Poor Online Service Drives Away Brick-and-Mortar Customers, Study Says

Companies that annoy their customers during online transactions risk losing them as brick-and-mortar customers as well, according to a new survey.

Jupiter Media Metrix found that 70 percent of online buyers said they would spend less money at a traditional retailer after having a bad experience with that company's online sales division. Still, the study found, many retailers have yet to set up their computer systems to offer the kind of service that consumers expect.

“Online commerce is not going away,” said David Daniels, a Media Metrix analyst who studies customer relationship management. “Hopefully this will be a call-to-action to companies to shore up their online service as well as their offline initiatives.”

Other findings suggest that 83 percent of online buyers would like to be able to return online purchases to companies' stores. In addition, 95 percent of all interviewees said they would want to return goods bought online to a brick-and-mortar store. Currently, only 18 percent of all retailers allow that option.

The study found that 67 percent of all buyers expect employees at a company's traditional outlet to have access to information relating to their online purchases. Only 18 percent of retailers currently allow such access.

Daniels said the biggest problem in meeting consumer demands outlined in the study is the corporate culture in which most online ventures were born. Most companies viewed their online initiatives as a separate business with a separate budget and management structure, he said. Most company systems have not been set up to integrate online and offline information.

The companies that have been most successful at meeting customer expectations online and offline, Daniels said, have viewed the Web as simply another way to reach consumers.

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