Holiday online shopping experience falls shorts: Decision Direct

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Not many consumers who shopped online this holiday season thought the items they purchased were a good value or products that met their expectations, according to a recent Customer Insight Survey conducted by Decision Direct Research.

Only 39 percent of respondents felt that the most recent item they purchased online was "a good value for the money," and only 39 percent felt that "products met or exceeded expectations."

The survey of more than 75,000 consumers focused on customers' holiday online shopping experiences with 61 brands. Most of the brands had an e-commerce Web site and mailed catalogs; about a dozen also had a retail store.

"I found it really surprising that only 39 percent of respondents thought products met expectations," said Lilliane LeBel, vice president of Decision Direct Research, a division of Millard Group Inc., Peterborough, NH.

While the results of the survey indicate that merchants are paying attention to the customer experience online, these figures reflect that they need to be paying more attention to how they are portraying their products, both visually and in copy, Ms. LeBel said.

However, there was improvement in several areas of the online shopping experience. Forty-nine percent of respondents indicated the sites they shopped at had "unique items not found elsewhere," and 49 percent indicated "merchandise was in stock when I ordered." Other Web attributes that showed improvement included "Site is well laid out and easy to shop," "products described accurately and shown clearly," "online checkout process was easy" and "item matched online description."

Overall, 70 percent of respondents indicated that they were very satisfied with their online holiday shopping experience.

Online shoppers appear to be more comfortable with the entire online shopping process, according to the survey results. The number of respondents saying they placed one order online decreased from 40 percent in 2003 to 35 percent in 2006; those saying they placed three or more orders online increased from 33 percent in 2003 to 40 percent in 2006. The total number of sites shopped - 4.4 - stayed the same.

The survey also showed that the receipt of a catalog is still the main motivator in getting customers to shop from a Web site, with 84 percent of respondents saying that receiving a catalog from a brand was "very likely" or "fairly likely" to lead them to that brand's Web site. The receipt of an e-mail drove 80 percent of respondents to a Web site.

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