Even though connecting with customers digitally has become critical since consumers and B2B buyers shifted more purchasing online during the pandemic, customers frequently report disappointing experiences with retail web sites and marketplaces as well as with brands’ e-Commerce sites.
Research conducted by Forrester Consulting for Bloomreach, reported in The State of Commerce Experience, found that almost 80% of B2C and B2B customers have abandoned intended purchases because sites did not provide easy navigation, relevant search results or clear product information. Respondents report that if they could have a better experience, 40% of consumers and 56% of B2B buyers said they would be willing to pay more.
The current moment represents a time when digital commerce has never provided more opportunity: 70% of consumers and B2B decision makers reported that COVID-19 caused them to make more online purchases than usual, and 90% changed their shopping behaviors — avoiding physical stores, scaling back discretionary shopping and purchasing online as much as possible. Half of customers shopped digital channels for products they’ve never bought online before, with consumers buying groceries, household products and toys, while B2B customers purchased supplies, health and safety equipment, and IT hardware.
Sellers Minimize Upside With Poor CX
If retailers, brands and B2B sellers want to capitalize on the seismic shift to digital channels, however, Forrester’s report shows that they have work to do.
The study found that 65% of consumer and B2B buyers conduct digital research before they go to a physical store. However, 65% of consumers and 79% of B2B customers find the process of researching and purchasing online to be challenging due to inaccurate search results, poor or missing imagery, lack of reviews or ratings and inflexible delivery options.
Nearly all (98%) business decision makers agree that not providing a seamless customer experience has business implications, including decreased Net Promoter Scores (49%), reduced customer visits (48%), and lost revenues or market share to direct competitors (44%).
Despite this near-universal belief, many e-Commerce sites lack the basic functionality customers expect. Among decision makers in charge of e-Commerce or customer experience, only 57% said their sites offer an autofill search box that anticipates customers’ queries; 52% offer the ability to refine search results by price, brand, style or other product attributes; and just 49% said their sites were easy to navigate.
Online Capabilities Predict Post-COVID Health
Forrester conducted three online surveys for the report. Two surveys in March included one of buyers — 640 adult consumers and B2B buyers who make business purchases online — and a second survey of 320 executives overseeing digital campaigns, online experiences and/or e-Commerce programs and technology purchases. Both studies included respondents from the U.S., UK and Germany. A third survey was added after the pandemic prompted lockdowns, travel restrictions and changes in online buying behaviors. In April, Forrester contacted 315 consumers and B2B buyers and 50 business decision makers who had participated in the original survey
Findings from the follow-up survey indicated that a company’s level of online activity in March correlated with healthy finances in April: 40% of the business decision makers responding in April said their businesses had grown as online sales spiked, and 6% said they were seeing unprecedented growth. “This growth is a direct consequence of increased online activity,” the report said.
Before COVID-19, digital decision makers said they were planning to increase budgets devoted to third-party online marketplaces (68%), wholesale distribution (66%) and their own company’s web site (65%). Since the pandemic, budgets have been reallocated to the companies’ web sites (64%), mobile apps (58%) and social media (52%). Notably, the percentage of respondents who planned to increase budgets for mobile apps pre-COVID was only 45%.
The biggest gap between pre-COVID and post-COVID investment plans related to physical retail stores. Pre-COVID, more than half (52%) of respondents were planning to boost budgets for stores; afterward, less than one-quarter (24%) planned to increase that budget.