary, the only two arguments a seller has on the Internet are the price and a great customer satisfaction.

As we can see, the Internet modifies habits, especially before the purchase is actually made, and this is a very important factor for the buying phase itself.

All this means that e-commerce goes beyond the turnover that is presently made online and it would be very interesting, for each company with an online presence, to measure the impact such presence has on its consumers.
In my opinion, they would be in for a great surprise!

Source : CyberAtlas



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