By Angela Dorizas

SYDNEY: Online retailing recorded the second highest satisfaction rating in the 2008 Australia and New Zealand Customer Experience Report conducted by StollzNow Research and sponsored by customer relationship management software provider, RightNow Technologies.

Over 1,000 research participants indicated their level of satisfaction in dealing with seven industries: telecommunications, utilities, insurance, online retail, internet service providers (ISPs), travel and hospitality, and finance.

Online retailing received an overall satisfaction rating of 82 per cent, following very closely behind travel and hospitality (85 per cent). Only 30 per cent of survey participants reported poor customer service within the online retailing space.

If this survey is an indication, the trend towards online shopping looks set to continue, with 54 per cent of respondents planning to make more purchases. Price is no longer the driving force behind online retail growth. Of those surveyed, 44 per cent of customers said they shop online because it is convenient.

“It is not all about delivering competitive prices,” said StollzNow quantitative director Neil Stollznow.

“The driver of online retailing is convenience rather than price.”

Customer retention, however, is largely determined by price. Of those interviewed, 52 per cent said they would continue business with an online retailer if it offered a cheap product.

Despite its relatively high customer satisfaction level, online retailing does have its drawbacks. Within the survey, 63 per cent of participants reported a lack of transparency about delivery charges. Other respondents complained about the lack of product information (45 per cent) and the inability to ask questions during the buying process (42 per cent).

Online retailers need to combine convenience with “real world shopping” attributes, Stollznow said. Enabling customers to ask questions is essential to best practice online retailing.

“That is the essence of a real world interaction. That is how a sale is made,” Stollznow added.

International case studies reveal that personalised services improve the online shopping experience, said Getprice managing director Chris Hitchen.

“Live chat, customer support numbers, multiple payment and delivery options, a clear refunds and returns policy, in-store pick-up options for multi-channel retailers and communication throughout the delivery process would all make a difference to customer satisfaction levels,” Hitchen told Current.

“Some level of personalisation for customers is an important part of customer satisfaction. If you walk into a physical retail outlet and they recognise you and remember something about you your experience is likely to be better than if you are shopping as a stranger. It is the same online.”

The inability to track customer retention is another pitfall of online retailing. According to the StollzNow report, 70 per cent of research participants said the online retailer was unaware it had lost their business and 86 per cent said the retailer did not try to win them back.

According to Hitchen, tracking customers online should be straight forward.

“It is relatively simple for online retailers to attribute sales and new customer sign-ups to the source and tag that customer in order to monitor lifetime value over time,” Hitchen said.

“There are various analytical tools available that track this and it is well worth investing the time in setting it up.”