As more and more consumers turn to the Web for their holiday shopping, performance of e-merchants online experience is becoming increasingly important to the bottom line. A recent Harris Poll indicates that 68% of U.S. adults expect to shop online for gifts this upcoming holiday season and more than three quarters of adult US online shoppers feel that website reliability and reputation is extremely high in their consideration of an online merchant and their eventual purchase decision. What’s even more concerning is that 89 percent of the survey respondents said they would simply stop shopping at a particular online store as a result of a poor Website experience. Web performance is clearly important to a majority of online shoppers, who will often flee one retailer’s site for a competitor’s for faster service. With so much riding on meeting the customer’s expectations it is increasingly important to insure that your website is prepared for the seasons increased usage and that its performance meets your customer’s expectations.
Speed and availability is critical to a positive customer interaction. Online shoppers have unlimited choices and have little patience when they are delayed or frustrated by a sites poor performance. Implementing traffic management and web content optimization tools will improve site response times and help balance system workloads.
Security and liability are critical concerns for online shoppers. Hacking of customer data is on the rise and retailers are being held liable for the costs associated with lost and stolen customer data. Securing customers personal credit card information and passcodes is vital. Customers will return to the site only if they feel confident that their information is safe and secure.
This is the year of mobile. More and more consumers are embracing the use of their smart phones and pads for every day shopping, whether over the internet of while in the store. Optimizing your website to accommodate the latest mobile apps and software to interact with the roaming consumer will enhance user experience and elevate customer satisfaction.
Don’t leave your websites performance to chance. Investing in an effective website optimization and monitoring tool will improve the likelihood that performance issues will be identified early enough to be resolved before they adversely affect the customer relationship. Regular testing of the site over multiple web browsers is very important. Online users will often use different browsers to access the internet depending on the devise. Your site should offer a consistent and positive e-visit regardless of the method of access. And remember, a website that is “down” and inaccessible for even a brief moment during busy shopping hours is akin to closing the door and turning out the lights of a brick and mortar store at rush hour. Once turned away, studies have indicated that as many as 44 percent of inconvenienced customers will never return.
Once what was considered the normal customer interaction is changing as technology advancements have improved and been expanded to offer new bells and whistles to entice new customer interactions. Initiating unproven and untested site enhancements at the busiest time of the shopping season can result in a calamity for even the best designed websites. Better to be prepared than to be first with a failed site performance that will damage your brand.
The holiday shopping season will determine the success or failure for the vast majority of retailers, getting the user experience effort right has never been more important. Online shopping is opening new opportunities to expanded global markets for even the smallest of businesses. But with the increased exposure comes a corresponding increased risk to getting the customer experience wrong. E-commerce retailers whose websites are prepared, tested and diligently monitored will be rewarded with a positive and profitable consumer experience.
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It is a debate among marketers that has raged since the word “Discount” first found its way into consumer’s vocabulary. Add descriptors like “Sale”, “Reduced”, “Low price leader”, “Special”, “We sell for less”, and “We will not be undersold”, and any observer would come to the conclusion that the lowest price alone determines who gets the sale. Is the buying decision all about price? All things being equal, will the lower price always prevail?
The assumption that consumers are motivated to act based on just one reason more than any other is an over simplification of the decision making process and a premise that a large and diverse market can be moved to action by deploying just one factor. The truth is consumer’s reasons to purchase are as diverse as the market and as complex as the individual making the decision.
According to a recent CEI Survey, 86% of buyers will pay more for products when accompanied by excellent customer service, product quality, or perceived added value. Based on a buying hierarchy model, first outlined by Windermere Associates, most consumers follow a pattern for action when making a buying decision:
- Functionality – Where a product or service fills a specific customer need or want that cannot be accomplished by other products or competitors, consumers will not base their decision on price.
- Reliability – When two or more similar products have the same functionality, consumers will favor the competitor whose product offers the better reliability.
- Convenience – When the products or services offer the same functionality and identical relative reliability, consumers will choose convenience.
- Price – When competitors all have similar products or services that offer equal function, reliability and convenience, then price will prevail as the deciding factor for the buying decision.
In addition, a Nielsen’s 2014 Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility indicates that 55 percent of global online consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. “Consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions,” said Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability at Nielsen.
There will always be those who will pay a higher price for brand status or those who perceive value in brand loyalty. And a generous portion of consumers will always harbor affection for getting the best deal and paying the lowest price. But for the greater number of consumers price alone is no longer enough to motivate them to purchase. In a highly competitive market environment, where marketers are offering added value to their lowest price, buyers are becoming increasingly adept at discerning the difference between real value and low price.
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