Who Buys TVs and Computers Online?

In honor of Cyber Monday I’m continuing my examination of online shopping.

In my previous post, I showed that U.S. consumers are more satisfied with their experiences of buying computers and TVs in a store than they are when buyimg them online. But who buys these electronics online? To answer that question, I examined the online purchases by age group. As you can see in the chart below:

  • Online is an important channel across all age groups, ranging from 20% of TV purchases by 18 to 24-year-olds to 47% of computer purchases by 25 to 34-year-olds
  • Online is a more important channel for computers than for TVs across all age groups
  • 30-year-olds are the “sweet spot” for online computer purchases while 40-year-olds are the “sweet spot” for online TV purchases

The bottom line: Cyber Monday should be a big day for electronics

2012 Temkin Web Experience Ratings

Temkin Group has just released the 2012
We introduced the Temkin Web Experience Ratings last year. The 2012 Web Experience Ratings include 159 companies from 18 industries and is based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers.

Congratulations to the top firms in this year’s ratings: Amazon, credit unions, USAA, PNC, Southwest Airlines, eBay, Sam’s Club, ShopRite, JCPenney, and ING Direct. Of course, not every company has earned good web experience, especially the companies at the bottom of the 2012 ratings:  Charter Communications, Humana, Qwest, Cigna, Time Warner Cable, Anthem, Road Runner, Medicare, Blue Shield of CA, and TracFone.

We also  examined industry averages and found that banks and investment firms have earned the highest Temkin Web Experience Ratings followed by hotel chains and retailers. But consumers gave very low ratings to Internet service providers, health plans, and TV service providers.

The research also examines how individual companies are rated relative to their industry peers. The following 11 firms outscored their industry average Temkin Web Experience Ratings by 10 percentage points or more: Kaiser Permanente, Amazon, ShopRite, Southwest Airlines, USAA, Starbucks, H.E.B., Publix, credit unions, Marriott, and Apple.

The following 15 companies fell 10 percentage points or more below their industry averages: Wells Fargo Advisors, AAA, Charter Communications, Delta Airlines, Citibank, Bank of America, Humana, TracFone, Qwest, Old Navy, U.S. Airways, Rite Aid, Kohl’s, Kmart, and Charter Communications.

Temkin Group also analyzed changes from the 2011 Temkin Web Experience Ratings. Led by TV service providers and insurance carriers 11 of the 12 industries that were in both the 2011 and 2012 ratings improved since last year.

Seventy-two percent of companies that were in the 2011 and 2012 Temkin Web Experience Ratings showed improvement. Led by Comcast (Internet and TV service), Allstate, AOL, Charter Communications, Toshiba, and Sam’s Club, 20 companies improved by 10 percentage points or more between 2011 and 2012. Only three companies­— Kohl’s, TracFone, and Rite Aid—declined by 10 percentage points or more during that timeframe.

Do you want to see the data? Go to the Temkin Ratings website where you can sort through all of the results for free. You can even purchase the underlying data if you want to get more access.

The bottom line: Web experience is not good enough for how important it is

Report: 2011 Temkin Web Experience Ratings

We just published a new Temkin Group report, 2011 Temkin Web Experience Ratings.

Do you want to know which companies deliver excellent online experiences and which ones leave a lot to be desired? Then this report is for you.

Here’s the executive summary:

Amazon.com, Regions, and USAA took the top spots in the 2011 Temkin Web Experience Ratings. We asked 6,000 US consumers to rate their recent online experience. This data allowed us to rate 119 companies across 12 industries. Only 7% of those companies received a “good” or “very good” Web Experience rating. While there is some diversity at the top of the ratings, TV service providers, Internet service providers, and health plans dominate the bottom of the list. To improve the online experience, companies need to master the entire experience, examining what Temkin Group calls SLICE-B.

Download report for $195

Here’s how the 119 companies ended up in the ratings:

Download report for $195

Are you interested in getting a deeper look at the data? Or do you want to see the differences across age, ethnicity, education, and income segments? Then you should visit Temkin Ratings at www.temkinratings.com.

