The user experience is always a work-in-progress with shopper satisfaction the byproduct of strong retailer effort, writes Lauren Freedman, senior consumer insights analyst for Digital Commerce 360.

Consumers are interacting with companies every day. And in many ways, it comes down to the good, the bad and the ugly from a customer experience perspective. Luckily for ecommerce, the retailers consider the needs of the customer and have honed their skills and learned what works and what doesn’t. But improving on that customer experience is an ongoing process, even for the best of the retailers. Online retailers focus on key website pages in hopes of quickly being able to guide shoppers through the funnel. Conversion and sales are the goal, though engagement is always a factor. Let’s face it, it’s retail, and getting it right means getting the sale.

Digital Commerce 360, in junction with Bizrate Insights, surveyed 1,000 online shoppers in September 2021 about their user experiences.

While satisfaction is strong across the board, mobile web and apps deliver a less satisfactory experience for online shoppers. A summation of the results reveals satisfaction patterns across three distinct shopping experiences: desktop, mobile web and mobile app.

Satisfaction Desktop Mobile Web Mobile App
5 and under 6% 14% 14%
6-8 37% 47% 41%
9-10 42% 24% 24%
N/A 15% 15% 21%

The longevity of desktop buying means the UX has been developed over time. Shopper familiarity makes desktop shopping a natural for most online buyers. Shopping on the mobile web mandates more work as it is still an evolving medium, though strong inroads have underpinned this channel acceleration. Mobile apps are newer for shoppers, so retailers continue to make efforts to improve where higher satisfaction rates will likely be forthcoming as retailer standards are further refined.

We asked shoppers to think about all the sites they shopped this year against a set of expectations to see if retailers have met or exceeded them. Shopper expectations have been met relative to efficiency in finding products (59%) and through the checkout process (73%). Retailers need to be vigilant about ensuring site efficiencies are in place as only 42% said expectations had been met for fast-loading sites and even fewer (24%) said they could get a quick category overview, while just 13% said the same about a brand or retailer overview.

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Inventory transparency should be in place on site and across channels. When it came to checking if product was in stock, 55% reported expectations were met or exceeded amid the supply chain challenges. From an omnichannel perspective, the numbers were more challenging as only 36% expressed the same for checking stock at local stores.

Ensuring sites are secure and set up to protect against fraud issues is a continuous challenge and warrants retailer attention. In this regard, 40% were pleased with retailer approaches for site security. Fraud was a different story with only 22% finding expectations met.

From a meeting or exceeding expectations perspective, more efforts can be made around information from products to customer service. Only 28% cited robust product information while 26% noted shipping and returns policy information and 25% helpful product recommendations.

From a customer service point-of-view, there is work to be done as well with only 22% satisfied with being able to find answers to questions and just 18% content with the ability to view and update their customer profile.

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It is certainly a positive that only one in three shoppers had some frustration when shopping on retail websites. Retailers should know that limiting customer frustration is essential for growth.

Product information must be robust as it drives customer decision-making. 35% of survey respondents were frustrated by retailers who didn’t have enough images and 33% felt the product description text was lacking. Shoppers are always on the hunt for free shipping, so unclear shipping costs for 36% of survey respondents should be addressed as well.

Sites must be fast across the board from researching capabilities to checkout as shoppers are time-sensitive, yet 30% encountered slow-loading sites. Search results when executed well facilitate decision making yet 26% reported that that onsite search still returns poor results. Checkout issues remain of concern to 20% of online shoppers and excessive scrolling is problematic for 19%.

Inventory access across channels is a requirement and is heightened under current supply chain constraints. Once again, frustrations were cited that ranged from discrepancies with omnichannel inventory (28%), inability to check inventory at local stores (24%), an inability to tell delivery stock status (23%), along with a lack of clarity around delivery (12%).

As was reflected in the satisfaction numbers, consumers are still frustrated with shopping on mobile. Improving the mobile shopping experience should be a top priority as 22% of online shoppers found frustration and 11% expressed disappointment when a retailer had no mobile app.

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While requirements vary by retailers when it comes to tools that are needed to support their brand, product information and imagery is crucial to a high-performing site. Such comprehensive information should be in place to convert shoppers.

