RealTime IT News

Surveys Conflict on Online Shopper Satisfaction

Just when you thought you were getting a handle on some online shopping stats, along come two just-released and somewhat conflicting surveys of customer service.

In some ways, it may be a question of whether the glass is half empty or half full. One survey, from Jupiter Communications, shows that 74 percent of respondents who shopped online during the holiday season felt satisfied. However, this satisfaction level is 14 percent below an identical survey conducted in July 1998, Jupiter said.

The second survey, from Visa USA, shows that 98 percent of online holiday shoppers said they had a satisfactory or very satisfactory experience. Jupiter sounded a bit of an alarm; Visa said the future is bright. See for yourself. Interestingly, the surveys were done in conjunction with different research arms of the same company, NFO Worldwide.

Survey Says, No. 1: Customer Service Woes Rising

A survey from Jupiter Communications shows that while many online shoppers are happy with their 1998 holiday season experience, fewer are satisfied now than just six months ago.

The research indicates that online retailers should resist the temptation to focus exclusively on growing market share and focus their efforts on customer service and retention.

The Jupiter/NFO survey concluded that 74 percent of respondents who did shop online during the holiday season felt satisfied. However, this satisfaction level is 14 percent below an identical Jupiter/NFO survey conducted in July 1998.

The Jupiter report also found that 44 percent of U.S. online households shopped online during the months of November and December 1998 and spent an estimated $3.14 billion.

"The combination of retailers that launched or relaunched their sites within weeks of the holiday season, coupled with the significant, unanticipated increase in traffic led many sites to underperform," said Nicole Vanderbilt, senior analyst for Jupiter. "Companies spent considerable dollars to acquire the customers that visited their sites. If they do not shift their efforts to alleviate technology issues and improve customer service in the coming months, they risk losing the customers they spent so much to acquire."

Online shoppers cited problems with merchandise availability (15 percent), the additional costs of shipping and handling (14 percent), and slow site performance (13 percent) as the top three reasons for dissatisfaction.

"An alarmingly low 37 percent of online shoppers indicated they would spend more next holiday season, while 58 percent said they would spend the same and five percent said they would spend less," Jupiter said.

Survey Says, No. 2: Record Levels of Customer Satisfaction

About 98 percent of online holiday shoppers said they had a satisfactory or very satisfactory experience, according to a Visa U.S.A. survey.

Visa said the future of online shopping "continues to be bright--90 percent of respondents who shopped online said they plan to continue and 88 percent would recommend shopping online to a friend."

"This past holiday season set the benchmark for online shopping not just for the holidays, but for the future of e-commerce," said Joe Vause, vice president of electronic commerce for Visa U.S.A. "Getting consumers to try shopping online isn't nearly as tough as getting them to come back, which is why we are pleased to see a strong commitment by consumers to continue shopping online."

In the 1,128 person survey commissioned by Visa U.S.A., 51 percent of the respondents said they purchased a portion of their holiday gifts online this past year--exceeding pre-holiday expectations by 5 percentage points. And for 19 percent of these consumers, this marked their maiden online shopping voyage.

Ninety-two percent of the respondents found most of their gifts ordered online arrived by the expected date, and 95 percent of those gifts arrived in good condition. And 62 percent of online shoppers said they were very satisfied with the telephone customer service they received when they spoke to a representative.

Of the online shoppers surveyed who paid for online holiday purchases with a credit card, 55 percent felt that the financial information they were providing was very secure.

Fifteen percent of the online shoppers surveyed spent more than they planned on their gifts, with the largest portion (33 percent) spending between $100 and $249 on Internet purchases.