The bottom line: Web interactions are too valuable to continue wasting with bad experiences.

Report: Online Gift Card Buying Needs Work

We just published a new report, Online Experiences For Buying Gift Cards Need Work.

The report examines the Websites of 12 companies using Temkin Group’s SLICE-B experience review methodology.

Here’s the executive summary:

Gift cards are a popular choice for consumers, especially around the holidays. Almost all major stores and restaurants sell them online. How user-friendly are those online purchasing processes? To answer this question, we used Temkin Group’s SLICE-B methodology to evaluate the experience of 12 large companies: three grocers (Kroger, Publix, and Safeway), three electronics retailers (Apple, Best Buy, and Radio Shack), three department stores (J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, and Macy’s), and three restaurant chains (Applebee’s, Chili’s, and Outback Steakhouse). Outback Steakhouse and Radio Shack were the only sites to receive an “excellent” rating. At the other end of the spectrum, Safeway, Chili’s, Kroger, and Best Buy were at the bottom with “mediocre” ratings. Many of the sites lacked key functionality such as free shipping, sending the cards at a later date, and sending multiple cards in a single order.

Download report for $195

Here are the overall results:

Download report for $195

The bottom line: Make it easier for people to give you money

Report: Evaluating Online Store Locators

We just published a new report, Online Store Locators Miss A Key Part Of The Experience.

The report evaluated the online experience of five large retailers (Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart) and five large banks (Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, US Bancorp, and Wells Fargo) using our SLICE-B experience review methodology. The report has 12 figures which provide details of the reviews and highlights several best practices that we found.

Here’s the executive summary:

Just about every bank and retailer provides a store or branch locator on its site. But how user-friendly are the experiences? Mostly mediocre. Temkin Group evaluated 10 large retailers and banks using its SLICE-B experience review methodology. Wells Fargo ended with the only “excellent” rating and Target was alone at the bottom with a “poor” rating. All of the sites struggle to support user’s goals after they find the nearby stores.

Download report for $195

Here are the overall results from the evaluations:

Download report for $195

The bottom line: Are you doing a good enough job helping people find your locations?

Don’t Let Social CRM Become New Buzzword

What happens when you combine a new buzzword (“social”) with an old buzzword (“CRM”)? You get the opportunity to waste money in entirely new ways.

Many CRM projects failed because they focused on the implementation of technology, not on the core needs of the business. Social CRM has the same potential. That’s why one of the 7 keys to customer experience that I listed in CRM Magazine was “Don’t get too distracted by social media.”

Am I recommending that companies stay away from social media? Absolutely not. Firms definitely need to tap into peer-to-peer and community-centered interactions. But they should focus on a few applications that match their business strategy. If you’re wondering about the spectrum of options, Altimeter Group has posted a list of 18 use cases for social media.

Here are the top social media projects that I recommend for companies (when it comes to customer experience):

  • Social support. Find ways to encourage and enable customers to help other customers; especially when there is significant technical support required. Blend your support people into the dialogue where needed and repurpose good advice into knowledge items that can be repurposed in other channels.
  • Feedback communities. Create online communities of your key customer segments so that you can regularly get feedback on everything from product development ideas to the language used for marketing campaigns. Make sure to actively manage the community.
  • Active listening. Monitor social outlets for early warning of issues and to get deeper insights into problems that you find through other listening posts. Handle this insight as part of a comprehensive, cross-channel voice of the customer (VoC) program.

The best way to defend yourself against negative social media feedback is to give customers a good experience to begin with. This lowers the number of people who might say something bad about you and motivates other customers to come to your defense if they do.

The bottom line: Social CRM represents opportunity, but not a panacea

Improve Web Readability With… Readability

Like most people, I have a backlog of things that I want to read. One of the items on my list was an article by David Pogue in the New York Times in November called “Cleaning Up The Clutter Online.” Pogue highlights a free tool for the Web called Readability that reformats Web pages to makes them significantly easier to read. Here’s some of what Pogue said about Readability

With one click, it eliminates EVERYTHING from the Web page you’re reading except the text and photos. No ads, blinking, links, banners, promos or anything else… The text is also changed to a beautiful font and size… It completely transforms the Web experience, turning your computer into an e-book reader. I think I’m in love.

