Nearly three-quarters of online customers expect to get help within five minutes when they are trying to make an online purchase — and half will abandon the purchase right away or after one attempt to find help, if help is not forthcoming. That is one of a variety of findings in a new report from online help provider LivePerson that paints a picture of the attitudes and behaviors of online customers.
The report, Connecting with Customers, surveyed more than 5700 consumers in six different countries, and was conducted by an independent research consultant, Loudhouse. The portrait of online customers in the report suggests that most buyers know the balance of power now favors them, since they can visit another site within seconds if their needs are not satisfied.
And their purchasing power is growing: 40 percent of customers are now spending as much online as they are in brick-and-mortar stores.
While impulse shopping has traditionally been connected with a physical product display in a store, such as near the checkout line, 50 per cent of respondents said they often or sometimes buy more than they intended when they shop online.
As Jeremy Sokolic, SVP of Marketing at LivePerson, said in a statement, consumers have become “more adept and familiar with digital channels,” and they have “come to expect the same levels of help and customer service” as they would receive in a physical store.
Given LivePerson’s role as a help service provider, much of the report is oriented toward expectations of online help. For instance, 83 percent of consumers say they need some form of help during online shopping, and nearly 60 percent would like to see more options in how they connect with brands, including live chat, click-to-call or live video chat.
The report echoes other studies and expert opinions, which consistently point to a multi-channel environment, the need for a consistent customer experience across channels, and the integration of physical stores’ customer service with online versions, such as immediate inventory awareness through any channel.
Across the board, the study found that online, in-store and mobile channels were being used interchangeably to make informed buying decisions, obtaining the most convenience and finding the best deals.
More than three-quarters of respondents typically research online before venturing to a physical store, and 24 percent use their mobile device to research while they are in the store.
Because of their increasing familiarity with digital shopping, the report said, expectations are rising. Consumers are looking for personalized online experiences, speed and simplicity, but their expectations are defined by their levels of sophistication. The report breaks down three different kinds of online shoppers on the basis of their experience and need for support.
Semi-dependent shoppers constitute 56 percent of respondents. They are fairly experienced with online shopping, but sometimes need help and support. Dependent shoppers, 28 percent of those surveyed, are newbies and needs lots of support, and experienced shoppers, representing 16 percent, rarely need help.
For online retailers, abandonment rates are a key metric, as they indicate a change of mind during the buying process. The report found that the top reasons for abandonment were the discovery of unexpected delivery costs (70 percent), a lack of information about the product, service or delivery (56 percent), navigation difficulties (46 percent), not finding the answer (37 percent) or difficulties in getting help (30 percent).
The top three factors by which customers rate great customer service are getting an issue resolved quickly (82 percent), getting an issue resolved in a single interaction (56 percent) and dealing with a friendly customer service rep (45 percent).
In light of its findings, the report recommends that retailers reassess gaps between the in-store and online customer experience, and, given the impatience of online shoppers, make the online customer experience a priority for the company’s focus. Although online shopping had initially been thought to be primarily self-help, the report highlights that is a “far more interactive space where relationships between brands and customers can be strengthened with appropriate engagement strategies,” and it recommends that consumers be offered a variety of online customer support channels.