Infographic: Online Retailers' $44 Billion Customer Experience Problem

HP online shop

Have you ever tried to buy a computer online? Head to HP and you'll be swamped with options. Do I want a laptop for everyday computing? Ultra-portability? High performance? Envy? Oh, what's Envy? On Dell's shop, you'll find more of the same: a slew of laptops offering "uncompromised performance" or "best-in-class performance" or "style and performance." What's the difference?

Shoppers are bombarded with confusing choices like these every day, and online retailers are paying the price. According to a new study by Harris Interactive and Tealeaf, retailers may have lost as much as $44 billion last year due to bad online customer experiences. The statistics illustrated in the accompanying infographic below are alarming; unfortunately, they're overshadowed by the graphic's poor design—an odd mix of iPads, high heels, and Microsoft Word-like clipart—which perhaps demonstrates just how difficult it is to create an effective user experience.

"There's huge opportunities for people to improve this and make a lot more money," says Geoff Galat, VP of global marketing at Tealeaf. Galat points to companies such as Amazon and Apple which have made an art of online retail. "Apple has simplified the process and made every part of the user experience as elegant it can be. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he is 'relentlessly focused' on customer experience."

With shoppers spending more than $144 billion online every year, it's no wonder Apple and Amazon are obsessed with perfecting their purchasing experiences. According to the study, when faced with a problem, close to a third of online shoppers choose to abandon the transaction entirely, rather than, say, trying again or contacting customer service.

"Many companies follow, for lack of a better term, the 'shiny object,'" explains Galat. "The bells and whistles: adding some widget, or fancy video, or Flash, or real-time Twitter feed with customer feedback. But the biggest players out there—the Amazon's, the Best Buy's, the Zappos's—they don't really have that stuff."

The key, he says, is having a simplified, streamlined user experience.

"If you're dealing with an insurance company or bank, you're not going to switch companies because of one bad transaction," explains Galat. But with a bad online customer experience, "all I have to do is hit the back button and I'm right back at Google with thousands of other options selling the same thing."

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  • Christine Maingard

    So true. Why bother figuring out a way through the maze of a site that leaves one confused and overwhelmed? Too much choice, too much on the screen, too much marketing jargon and all-too-often not enough information about the things that really matter. I have abandoned sites because I couldn't find information about the most basic question: how much does this cost? Usability indeed seems an alien concepts for many online retailers/service providers.

    But I can't help but wonder if the estimated $44 billions are truly 'lost'. Purchasers abandon one site only to find a better one that is easier to navigate and offers the right information. So in the end, I would imagine that a lot, if not most of the money still is spent. One seller's loss, another's gain! I would love to know the cost to the consumer because of lost time. 120,008,363 online shoppers times x hours x hourly rate...the mind boggles.

    Christine Maingard, Author of "Think Less, Be More" -

  • Hristo Malchev

    Agree with everything you say with a small addition to the last thought - those millions of shoppers may have wasted tons of time having to look for other online retailers but they were probably still better off than if they had to go to the mall instead... unless they actually chose to do that.

  • Mark Norman

    I completely agree with the issue behind this graphic. I see it all the time! Yuck. A lot of marketers seem to be okay with glossing over their products as the be all end all, when that's not always the case. In this example, it's okay to admit that netbooks are not as good with video as the "performance" machines. Customers can see through this and it ends up wasting their time. Like banner ads, they'll scroll right past YOUR message and straight to the user reviews, which may or may not be reliable.

    A lot of improvement can be done in this area!