Effect on Customers from Poor Website Experience

“Good website practice and optimizing for conversion usually makes for good search engine optimization. These work together to ensure you drive quality traffic and can persuade that traffic to help you meet your business goals.” – Marc Ostrofsky

Until some time back, a website was thought of as a simple marketing tool – a place that provided potential customers with information about the company. It was not associated with garnering interest and as a channel to turn potential leads to actual business. All that has changed now – a poor website experience has a profound effect on customers – must we add negative effect. A website is now a representation or ‘face’ of what a customer can expect from the company – the quality of its products and services, the professionalism of the company, how successful the company is, and the direction the company seems to be taking. Given that a website is now representative of the ‘soul’ of a company, a poor experience on it can only have a negative effect on customers.

The sad part is that a company with a poorly done website could in reality, be a great company. However, since the good qualities of a company do not come through from a poor website experience, prospective customers and ‘visitors’ tend to believe that the company is not worth spending time and money on. We know that customer perception becomes their reality. The effect on customers from a poor website experience is unfortunately instantaneous and lasting, leading to a drop in credibility and ‘attractiveness’ of a company. An obsolete design, stale content, passé functionality, and other such factors will ensure that visitors never return to the website, and the company. A poor website experience will for sure always send an inaccurate message about and will falsely represent a company.

The effect on customers from such an experience can potentially ruin a company – the top message that ‘visitors’ get is the company would be lousy and would have sloppy customer service. We know that consistently high quality customer service is one of the top expectations of customers, but with a poor website experience, even a company with great service would suffer the consequences. Customers would expect that the first point of connecting – the website of a company – would be representative of the company’s customer service, and research reveals that at least 78% people have stopped a transaction mid-way because they had a poor website experience. Existing customers may provide feedback on the company’s website, but the much larger chunk of prospective customers would instantly be put off if the website had incorrect contact details, problems in navigation, the absence of crucial information, old and irrelevant content and other such issues.

A poor website does not only have a negative effect on customers – even prospective employees might have second thoughts about such a company. Great talent is hard to find as it is – with a poor first time ‘experience’ with a company, the top talent in the market will most likely not consider working with such a company. Worse still, such ‘visitors’ might openly trash a company’s website, leading to a lot more negative attention to the flaws of the company. Top talent today expects to work in a company that looks and sounds professional – the work culture must be inclusive and happy, and the company must be highly respected in the market. However, a poor website experience could easily negate all the strengths of a company, ensuring that great talent runs in the opposite direction.

The reason that a poor website experience has such a profound and negative effect on customers is the standard expectations that they have from any website. Easy navigation and instant information is what customers seek – especially since an increasing number of searches are being conducted on-the-go, via smart devices. A website that fails to match up and ‘perform’ consistently across all devices, will have a much higher abandon rate, and would see a decline in the visitors. What makes matters worse for a company is that a poor website experience even on a single occasion can permanently change a customer’s impression of a brand, making them less inclined to buy – the willingness to make any future purchases with the company declines drastically. Research shows that 86% customers that experienced a good website – easy navigation and no delays – they were more likely to buy, as opposed to only 45% customers continuing to buy with even delay of 5 seconds. We know that customers are impatient and expect a certain standard of service and performance – anything less than their expectations is usually ‘written off’ – almost forever.

Other effects on customers from poor website experience are that they lose faith in the quality, service, and trustworthiness of a company, and these poor impressions radiate outward, affecting the impressions of a much larger group of people. Online negativity spreads extremely rapidly and can potentially damage a company, much before the company would have time to respond and take corrective action. Irrespective of the reasons for poor website experience, which could be many, customers are unlikely to return to such a website. It is the responsibility of a company to check continually on the efficacy of their website to ensure that customers do not have a tough time navigating through it due to inconsistent performance. The effect on customers of such poor experiences on a company’s website is always so profoundly negative since a website is essentially the ‘face’ of the company and is the first ‘place’ people visit to know more about a company.  A poor experience on the website means their impression of the company would be negative too – even without actually making personal contact with it.

A survey revealed that at least 65% of online shoppers refuse to shop on a website that performs poorly, leading to frustrating experiences. This is despite the fact that it could be the site of their most favoured brand – this is ample evidence that poor website experience does have a negative effect on customers. Companies could be losing potentially 65% of their business online due to a badly performing site – that is a sordid waste that easily be prevented. Given that a poor website design and experience discourages buying for even favoured brands means that no company / brand is immune to the negative effect on customers because of a bad website. No matter how well established a brand may be offline, how much advertising and promotional activities it may engage in to attract and interest customers, without a well-functioning and designed website, none of these factors would matter. The website must match and reflect what a company would like to ‘say’ about its brand, in order to be effective and find success.

Companies seem to be getting a grasp over what a good website and experience is about, and hence are now taking a more holistic and unique approach toward this end. Smart companies are ensuring that their strategies give customers the desired experienced through all the touch-points, starting with the website. They use tools to measure and monitor real-time customer experiences, and consistently strive to improve those experiences, beginning with a great website experience. The bottom line is that customers hate waiting, and are unforgiving of poor experiences – and when they experience both these aspects at the start of an association – through a poor website – they are unlikely to form an association with the company, depriving it of a significant amount of revenue and long-term profits.

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