My take: As a user-centric type of guy, Pogue’s description of Readability grabbed my attention. So I gave it a shot. Wow! The application does a phenomenal job of making sites easier to read. You configure it to meet your needs and voilà! Cluttered Web pages transform into easy-to-read pages.

To give you a sense of what this application can do, here are two screen shots of my previous blog post “7 Keys To Customer Experience In 2010” — before and after I applied the readability application.

The bottom line: Hopefully this is just the start to more usability-improving technologies.

8 Ways To Boost Online Gift Cards

There’s an article in Forbes about how companies like Home Depot, The Container Store, and CVS are adding electronic gift cards to their Websites. Well, it’s about time. It shouldn’t take a lot of analysis to see that gift cards can be a lucrative piece of online functionality. Why wouldn’t you help customers just give you money?!?

If you are deploying online gift cards, here are some ideas for improving the experience:

  1. Merchandise it. Make sure that customers can find a clear path to gift cards from the homepage.
  2. Make it easy to do multiples. Consumers often shop for several people at one time around the holidays, so make the process easy to generate several gift cards in a single session.
  3. Allow flexible amounts. Don’t lock customers into specific amounts for gift cards (which replicates some offline gift cards), since there’s no reason to fit into their budget. 
  4. Schedule delivery. Don’t make customers wait until the day before a key event to buy a gift card. Allow them to buy it any time they want, but schedule delivery for a later date. 
  5. Create delivery options. Some customers may want to send the gift notice directly from the company, but others may want to email it themselves or hand something to the recipient. Think through these options; even consider offering gift cards through the (regular) mail.
  6. Encourage gifting. If your company has a rewards program, think about giving customers some type of credit when they buy gift cards. Otherwise, you may want to offer some other incentives for this highly desirable customer behavior.
  7. Enhance the giftee experience. When someone receives a gift card from your company, it should be the start of a special experience — that fully reinforces your brand. So design the entire experience. A happy recipient will encourage more gifting!
  8. Don’t forget usability.  Poor usability can drag down any gift card offering. Make sure that your gift card functionality is very easy to use. In particular, watch out for the top issues we found in our evaluation of 100’s of Web Sites: text illegibility, inefficient task flow, and obscure privacy/security policies.

The bottom line: Try and capture every gifting opportunity.

Infuse Emotion Into Experience Design

The Web is becoming an increasingly important channel for companies, yet online experiences leave a lot to be desired. Our research shows that most sites have poor usability and they don’t reinforce key brand attributes. That’s why I worked with Ron Rogowski (the primary author) on a research report that created a concept called Emotional Experience Design, which we define as:

Creating interactions that engage users by catering to their emotional needs.

Emotional Experience Design is quite different from today’s functional design:

Forrester Research graphic about Emotional Experience Design

To apply Emotional Experience Design, firms must:

  1. Address customers’ real goals. People may come to a Web site to get service or buy a product, but that’s typically not the beginning or culmination of their journey. The mother of a newborn with stomach problems isn’t going to a site for information about medication; she’s looking for a way to bring comfort to her baby — and maybe get a little relief for herself. If firms want to engage customers, their sites must cater to these deeper customer needs..
  2. Develop a coherent personality. Web sites can feel sterile — devoid of a brand’s human characteristics, which are often apparent in other channels. But firms need their online experiences to do even more than just reinforce their brands; the experiences should enrich them. How? By developing a coherent, consistent personality that customers can easily recognize throughout all interactions.
  3. Engage a mix of senses. Over reliance on text and imagery makes many sites indistinguishable from competitors. Interestingly, most people can’t remember the content of Intel’s commercials, but they can easily imitate the Intel sound.While Web experiences don’t allow users to taste or smell objects, they can and absolutely should engage users’ senses of sight, hearing, and even touch.

