Online retailers anticipate a record $43.4 billion payday from the holiday sales season. But a new study indicates that they may be leaving plenty of consumer cash on the table. The Grinch in this tale are dead ends in the purchasing process that litter the online aisles with abandoned shopping carts.
Online sales would be significantly greater if online shoppers had easier access to customer service assistance when they need it, according to a national consumer panel survey sponsored by VHT, which develops online customer service solutions.
More than three-quarters of shoppers attempting to make an online purchase said they had been frustrated trying to obtain help when experiencing difficulty completing the purchase, the survey found. About the same number said they had abandoned an online shopping cart due to frustration with getting the help they needed.
Online shoppers reported a broad array of problems, ranging difficulties using the "captcha" function that weeds out automated shopping bots that attempt to masquerade as customers to problems using promo codes, gift card redemption or other discounts.
They also reported frustration encountering back-ordered products late in the purchasing process and running into dead ends trying to find answers about product features, availability, shipping and return policies.
The survey also showed a clear correlation between quick problem resolution and the likelihood of brand, website or app referral as well as to purchase behavior. A majority of those surveyed said they would purchase more products from a website that allowed them to click or tap for customer service help. More than 75 percent said they would prefer a site that offered this convenience over a competitor's site that did not, and more than half said they would become promoters of the brand.
"The power is squarely in the palm of the customer's hand," said Wes Hayden, VHT's CEO. "Customer-focused retailers that identify and eliminate self-service dead ends within the mobile-purchasing process will be the brands that provide the best and most seamless customer experience and, as a result, will earn the most customer loyalty."