Research conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Tealeaf has found that 53% of British online adults say they are now conducting more transactions online than they did in the past due to the current economic climate, with the ability to compare products and prices cited by 74% of these as the main reason.
The 2009 Survey of Online Consumer Behaviour report also found, however, that businesses are failing to fully capitalise on this, with 77% of online adults who have conducted an online transaction in the past year saying they have experienced problems when doing so. 46% of these advised they would abandon the transaction as a result, with 40% saying they would switch to an online or offline competitor. In the British retail sector alone, a potential £11.2bn of revenue could be affected by website issues, the report concludes.
The survey results show that online adults are also increasingly turning to social media to broadcast their online experiences to others, rather than talking directly with companies. 13% of online adults who encountered problems conducting online transactions said they shared those experiences on a blog or social networking site — nearly twice as many as in 2008.
At the same time, however, direct communication with a company declined, with 25% of online adults who experience problems conducting online transactions then posting a complaint on a company website (down from 29% in 2008) and 35% of all British online adults contacting a company's call centre after encountering problems using the website in 2009 (down from 42% in 2008).
This shift in consumer behaviour extends the business impact of customer experience issues beyond any single transaction to an overall long-lasting negative impact on brand reputation, the report finds, with 74% of online adults saying negative comments they read online influence their likelihood to do business with a company. Further, the survey reveals that social networking sites can be highly influential, with 51% of online adults saying social media content had directly influenced how they conduct online transactions and 75% of those saying it had affected their choice of vendor.
That said, the survey also found that online adults whose transactions have been influenced by social media content actually respond to positive reviews (35%) more so than negative ones (26%), so good online transaction experiences are amplified online just as much, if not more, than bad.
Worryingly, though, 51% of British adults who contacted a call centre after encountering a website problem were unable to have their issue resolved. And 77% reported that the agent was not knowledgeable about the website or about their particular online problem.
Readers can download the executive summary from Tealeaf's website.