RealTime IT News

Consumers to E-Tailers: Don't Kiss and Tell

The No. 1 reason among online users who have yet to make an e-commerce purchase: lack of trust. In a new survey, a staggering 69.4 percent of reluctant e-shoppers cited fear that personal information would not be kept private by e-tailers as the major reason they shy away from purchasing via the Internet.

The NFO Interactive research study, "Online Retail Monitor: Branding, Segmentation & Web Sites," surveyed 4,523 online consumers, both buyers and non-buyers, to examine buying habits, attitudes and trends in online retailing.

Asked to prioritize features that would entice them to shop and buy online, the NFO Interactive online consumer panel disclosed the top five attributes:

  • Trust that the site will keep personal information private.
  • The site offers a secure environment to purchase products.
  • The site is technically reliable.
  • The content is current.
  • Products ordered are delivered in a timely fashion.

"These are the very attributes that characterize offline or conventional shopping," said Tim Washer, NFO Interactive's director of research and consulting.

"The most successful online retailers will closely simulate the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience by approximating the offline experience, online. They will succeed in transferring their established brand attributes to the Web.

"For new Web-only retailers, the key to building brand equity is to understand their target market and its online customer service expectations and then, converting those expectations into Web site attributes. What worked for Amazon.com may not work everyone else."

Among the 1944 online consumers who haven't purchased a product via the Net, the prime characteristics of an e-tail site that would propel them to buy online include:

  • Assurance that their privacy would be protected: 69.4 percent.
  • Offered bigger price discounts: 65 percent.
  • Ability to return a product to a bricks-and-mortar store: 28 percent.

NFO's Washer said e-tailers should consider offline advantages that can support online sales.

"Retailers should consider implementing technologies that provide surrogates for the 'in-store' level of customer service, such as Internet telephony, or chat, to enable a direct, live conversation with a company rep right off of the Web site," Washer said.

"Our studies indicate that just over 20 percent of online buyers would buy more if this type of surrogate offering were available. More importantly, 15 percent of the 'frequently buyer' segment stated they would become a loyal shopper of the site if it provided this live connection," Washer said.