Do you buy more frequently from sites that make it easy to navigate to and learn about products and services?
How important are ratings and reviews in determining what you end up ordering? Do you abandon the cart in favor of picking up the phone to finish an order?
Are these all things your customers do?
These are the questions online retailers ask themselves frequently. With technology, customer savvy, and customer expectations in continuous evolution, what metrics should you track to optimize your Web sites for maximum success?
Should you use web metrics like
- average page views
- number of sessions
- number of unique visitors, and
- number of returning visitors?
How about financial metrics like
- average order size
- return on inventory
- return on investment, or
- customer acquisition cost?
Or maybe qualitative measures like
- customer loyalty, or
- brand recognition?
ForeSee Results opens their Spring 2011 Top 100 Online Retail Satisfaction Survey* with these questions.
The numbers are all important indicators of past performance, however they don’t provide information about where your business is going tomorrow of how effective the Web site is at impacting cross-channel sales next week, next month, or next year.
Is purchase intent a good indicator? It's not very accurate. We decide to do things we end up not doing all the time. There are studies that prove that neuroscientists can predict your behavior better than you can. And scientists have a better handle on predicting that than we do.
I agree with Anna Barcelos, it's important to look at satisfaction and good experience indicators from customers whether from surveys, star ratings, or other methods as ways to constantly improve upon. Even that is not solid.
It all goes back to people's basic needs. If they are fulfilled and the person has a great experience with a company, when their journey through the process is smooth, we can say it helps to increase the chances of a future purchase.
I thought I'd share a couple of customer stories to illustrate the complexity of these questions.
From Beth Harte (lightly edited):
I question online satisfaction. Here’s my recent story about Land’s End (which isn’t even in the report).
I filled up my cart and was about to pay, then bailed. Why?
Because I realized “Oh, yeah! I want my sweater monogrammed.” (Yes, I am an 80s nerd). So, I backed out to re-order with a monogram only to learn that *they* selected the thread color (parchment, yuck!).
I wanted white thread, but had no way to change the color. When I clicked on “customize thread” I received a note telling me I had two options: Call and place an order or do an online chat. Now, if I really didn’t want a monogrammed sweater with ruffles, I would have bailed.
I called Land’s End and ordered what I wanted.
Was I satisfied with the online experience? No. Was I satisfied with LE overall? Heck, yeah! You should see my totally cute sweater.
The point is, if a company is only looking at online sales, purchase intent and loyalty, they would see me as a “lost” customer. When in fact, because of their archaic system (I should have been able to type in or select “white thread,” don’t you think?) they forced me to bail on the online experience and make a call.
Anyone who doesn’t make the connection between Beth Harte’s online profile and Beth Harte’s calling profile wouldn’t see that the sale wasn’t lost. Data disconnection is a HUGE issue for online retailers that also offer a customer service option.
Anna Barcelos (also with small edits):
The story is about Keurig. I have to say that I was surprised to see them on the list but then again not. Keurig systems are VERY high maintenance (nothing can be plugged into the same socket with them, use only room temp bottled water, take Kcup out immediately not to clog spouts...
I learned all this the hard way BTW, but their service dept. rocks).
The result of Keurig is an amazing cup of coffee, EVERY TIME (I have the single cup model). So you would think with all that high maintenance, having friends who are on their 3rd one because they didn't follow specific instructions,that everyone would say they suck.
However, the end result is an amazing "experience" - a perfect cup of coffee every time - that I would adhere to all the high maintenance for it. So it depends on the person and what his/her threshold is.
Think about Apple products. They're very expensive compared with their equivalents in the category. Yet people hold their breath at company announcements, they stand in line, and fork out the money for the next Apple product.
It is about experience, which then leads to satisfaction, which then leads to loyalty. Always keeping in mind that customers could change their mind any time. Humans are strange that way.
* uses the patented methodology of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) developed at the University of Michigan as proven predictor of consumer spending. Based on surveys of more than 22,000 visitors to the top 100 e-retail websites (by sales volume).