The bottom line: It’s time to make emotional connections online.

Good, Old-Fashioned Online Customer Service

I decided to go to the “way back machine” and look at a (very old) report that I wrote in July 2002 called “Mastering Online Customer Experience.” Here’s an excerpt from the report:

Don’t Deploy Technology — Solve Problems. While companies hope that online service will reduce costs, they mistakenly scrutinize individual interactions instead of studying the collection of contacts required to solve a customer’s problem… Firms must monitor interactions from the customer’s point of view — from the inception to resolution of an issue.

Doesn’t that sound like something you could say today?!?

Here’s another piece of the report that’s still relevant; a  graphic that depicts how individuals make decisions about the channels they use for an interaction:

Channel Choices

Customers Explicitly Select Service Channels

The bottom line: Good advice ages well.

Web Satisfaction Snapshot- USAA, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble Top The List

We asked more than 4,500 US consumers about their satisfaction with experiences across 12 different industries: airlines, banks, cell phone service providers, credit card providers, hotels, insurance firms, Internet service providers, investment firms, medical insurance companies, PC manufacturers, retailers, and TV service providers. Our analysis looked at phone, store/branch, and Web interactions.

Satisfaction With Web Interactions

Here are some highlights of consumer feedback on Web interactions. The analysis looked at satisfaction rates at an industry level and changes from last year’s results, examined satisfaction for individual companies, and compared responses across generations of consumers.

  • Highest industry satisfaction: Banks (84%) and credit card providers (84%)
  • Lowest industry satisfaction: Heath plans (66%) and wireless carriers (66%)
  • Most improved industry: Banks (improved 1%)
  • Least improved industry: TV service providers (declined 6%)
  • Highest company satisfaction: USAA (93%), Amazon.com  (93%), Barnes & Noble  (93%), eBay  (92%), Southwest Airlines  (91%), and Hilton Hotels  (91%) 
  • Lowest company satisfaction: Comcast- TV (60%), Sprint (61%), Time Warner Cable (62%), Medicare (62%), Comcast- ISP (62%), and AAA (64%).
  • Most satisfied generation: Seniors were most satisfied for eight of the industries
  • Least satisfied generation: Gen Yers were least satisfied for seven of the industries
  • Largest generation gap: Airlines (Seniors at 91% versus Gen Y at 73%)

The bottom line: What’s it like when customers go to your Websites?

Navigation Plagues Web Experiences

In a recently published research report, I examined the results of more than 1,200 Web Site Reviews that Forrester has completed over the last 10 years. It turns out that Website experiences still need a lot of work. To begin with, 60% of sites ended up with “poor” or “very poor” scores in 2008.

Our expert review grades 25 criteria across four areas: Value, Navigation, Presentation, and Trust. When examining how sites have done in each of these areas, we find that they most often fail the Navigation criteria.

10-years-of-wsr-data_small

Source: 1,212 Website Reviews Completed By Forrester Research

As sites have become more complex, they’ve piled on content and functionality (more Value) which has made it more difficult for users to find what they need. Here are the five criteria which sites failed the most in 2008:

  1. Is text legible? (18% passed)
  2. Is the task flow efficient? (22% passed)
  3. Does the site present privacy and security policies in context? (30% passed)
  4. Do page layouts use space effectively? (31% passed)
  5. Are category and subcategory names clear and mutually exclusive? (34% passed)

The bottom line: Firms should consider an “ultrasimplicity” strategy.

Experiences That Satisfy Consumers, 2009

I just published a report called The Experiences That Satisfy Consumers, 2009 that examines consumer satisfaction with Web, phone, and in-person experiences. My analysis looked at more than 100 companies across 12 industries. Here’s an overview of the results:

interactionsatisfaction_small

Only hotels and investment firms cross over the 80% satisfaction mark in every channel, while health insurance plans and TV service providers don’t even make it to 70% in any channel.

