Survey: A Quarter of Online Purchase Efforts Fail

FRAMINGHAM (03/07/2000) - More than half of 80 million Internet users have become online shoppers, yet surprising numbers of their attempts to buy something online fail, according to a Boston Consulting Group Inc. study released today.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that 28% of consumers' purchase efforts "failed" when they couldn't find the products they wanted, couldn't finish their transactions or didn't complete their purchases to their satisfaction.

The BCG study is based on surveys of roughly 12,000 North American consumers, including 10,000 who have made purchases online. The poll was conducted during the fourth quarter of last year.

Among the 43% of all shoppers who experienced failed purchases, the most commonly cited problems were "pages took so long to load" that users gave up (48%) and "the site was so confusing" that they couldn't find what they wanted (45%) (see below).

Not having the desired product available or in stock (32%) and system crashes (26%) also caused considerable trouble.

The BCG study found that, on average, consumers expected a site's home page to load within 13.2 sec. They expected to be able to find a product within 5.8 min., to complete an online order form within 4.5 min. and to receive shipments within 6.4 days.

"Consumers have these expectations about what the online shopping experience is going to provide that they've taken from the off-line world, and if retailers don't meet those expectations, they're going to have problems," said BCG consultant Eric Yolles.

More than a quarter of the shoppers who have suffered failed purchase attempts (28%) said they stopped shopping at the Web site where they had problems, and 6% said they stopping buying from that particular company's off-line store.

"If you're a retailer with a bricks-and-mortar operation, you can't ignore the fact that if you provide an unsatisfying online experience, it's going to impact your physical location as well," Yolles warned.

Retailers can take heart that 57% of Internet users have shopped online and 51% have purchased goods or services. The typical online buyer completed 10 transactions and spent $460 online over a one-year period.

Consumers tend to have favorite sites - the study showed that most users visit less than 10 sites on a regular basis.

BCG consultant David Pecaut cautioned that sites must recognize that today's average user isn't very experienced and that many Internet shoppers are amateurs. BCG divides the online population into three classes: pioneers, who have been online for three years or more (23.2 million); early followers, who have been online for more than a year but less than three (39.6 million); and "first of the masses," who have gone online within the last year.

Incidence of Online Purchasing Problems

% of online shoppers experiencing these problems sometimes or frequentlyPages took so long to load that I gave up 48% Site was so confusing that I couldn't find product 45% Desired product was not available/in stock 32%System crashed (got logged off) before completion 26% Had to contact customer service 20% Product took much longer than expected to arrive 15% Returned the product 10% Site would not accept credit card 9% Tried and failed to contact customer service 8% Site made unauthorized charges to credit card 5% Ordered product which never arrived 4% Wrong product arrived and couldn't return it 4% Source: Boston Consulting Group

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