Offline Brands Continue to Master E-Commerce

As if the most recent holiday season wasn’t proof enough that offline brands are taking over the e-commerce world, a survey by Andersen found that e-tailing sites associated with brick-and-mortar stores are delivering the best overall customer satisfaction.

The survey revealed that 49 percent of online users perceive companies doing business both online and at physical locations as better at providing customer service for online transactions than those companies that operate exclusively online. Only 9 percent of users find greater customer satisfaction from pure-play Internet retailers.

Despite the encouraging ratings for multichannel operations, however, almost 50 percent of the respondents believe a lack of coordination between channels is somewhat of a problem.

“Currently, multichannel operations enjoy an increasing advantage to complete the customers’ sale,” said Joe O’Leary, Andersen’s global managing partner of its customer and channels solutions. “However, that advantage is lost if there is a disconnect among the channels.”

The survey also found that Web kiosks may be the next logical extension in providing increasingly effective customer service. About one in seven individuals surveyed have used a Web kiosk in a physical store, typically to determine whether a product was in stock or to find detailed specifications for a particular product.

Other key findings from the Andersen survey include:

  • Overall customer satisfaction ratings improve
    Six of 10 online users (58 percent) are satisfied with customer service when transacting online, a 10 percent increase over last year, according to respondents. The most dramatic increase was found among women who were satisfied with their online transactions almost 70 percent of the time.
  • E-mail is the most preferred communication method for communicating online-related complaints
    Nearly 60 percent of online users prefer to use email to communicate with customer service representatives, while 40 percent prefer to make a phone call. Only 2 percent selected in-person locations such as a retail store to communicate complaints.
  • Customers continue to rely on call centers during transactions
    More than 30 percent of customers made a phone call to a customer service agent to confirm that an online transaction was processed correctly. At the same time, one-quarter of users had difficulty in locating a phone number when they required it.
  • Quick resolution is the biggest customer service problem
    Seventy percent of respondents indicate quick resolution of problems as their most important customer service concern, followed by their ability to receive a full refund.
  • Few online users are very concerned about Web sites having access to selected personal information
    About 10 percent of users were concerned with providing Web sites access to personal information such as addresses, purchasing history with that company, age, clothing size and gender.

The Andersen survey, conducted by KS&R, polled 1,149 online users from the United States, and its findings relate to research done earlier this month by Jupiter Media Metrix. According to Jupiter Media Metrix, poor online customer service from a click-and-mortar retailer will drive 70 percent of U.S. online buyers to spend less money at that merchant’s offline store. Making matters worse, only 18 percent of click-and-mortar retailers are capable of accessing a customer’s consolidated account activity across all sales and service channels (online and offline). But 67 percent of online buyers said they expect store staff to be able to view their online account information, according to a Jupiter Consumer Survey.

Jupiter’s survey also found that 83 percent of online buyers would like to be able to return online purchases at offline stores. Additionally, 59 percent said that they would like to order a product online and pick it up an offline store. But only 18 percent of multichannel retailers offer in-store pickup of items ordered online, and Jupiter analysts say that nonintegrated product inventory is a leading reason for customers’ dissatisfaction with online service.

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