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Dashboard: Online Failures Impact Loyalty Offline

Customer Web site experiences are universally dreadful.

Customer Web site experiences are universally dreadful, according to a recent Harris poll of online consumers. Among a nationwide sample of 2,790 U.S. adults 18 or older who had used shopping, banking, travel or insurance Web sites, 88 percent said they experienced problems online.

Among results that should give mixed-channel marketers pause, 85 percent of respondents said they expect their online experience to be the same as their offline experience, and 32 percent said they'd switch providers if they experienced one problem. Customers were just as likely to drop presumably "sticky" relationships, such as those with banks and insurance companies, as they were less relationship-oriented e-businesses, such as retail stores.

What does the report add up to? Seriously ineffective Web sites. "There's frustration and a lack of loyalty," says Rebecca Ward, president of TeaLeaf Technologies, a Web analytics vendor and sponsor of the study.

Hundreds of respondents submitted vignettes of bad online experiences, most concerning failed, inaccurate or incomplete transactions, endless loops in navigation or an inability to simply check out at retail sites.

Such experiences reflect badly not just on Web sites but on the brands behind those sites--91 percent of respondents who experienced any type of problem in an online transaction said they are at least somewhat likely to question the ability of that company to keep their private data secure. --Penny Crosman