Consumers continue to migrate toward cross-channel purchase behavior, but most are not too happy about the experience. That’s the conclusion of a Forrester Research report on cross-channel customer satisfaction, which defines channel migration behavior of more than 5,400 consumers during 2008.
The report, “How Satisfied Are Shoppers When Moving Across Channels?,” shows that $630 million worth (or 24%) of offline retail sales were influenced by Internet research in 2008, but shoppers also research products in the store and then purchase online. Overall, two-thirds of online consumers engage in some form of cross-channel shopping behavior when purchasing apparel, wireless products, consumer electronics, personal computers, and large appliances. That’s the good news. Forrester found the following areas that clearly need attention:
Cross-channel experiences fell short of single-channel satisfaction. 82% of online consumers report satisfaction with buying experiences that begin and end in a store. However, among consumers who started their shopping experience online before going to the store to buy, satisfaction rates drop to 61%. Similarly, while 61% of online consumers report satisfaction with Web-only purchases, only 56% of consumers are satisfied with their buying experience when whey research in-store and then buy online.
Consumers are more satisfied with online-to-store than other channel transitions. All three types of cross-channel experiences leave room for improving consumer satisfaction, but consumers rated some cross-channel experiences higher than others. Satisfaction for researching online and purchasing in a store was highest at 61%, followed by 56% for store-to-Web and 49% for Web-to-phone. Researching in a store and purchasing online produced the largest discrepancies across purchase categories — a 12% point gap from apparel (58% satisfied) to large appliances (46% satisfied).
Large appliance shopping experiences left consumers the most dissatisfied. Cross-channel shoppers were the least satisfied when researching and purchasing large appliances across channels. This held true whether the shoppers moved from Web to store, store to Web, or Web to phone. Conversely, PC purchase transitions were among the most satisfactory across the board.
The report also found significant differences among age groups. Across all product categories except wireless, Older Boomers were the most satisfied Web-to-store shoppers. The most satisfied in wireless were Seniors, who were also pleased with consumer electronics and PC experiences.
Forrester analyst Adele Sage, author of the report, interpreted that data to mean that seniors have lower expectations because, for most of their lives, using the Web to research considered purchases wasn’t an option. Gen Y consumers’ satisfaction with Web-to-store is low. Their satisfaction scores averaged 13 percentage points lower than Older Boomers across all categories — except apparel. Gen Y consumers take the Web for granted and so expect the Web to be woven as seamlessly into their shopping experiences as it is into their daily lives.
The report recommends three strategies to improve cross-channel customer satisfaction:
Design experiences that support users’ goals. Make sure that you ask and answer the three questions: Who are your users? What are their goals? And how can you help them achieve those goals? The answers to those questions guide the design of interactions that provide users with the content and functionality they need in the channel(s) they use to complete their goals.
Use design personas to guide decision-making. Design personas — user archetypes that represent key user behaviors —contain detailed information on the motivations, goals, and behaviors of target customers. To help support the design of multichannel experiences, some firms create cross-channel scenario maps for personas that show customer paths as they move among channels.
Apply Review Methodology. An important step on the way to improving multichannel experiences is to diagnose usability problems that prevent users from accomplishing their goals. To get started, the report recommends retailers develop a description of their target user, write down a few goals that the user would have, and then try to accomplish those goals using the channels — both individually and in pairs — the way the user would.
This is Forrester’s first look at cross-channel satisfaction. It’s 2007 customer satisfaction study came up big for retailers, who comprised with four of the top five rated companies.