The report also analyzed changes from last year, differences across generations of consumers, and satisfaction levels for individual companies. As I did with last year’s report, I’ll create separate posts to examine satisfaction with Web interactions, phone interactions, and in-person interactions.

The bottom line: Consumers aren’t as satisfied as they should/could be.

Off Topic: Ushadidi May Improve The World

At this year’s the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference, which always provides a glimpse into the future, one of the projects mentioned was Ushadidi — a “crowd sourcing” mobile phone platform. This platforms allows individuals to report and confirm activities in a specific region. Their collective input — through mobile phone, email, or the Web — provides a real-time depiction of what’s going on.  According to co-founder Erik Hersman:

We have the capacity to report eye-witness accounts in real time. There is information overload. We think we can tap into the crowd to get a better understanding of the probability of something being true.

Here’s the Ushadi implementation for tracking atrocities in the Congo:

0902_ushadidi_congo

My take: I have two angles of feedback on this: the technology and the social impact. Let me start with the simple observation, this is cool technology. This effort combines some very interesting things: the collection of diverse data feeds, social technologies for validating information, and rich Internet technology to support visualization, analysis, and drill-down.

Now on to the social benefits. News from around the world is tainted by controlling governments, partisan journalists, and a lack of credible data. So people (and governments) form their opinions based on less-than-reliable anecdotes. In this environment of unreliable information, genocides like Darfur, Rwanda, and the Holocaust are allowed to continue. If people around the world have accurate information about these situations, their collective outrage will hopefully serve as an enormous deterrent in the future.

There are also some other potential benefits to society. We’ve heard a lot about the outbreak of diseases like bird flu and SARS around the world. Real-time information about patients and symptoms would help to alert medical experts about the the spread and severity of those diseases.

The bottom line: I’m rooting for the Ushadidi project to succeed.

Chosing The Right Design Agency, Miami Style

Earlier this week, I spoke at the Internet Retailer Web Design Conference in Miami. The venue, the Fountainebleau, was spectacular and the event was great. There was a lot of good insights for online retailers. And at every gathering spot like meal tables, I found an open flow of tips, tricks, and best practices being shared amongst previous strangers.

My speech was called “Choosing The Right Design Partner.” The other speaker for the session was Bill Kane, who was previously the VP of IMS & Web Development for 1800mattress where revamped the 1800mattress.com site with the help of TELLUS.

0901_internetretailer_4_lrg

I started by comparing design agencies to Harvey Dent, the hero turned villain (“Two-Face”) in Batman. My point was that design agencies can be very helpful, but there’s no guarantee of success unless you actively manage the entire lifecycle of the relationship.

I shared Forrester’s WAVE methodology for evaluating design agencies which looks at firms’ current offering, strategy, and market presence; showing results from our Q2 2007 evaluation, but not harping on the results since we are in the middle of another evaluation.

I spent most of my time discussing our approach to evaluating the firms’ current offerings. By looking at the results from our evaluations of agencies’ usability, branding, and personas, I made the case that none of the firms are anywhere near perfect and even the better agencies don’t do a great job ALL of the time.

Then I gave my advice on how to manage the relationship after you’ve selected an agency. The most important point is that you need to have a strong project manager assigned to the project in your firm (as well as a strong one from the agency).

Bill Kane followed my speech with his lessons learned in building a site that supports 1800mattress’ multichannel environment. He reiterated the importance of active management on the client side of a project. Bill’s now a consultant out on his own and he’s got great experience implementing large-scale multichannel projects. Contact him if you need help: wkane1@aol.com.

Here’s a copy of the presentation: Choosing The Right Design Partner (.pdf).

Besides the content stuff, the trip had some other highlights. I got to have dinner with my brother-in-law and his friends at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink which was a lot of fun. I also caught up with some Forrester clients at the event, which was also great. But the coolest part of the trip was watching Obama’s inauguration speech. Internet Retailer showed the speech on the large screens in the main ballroom and served lunch to us at our seats. It was fun to share the moment with several hundred other people.

The bottom line: Kudos to Internet Retailer for a great event.

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