Guest Column | June 21, 2022

An Inside Look At Consumer Psychology; Are You Serving Up These Most Frustrating Consumer Experiences?

By Matthew Furneaux, Logate

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With the growing demand for online shopping accelerated by the pandemic and businesses in nearly every sector adjusting to the new normal, retail has reached a tipping point. And yet, simply having an online presence isn’t enough. Fierce competition and unpredictable global economic forces, create new challenges for online retailers as they aim to emulate the in-store shopping experience online, from cart to door.

To help retailers overcome this challenge, our team collaborated with the psychology department at Goldsmiths University and neuroscientist, and author of Sort Your Brain Out, Dr. Jack Lewis, to measure how our brains and bodies respond to online shopping experiences. The study observed a range of scenarios that could cause frustration, defining frustration as the emotional state a consumer experiences when trying to reach a goal only to encounter an obstacle that temporarily or permanently thwarts their progress.

Study participants were fitted with 64 electrodes, evenly distributed across their scalp surface, helping psychologists and neuroscientists “eavesdrop” on the mass action of millions of electrical messages being sent from one part of the brain to another at over 200 mph.

So which retail experiences left consumers so frustrated that they avoided returning to that online retailer?

  1. A delivery arriving too late for an important event, despite paying extra to receive it on time.
  2. Spending an hour queuing online for tickets to an event, - only to have the website crash when it’s time to pay.
  3. Having a delivery returned because the consumer’s address couldn’t be found.
  4. After waiting all day for an online furniture purchase to be delivered, the retailer pushes back the expected delivery date.
  5. Not knowing if a purchase went through when clicking to confirm a purchase and a spinning wheel appears.

Three of the top five frustrations come down to inaccurate address data or lost and late delivery. Anecdotally, when asked to recall which scenarios they found particularly annoying from the experiment, participants most often cited delivery problems, suggesting how prevalent these are in their everyday lives.

Avoiding Customer Frustration: Building Blocks for Success

Fortunately, the most common eCommerce failures are avoidable. With that in mind, these four best practices can help retailers avoid top consumer frustrations.

  1. Understand what customers truly want. While it might seem that slashing prices is the way to a customer's heart, it might not be entirely true. Research shows that 44% of consumers who have a poor checkout experience won’t return, meaning that the devil is in the details for retailers seeking customer loyalty. After all, attractive products can only go so far.
  2. Put the right technology in place. With competition at an all-time high, a strong eCommerce core is vital. By focusing on the key areas such as customer support, payment technology, security and data privacy, and accurate address capture and verification, retailers will have the right pillars in place for success and can concentrate on dazzling customers.
  3. Be open to change. Retail websites can always be improved. The phrase ‘job done’ simply doesn’t exist. Forty-two percent of purchases on mobile phones are abandoned, 38% on laptops, and 36% on tablets. If every retailer were to convert these percentages into exact figures, it would send shockwaves through the industry. While every missed sale can’t be attributed to an inadequate website, making the necessary changes to ensure every transaction is a smooth experience can go a long way.
  4. Don’t check out at the checkout. A customer’s experience doesn’t stop until the goods they purchased are in hand. A fantastic product achieves nothing without a seamless delivery experience. Accurate address capture and verification can be the difference between failure and success. For 36% of consumers, better address capture and verification is the best way to improve online checkout.

The extremely frustrating scenarios in the experiment were found to cause strong revulsion in the minds of consumers, suggesting customers who have a poor experience leave with their brains telling them to actively avoid returning to that online retailer again. When people experience extreme frustration with a specific brand or online retailer, the expression “once bitten, twice shy” springs to mind. In most cases, they simply won’t return.

The science of retail frustration doesn’t have an easy solution, of course. However, retailers should never lose sight of the fundamentals when it comes to building an effective online presence.

About the Author

Matthew Furneaux is a location technology veteran with over 20 years of experience in helping global businesses reach their customers globally. As director of location intelligence at Loqate, a GBG company, Furneaux is responsible for strategy and innovation. He is also a retail and eCommerce expert and while at Loqate, has worked with leading eCommerce brands including Nordstrom, Sephora, Kohl’s, Ralph Lauren, and Michaels. Before joining GBG, Matthew cofounded Global Address (later acquired by Trillium Software) and helped to create a single platform model for a global location validation service.