October 10, 2004

CRM Daily: The New Look of E-Commerce: The Customer Experience:

(Note: I've added links where I thought they added value...as good WEB authors should.)

"Usability testing is now a regular part of e-commerce development in retail, banking and financial services and is gaining ground in other sectors. Still, some industry verticals are slow to get the message.

'The auto makers tend to be slaves to their offline ad campaigns,' says Manning. 'They'll do things like design beautiful sites that don't help customers make a buying decision, then pat themselves on the backs when the latest J.D. Power survey confirms that customers do indeed think they have beautiful sites. But who cares? Do they want to win art contests or generate leads for dealers?'

Forrester and other analyst firms are promoting customer experience as a bottom-line issue, which is driving a universal acceptance of usability as a legitimate business metric from the CFO downward. Web managers who underestimate the importance of good Web usability will suffer the consequences -- competitor sites are within easy reach of today's Web surfer.

Competitive Pressure
Many firms are demanding that their ad agencies or Web boutiques, which typically lack in-house usability experts, conduct usability studies on their site development projects. These traditional print and Web-marketing consultancies are looking outside to meet their client's needs for including usability as part of Web-development offerings.

Increased Revenue
Studies have shown that adherence to usability standards and guidelines can drastically improve the revenue potential of a Web site. Customer conversion rates can increase between 30 and 50 percent following a usability intervention. Revenue can increase 50 to 100 percent or more on retail e-commerce Web sites.

For example, RVSearch.com, a retail vehicle-listing Web site, saw an 83 percent increase in consumer-listing conversion rates after usability research was used to re-design the site.

"In the first month, we saw revenue double -- a 100 percent increase in sales. Renewals were up 13 percent in the post-site-deployment period," said David Scifres, vice president of e-commerce for the Affinity Group, the parent company of the site.

"After six months, consumer-listing sales increased by 200 percent, which we attribute to the usability driven re-design. This translates into a four times increase in consumer revenue," he told NewsFactor.

Independent research also is showing more compelling reasons to make calculated and precise shifts in site enhancement or re-design. Stanford Research'songoing large-scale study regarding perception of credibility on the Web shows that ease of use is the top contributing factor to perceived credibility of Web sites.