NEW YORK, N.Y. (January 15, 2001) – While retailers enjoyed strong growth in on-line apparel sales and made dramatic strides in fulfillment processes over the last year, holiday shoppers still registered dissatisfaction and diminishing patience buying apparel on the Web, according to the new eHoliday 2000 Apparel Report Card. This study was sponsored jointly by Accenture and Vividence.
The research, which measured site usability, as well as customer expectation and satisfaction, predicted that remedying the situation for the 2001 shopping season will require on-line retailers to focus on improvements in three key areas: the overall shopping experience, purchasing process and customer support.
“In the past, retailers have measured traffic and usage,” said Angela K. Selden, managing partner, Accenture Retail practice. “However, the power to capture the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of what customers feel gives retailers new opportunities to take customer service to the next level.”
Of greatest significance to retailers, the research showed that three in 10 customers reported having a negative experience shopping on a specific Web site last year, and that 72 percent of these unsatisfied customers are unlikely to return to that site. “Consumers expect the same experience whether shopping on- or off-line,” commented Selden. ”With the functional improvements that retailers achieved in 2000, customer service now becomes the lynch-pin for the year ahead.”
The study, which was developed and conducted by Vividence and analyzed by Accenture, measured results from more than 750 customers shopping for apparel on Web sites of more than a dozen globally recognized retail brands, including department stores, specialty stores and mass merchants with a Web presence. Combined, the on- and off-line operations of these 14 retailers represent annual revenues of more than $300 billion and account for a significant portion of all retail apparel sales.
"As the Internet evolves into a large-scale channel for retailers, they must be able to understand the customer’s online expectations," said Artie Wu, Vividence CEO. "By capturing direct customer feedback through Vividence’s products, businesses can now gain the meaningful and actionable customer insight to dramatically improve the customer experience."
Specifically, the research identified several missed opportunities in the consumer shopping experience, purchasing process and customer support functions during the past holiday season:
1) Gift certificates
More than 70 percent of all respondents indicated that it is important to be able to locate the gift certificate function on a retail site quickly and easily – both when purchasing a gift certificate and when redeeming one. However, while a majority (nearly 82 percent) were able to complete a gift certificate transaction, 20 to 60 percent (depending on the site visited) of those completing a transaction reported frustration, unmet expectation and dissatisfaction with the experience.
2) Confidence in the return policy
While on-line shoppers acknowledged that stores have made strides in making customer support services more accessible, nearly one-third of these shoppers said they were not easily able to find a company’s return policy on a given site. Additionally, once they located the policy, only 66 percent of respondents were satisfied with it.
3) Easy-to-use search capability
When shopping on-line, consumers want to be able to view merchandise in countless, innovative ways (e.g., price, material, brand, style, etc.). Currently, sites are not meeting these expectations:
Only half (54 percent) of respondents found the sites easy to use for apparel purchases
- One-third (34 percent) reported difficulty completing their on-line apparel shopping objectives
More than one in 10 (13 percent) found it very difficult to find and buy an apparel gift item
Further, consumers want Web site search engines prominently displayed on the homepage of each site – and want them to accelerate the shopping process by quickly finding specific items or brands. The research indicated the following:
To purchase two apparel gifts online, a consumer typically had to run through 15 to 39 (a mean of nearly 22) page views On average, purchasing two apparel gifts online required consumers to spend between 5 and 15 (a mean of nearly 8) minutes online
4) Clearly posted sale prices
Consumers indicated that they wanted the sale prices listed clearly – and they were frustrated by having to “dig” for sale information. They also indicated they wanted the following pricing information clearly displayed on-line:
Innovative pricing and purchase techniques, such as auctions Value clearly denoted – on-line retailers did not consistently facilitate price comparison by listing the old and new prices in the same area Offers of free shipping, regardless of the value of order
“While technology continues to play a growing role in consumers’ lives, the old adage still holds true: The customer is always right," said Jeff Luker, managing partner, Accenture Retail practice. “Successful retailers will need to look past functionality. To enhance revenue while creating unparalleled customer satisfaction on-line, they will have to innovate to stay a step ahead of consumers’ expectations.”
Accenture is a $10 billion global management and technology consulting organization. The firm is reinventing itself to become the market maker, architect and builder of the new economy, bringing innovations to improve the way the world works and lives. More than 70,000 people in 46 countries deliver a wide range of specialized capabilities and solutions to clients across all industries. Under its strategy, the firm is building a network of businesses to meet the full range of client needs -- consulting, technology, outsourcing, alliances and venture capital. Accenture’s home page address is http://www.accenture.com.
About Vividence Corporation
Vividence is the leader in Customer Experience Management products and services. We help industry-leading businesses quickly and thoroughly understand the behavior and improve the experience of their customers on the Web. Vividence enables our clients to increase customer retention, improve marketing strategies, enhance product development and deliver competitive intelligence. Vividence is backed by venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital, Partech International and Angel Investors, L.P. Our clients include more than 150 leading businesses such as Cisco Systems, Compaq, eBay, Excite@Home, Fidelity, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, nordstrom.com, Pfizer, SAP and Wells Fargo. To learn more about Vividence, please visit http://www.vividence.com.