E-Commerce Glitches Go Unreported — and Retailers Pay the Price
In the past year, retailers have quickly ramped up their e-commerce offerings, but they still have a blind spot: when shoppers stumble on obstacles along the path to purchase, they’re unlikely to ask for help. As a result, sellers are losing out on big opportunities.
That’s the surprising truth revealed by new consumer research from digital experience intelligence leader FullStory, which surveyed 1,500 Americans in June about their online preferences and opinions.
The survey found that digital-first experiences are here to stay, with 81 percent of consumers planning to continue or even increase their frequency of shopping online. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that e-commerce sales jumped by 39 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. Consumers will continue to rely on the web for product research and hybrid services such as buy online, pick up in-store even as they add in-person shopping back into their routines.
The survey also revealed that digital frustrations are common and costly. Nearly two in three respondents (64 percent) reported frustration while trying to complete a transaction. And when they encounter these problems, 77 percent simply abandon transactions.
Flaws in digital interactions have lasting negative impacts for retail brands, with 60 percent of respondents saying they’re unlikely to return to a website when they encounter issues. And nearly two-thirds, 65 percent, say that these frustrations erode brand trust.
Worse, brands are often unaware of these user frustrations; a mere 12 percent of respondents said they’re “very likely” to provide feedback when errors occur. This data suggests that only loyalists already invested in a brand’s success will flag problems and keep coming back. (Enraged customers complain as well, of course, but are also less likely to give a brand a second chance.)
The message is clear: to achieve continued growth and engagement in the all-important digital realm, retailers need to do more than wait for shoppers to alert them to website and app problems. Instead, they should take a proactive stance that includes the following tactics:
1. Don’t overlook mobile experiences.
When asked to describe what makes a good online experience, the ability to "quickly accomplish what I came to do" was far and away the most popular choice for respondents, at 83 percent. Ease of interactions with forms was the second most important factor, selected by 64 percent of respondents, with safety and security ranking a close third at 63 percent. As a corollary, the most frustrating problems respondents cited were site glitches such as broken buttons and cut-off content, forms that didn't work, and missing pages — all of which are issues that plague small-screen experiences on mobile devices in particular.
Given the growing importance of hybrid shopping, where mobile serves as an intermediary between research at home and in-store interactions, retailers should invest heavily in testing their mobile cart, checkout, store pickup, loyalty club functions, and coupon redemption processes. They should also provide fast, free in-store Wi-Fi and test mobile web and app speeds to prevent shoppers from feeling marooned.
2. Track implicit distress signals.
Given that so few shoppers, especially those new to a brand, pause to send feedback when they encounter website or app problems, retailers need new tools at their disposal. Using detection tools that flag indicators such as “rage clicks” — i.e., when shoppers repeatedly try a particular button or link — can help retailers proactively identify and fix site problems. On mobile devices, metrics such as scroll depth and “pinch to zoom” enlargement of images can indicate problems with small-screen presentation.
By tracking “rage clicks,” beauty brand Younique was able to quantify the impact of a problem in the shopping cart — an unclickable label titled “update” that looked like a button and was derailing the purchase process. Removing the label contributed to a 14 percent decrease in time to check out.
3. Fix the “unknown unknowns.”
You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. With decades of analytics expertise, retailers are committed to digital troubleshooting. In fact, FullStory’s survey shows that retail received the highest ratings for positive online experiences. However, retailers will need to look beyond what they know from traditional analytics in order to move from good to great.
New digital experience intelligence tools allow retailers to collect, structure, and analyze all digital experience data on their websites, mobile sites and mobile apps. While traditional site experimentation should begin with a hypothesis, looking at this digital data without preconception or assumption can reveal hidden truths that might otherwise remain below the radar. Questions like, “Do you see any anomalies in your data? Are shoppers behaving differently than expected? Does anything surprise you?” can reveal blind spots in the digital experience — and important opportunities to improve.
A Proactive Approach is Key to Continued Growth
As retail continues to evolve through the uncertainty of the pandemic and heads into the sprint of the year-end season, brands that have seen accelerated online growth in the past year will have to work harder than ever to capitalize on their success. With most digital purchase hurdles going unreported by shoppers, retailers must step up their proactive measures to improve site and app experiences, detect glitches, and resolve problems to not only save sales, but build lasting brand trust.
Kirsten Newbold-Knipp is the chief marketing officer of FullStory, a digital experience analytics platform.
Kirsten Newbold-Knipp is the CMO of FullStory, a powerful digital experience intelligence platform that helps e-commerce, SaaS and digitally-powered brands create better online experiences for their customers.
Newbold-Knipp previously served as Convey’s Chief Marketing Officer/VP. Passionate about building successful teams from the ground-up, she has worked at companies ranging from the Ritz Carlton and Intel to Hubspot and Gartner. Kirsten is an animal lover, a wine enthusiast, and a polyglot. In her spare time, she volunteers as a Marketing Advisor to Austin Pets Alive, mentors students at MIT Sloan, and co-owns two companies.