One of the most important jobs of any retailer online is maintaining the integrity of the customer experience. Each year, we look to online shoppers to tell retailers how they are performing, what features matter most and how they wish to communicate from a customer service perspective. Digital Commerce 360 coordinated with Bizrate Insights to survey 1,107 online shoppers in October 2022 to hear firsthand the shoppers’ perspectives.
Shopper satisfaction is strong across the board
While satisfaction numbers are highest for the desktop, mobile web and apps are catching up among online shoppers. The longevity of the desktop means online retailers have honed the user experience for those devices over time. Shopper familiarity makes desktop shopping natural for most online buyers. Mobile apps and mobile websites are seeing similar satisfaction rates, although the app is stronger in 9-10 segment.
When it comes to user experience, it’s imperative to understand if shopper expectations are being met or, even better, exceeded. Knowing what aspects are performing and those that might be lagging can guide future retailer investments.
To date, site efficiency has met shopper expectations. This includes fast-loading sites (selected by 41% of respondents), layouts that are easy to navigate (38%), finding products via search (37%) and most importantly, the ability to ensure shoppers have a streamlined checkout (62%).
Beyond these critical elements, less than one in three online shoppers find their expectations met in the following areas:
- Access cart across devices: 27%
- Remembering selections and previously visited locations: 23%
- Quick category overview category: 20%
- Quick brand or retailer overview: 15%
To maintain high satisfaction numbers, retailers must remain vigilant about ensuring these site efficiencies are also in place.
Inventory transparency should be in place onsite and across channels
Our survey revealed that 44% of online shoppers give retailers good marks regarding their ability to see if a product is in stock. But only 29% feel the same about checking inventory at a local store.
Retailers can make more significant efforts to provide online information on products and customer service, including allowing shoppers to update their profiles. Shopper ratings on retailers relative to helpful product recommendations came in at 22%, while shipping and returns policy information trailed just behind at 21%. Robust product information is fundamental to shopping, yet only 19% of online shoppers said retailers met their expectations in this area. From a features perspective, videos hit the target for 15% of those surveyed. In comparison, features that might assist in shopping a category like how-to information received an approving nod from just 10% of respondents and profiling quizzes to evaluate a shopper’s needs lagged at 9%. Lastly, as financing becomes more readily adopted, our survey found that only 15% of shoppers said pay-later financing met their expectations.
The other side of the information coin often involves customer service. One in five participants were pleased with being able to find answers to questions and 16% felt retailers met their expectations when it came to viewing/updating customer profiles.
Ensuring sites are secure and avoiding fraud issues is a continuous challenge and warrants ongoing retailer attention, as only 21% were content with sites being able to protect them from fraud.
Frustrations with online shopping remain prevalent despite satisfaction numbers
Playing into general sentiment about the user experience and a crucial factor in meeting expectations, six of seven online shoppers have some frustrations with retail sites. One positive finding was that no single aspect frustrates more than 30% of consumers.
Issues that can cause shoppers to miss savings caused consternation, including promo codes not applying in the shopping cart (30%) and unclear shipping costs (25%). On a positive note, only 7% cited pay-later financing options that were too hard to use.
Product information must be robust as it drives customer decision-making and frustration numbers were high. 24% said retailers did not provide enough images and 22% said text descriptions lacked sufficient details.
Sites must be fast from researching capabilities to checkout, as shoppers are time sensitive. Many dynamics can impact speed, with the most significant frustration cited around slow-loading sites (23%), while 17% of shoppers noted excessive scrolling. 18% of those surveyed called out inefficiencies in onsite search. Further down the funnel was the inability to complete checkout, cited by 16%. Other frustrations included difficult-to-read text (10%) and lack of pre-populated/saved customer information (8%).
Current supply chain constraints heighten the importance of inventory transparency across channels and via search results. 27% of shoppers were especially annoyed by search results that included out-of-stock products. From a store perspective, discrepancies with omnichannel inventory are an annoyance factor for 19%, as was the inability to check inventory at a local store for 17%. Lastly, the general failure to tell stock status for delivery was mentioned by 19%, and 13% cited a general lack of clarity around delivery.
Mobile frustrations remain and should be continuously addressed and improved, as 16% said retailers had a poor mobile web experience (16%) and 9% were frustrated with retailers for not having a mobile app.
Product information and imagery is fundamental to a functional site
For another question, we followed up with shoppers on the features that are important when it comes to delivering a well-designed and functional online shopping experience.
Comprehensive product information, especially copy and images, should be in place to convert shoppers. There, the most important aspects included detailed product descriptions (57%) and ample product images (44%). Product recommendations were in the important camp for one in three online shoppers. Reviews are always a desirable add-on and notable for 28%, while 21% of shoppers appreciate shopper Q&As. Socially speaking, product sharing was crucial to just 18%.
