Online Retailers Deliver the Goods
Whether they’re looking for 14-karat gold rings or 14-bit drill sets, consumers are flocking in record numbers to the Internet to buy products. The question is, can Web retailers handle the increasingly heavy traffic effectively?
Last year, cyber-shopping went from marginal to mainstream, as 73 percent of consumers bought products online, according to a survey by AT&T. And by next year, global Web sales are expected to reach $51.6 billion, according to a survey by Jupiter Media Metrix, a research firm.
As technology improves and consumers become more comfortable buying online, the number of Internet shoppers likely will increase, too. In fact, 54 percent of those who didn’t shop online last year said they would this year, according to the AT&T survey. Indeed, today’s challenge for Internet retailers is not so much getting customers to their sites, it’s getting them to come back.
Online Shoppers Are Making Demands
As noted, a growing number of consumers embrace the idea of shopping on the Web, but other studies show that buyers are not accepting shoddy online service.
For example, the AT&T survey found that 47 percent of respondents said Web sites loaded too slowly; 35 percent didn’t know where to go to buy what; and 33 percent said they couldn’t reach a customer service rep when they had questions about something they saw online.
Many consumers also had complaints about back-end operations, which includes tasks such as order-taking, payment processing, packing, shipping and inventory control. In fact, 38 percent were upset because the items they wanted were out of stock and 20 percent were turned off because items didn’t arrive on time.
In addition, about half said they wanted to see more user-friendly Web sites; 45 percent said they wanted to see items guaranteed to be in stock; and 38 percent wished for assurances of on-time delivery.