Detailed product descriptions (76%), ample product images (61%), robust product reviews (44%) and product recommendations at 41% top the list of necessary information on ecommerce sites. Beyond these product page standards, many of the others are more category-centric and as such have somewhat lower numbers:

  • Shopper Q&A: 33%
  • How-to guides or video tutorials: 26%
  • Product videos: 25%
  • Product sharing: 14%
  • Blog content about the product or brand: 5%

Visual icons may assume a greater role given sustainability efforts and, at 26% their presence is already being felt among shoppers.

Online shoppers perceive tools as nice to have, though favorites and search are deemed important to the shopping experience ranking No. 4 on the list at 46%. Robust search is surprisingly low at 32%. My guess is that if it had been asked as a standalone question, it would have garnered a much higher value. Beyond the interactive tools that are part of shopping profilers that guide shoppers to make the right choices and for retailers to best guide the experience at 11%, the remainder all see single-digit importance among surveyed shoppers:

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  • Shopping profilers: 11%
  • Try-on tools: 9%
  • Live camera searches: 7%
  • Search using voice command: 5%

Retailers must weigh their role relative to their brand and business objectives.

Online shoppers especially appreciate a personalized experience that saves them time. Shoppers expect personalization efficiencies to include being able to quickly access recently viewed products (59%) as well as the ability to store and update account information (55%). 33% cited being able to designate a store channel when shopping, while 30% wanted to have a shared cart accessible across devices.

Perhaps just as important to shoppers is the ability to opt-out of personalization as 52% of online shoppers indicated.

The use of algorithm-driven models sees some value, particularly when it relates to the shopper’s own behavior including browse and buy behavior on websites (32%), along with products shown based on others who purchase similar products (23%).

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A timely, high-quality customer service experience is most important to online shoppers. First and foremost, 48% of customers want their issues addressed quickly while 31% speak to the ability to resolve issues like refunds at 31%. The quality of human interaction is critical to online shoppers as shared by 47% of the respondents while 26% specifically called out human interaction. Live chat has become a preferred method of contact and 36% included it in their top 3 preferred communications. The ability to access contact information remains top-of-mind, but 36% noted the inability to find contact information. In customer service, the world is split between those who prefer the human contact we have referenced and the other group that values self-service. Sites must provide a mix of human and self-serve tools to accommodate all customers as needs are constantly shifting.

Though comprehensive FAQs at 13% and customer service integrated into the shopping cart received limited attention in this survey, both must be present. When executed well from both a content and accessibility vantage point, cost savings can be forthcoming for the retailer.

Shoppers still like communicating with humans though email manages to come in second. Topping the “human” customer service option are live chat (79%) and phone calls at 58%. Email’s ability to quickly send off questions followed up by responses that serve as a paper trail have stood the test of time as their top-2 position suggests at 67%. Self-service tools have some appeal but pale in comparison to their human counterparts with an online form seeing the highest favorability at 28% followed by the FAQ page at 17%.

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Clearly identified out-of-stocks and communication of potential issues best serve online shoppers. Shoppers want retailers to provide stock status in key onsite locations and content ranking as follows:

  • Product page: 68%
  • Search results: 63%
  • Clear omnichannel options: 49%
  • Products with one-month lead time: 45%

It’s just as important to mention that the removal of out-of-stock products was important to 61% of participants. Online shoppers expect timely communication of late orders and/or out-of-stocks along with proposed solutions. This starts with wanting to be informed about late orders (64%) and getting an email/text notification for out-of-stocks, including potential resolutions (50%). Retailers should appreciate that if their onsite display of inventory information is clear, 32% lack interest in being further notified.

The user experience is always a work-in-progress with shopper satisfaction the byproduct of strong retailer efforts. Mobile still has catching up to do with the desktop, though shoppers report positive feedback. It is a balancing act as shoppers expect efficiency, complete information from product details, smartly personalized execution, and inventory transparency suitable for today’s omnichannel environment. Retailers have done a good job of keeping frustrations to a minimum, but there is still work to be done as expectations always manage to rise among shoppers. Customer service can be an important differentiator and the human touch can set retailers apart. We will watch to see if retailers are up to the task as we grade their actions over the all-important holiday season.

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