How exactly is website usability, customer retention and brand perception linked?Submitted by admin on Mon, 06/02/2003 - 04:48 Posted in
On the web, customer retention can be defined as whether or not a customer decides to return to a website. In terms of metrics, this can be quantified as the number of customers who a) intend to return and b) intend to purchase again from the website.
Understanding "intention of return and return purchase" hedges on one action: the decision the user makes based on their experience with the site, during and immediately after the session. Let's start by decomposing the user experience and notice what happens at each stage leading to that decision.
Thinking and Feelings involved in the intention to return purchase
Does your website answer each of those questions with a "yes"? How about your competitors? How about your competitors compared to your site?
Online it is easy for users to compare between sites. As a result, customer retention is volatile.
User experience drives brand perception online. It is this awareness that research firms in the last few years like Forrester, Jupiter, Gomez, Gartner and others have carved out an entire industry niche, offering user experience analysis and reports to their clients. The point is clear: usability is no longer a "nice to have", instead it is an essential component of profit and ROI (return on investment).
How users decide to return to a site is dependent on several factors. Some of these factors are so pervasive they characterize the Internet user experience itself. Intention to return can be influenced by novelty of merchandise, highly desired content, long term history with a brand, perceived scarcity of the product, a sense of convenience, or the cost associated with switching loyalty. However, none of those factors are fixed. How many times in the last 5 years have you switched brand loyalty? Think car rental, book seller, Internet Browser, coffee shop, laptop vendor, grocery store etc. Remove the physical barriers to "shopping around" in the real world and you have the online situation.
The purchase decision as it pertains to customer retention, or the decision to return and purchase, is summarized by these three main issues:
- What needs the site fulfills compared to the known competition.
- How intrusive the technology is in a user's experience.
- What assessment a user has made in terms of cognitive reasoning.
Online it is easy for users to compare between sites. As a result, customer retention is volatile. Website users will "vote with their mouse clicks". Websites that pay attention to the details of the customer experience end up on the "bookmark" list of customers who not only want to return but feel they are driven to return by the bad experiences on other websites.