Retailers are using visual icons to educate shoppers about products and to best position their brands. These icons may assume a greater role given sustainability efforts and are deemed important by 23%. A new feature addressed badging or identification of social elements (Black/women/LGBTQ, fair-trade) and gained an importance factor for 9% among survey respondents.
Categories should dictate the role of shopping tools. Product videos are important to 21% and how-to guides and video tutorials are of interest to 17%. Social content including influencers rounded out this group at 7% while product or brand blog content was seen as least important at 5%.
Online shoppers perceive tools as nice to have though wish lists/favorites coming in at 37% was higher than one might expect. A robust search has always been important to the shopping experience yet only 23% felt it was important. Other search elements were much less important to online shoppers including live camera searches (8%) and search using voice command (7%).
Personalization and more advanced profiling capabilities should be in place to drive average order value and aid shopping. Although lower on the importance scale, they will be important to monitor as their use can influence conversion. Tool importance ratings were as follows: shopping profilers (13%), try-on tools (11%) and virtual appointments (5%).
Personalization can make for more efficient and compelling customer experience
Most online shoppers especially appreciate a personalized experience that saves them time. That starts with almost half of survey respondents who expect or desire the ability to access recently viewed products quickly. At the same time, 39% enjoy having their account stored and updated when shopping online. For one in four online shoppers, the opportunity to designate a store channel when shopping was valuable. 23% of those surveyed expected a shared cart accessible across devices, which was surprisingly low given our multi-device world.
It’s important to remember that shoppers still want to be in control of personalization so opt-out capability is crucial for 38% of respondents.
The use of algorithm-driven models sees the highest value as it relates to promotions (30%). When it addresses the shopper’s own behavior and expectations/desired levels among survey participants, the numbers came in as follows:
- Products shown based on browse and buy behavior on website: 26%
- Products shown based on others who purchase similar products: 18%
- Products shown based on browse and buy behavior on other non-retail websites: 16%
- Products shown factor in personal demographics: 17%
A high-quality customer service experience with timely resolution is most important to online shoppers
Customer service is an important contributor to both customer acquisition and retention. First and foremost, the quality of customer service is critical to online shoppers (37%) and 24% found human interaction important, which was a welcome sign in a world that is not very connected. Customers also want their issues addressed quickly (31%) and appreciate the ability to resolve issues including refunds (25%). Only 5% noted they were interested in virtual appointments. Demand for this service may have waned in a post-COVID-19 world.
Live chat has become a preferred method of contact and the human-supported option is important at 28%. Chatting with a bot received a much lower score at 11%.
26% of shoppers want to easily have access to contact information, and 13% said they liked to link to customer service from their mobile device.
Sites must provide a mix of human and self-serve tools and primarily comprehensive FAQs were on the list from 18%, while customer service integrated into shopping cart followed close behind at 15%. Though self-service FAQ’s are certainly visible on many retail sites, only 10% of survey respondents highlighted this option.
Shoppers still appreciate communicating with humans
Retailers must have multiple touch points in place as online shoppers leverage many while resolving issues during their shopper journey. Online shoppers embrace customer service preferring the human touch with live chat coming in at a strong 62%, followed by phone calls close behind at 56%. Automated chat bots were exceptionally low on their list at 15%. Social media trails at 14%, although its adoption will likely grow over time and have a more important role for younger demographics.
Email managed to garner a top-two spot with 61% of shoppers citing this communication channel. Email quickly allows shoppers to address their needs, plus includes a paper trial. Self-service tools have some appeal but pale in comparison to their human counterparts. Those include an online form (21%) and FAQ page (11%).
Retailers should prioritize inventory transparency
Inventory will be a challenge this holiday and for shoppers year-round. Sitewide identification of current inventory and out of stocks along with communication of potential issues best serves online shoppers. Most shoppers want retailers to provide stock status at the product page (51%) and search results (46%). Shoppers also prefer retailers to remove out-of-stock products from their site. Online shoppers say retailers should identify products with one-month lead times (38%) and provide clear omnichannel options (33%) that alert shoppers to available channels.
One thing that online shoppers suggested is when onsite displays are clear, 24% had a lack of interest in being notified, which indicates that getting it right on the site is a service to the shopper.
No matter the circumstances or status, online shoppers expect timely communication of late orders and/or out-of-stocks along with proposed solutions. 46% want to be informed regarding late orders and 41% appreciate receiving an email and/or text regarding out-of-stocks and any potential resolutions.
Ironically, only 28% favored an incentive for future purchases, which leads me to conclude that it’s about making in-stock status a priority and proactively communicating when issues arise.
The customer experience warrants attention year-round. Even though shoppers indicate they have a high satisfaction level with online retailers, now is the time to be vigilant and maintain these strong levels. Keeping a close eye on streamlined shopping, and inventory transparency will always be important. Beyond the fundamentals, retailers can revisit desirable features and techniques for optimizing personalization. Communication is also at the crux of customer satisfaction, so a watchful eye is also advisable. Lastly, remember that the customer experience is a moving target so you can’t let up or you will fall behind the best of the best.