January 24, 2017

Marketing Chart: How purchase experience affects customer satisfaction


Omnichannel. Automated, app-based checkout without a cashier. Texting or tweeting a purchase. Apps with AI-powered bots.

Leading brands have gone to great lengths to make the purchase experience easy. But, from our most recent research, we’ve found that might not be enough. Read on to discover the top differentiator between satisfied and unsatisfied customers.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

In September and October 2016, MarketingSherpa conducted a survey with 2,400 consumers, who were sampled to reflect a close match to the U.S. population.

We split them into two groups of 1,200. We asked the first group to name a company they were highly satisfied with. For the second group, we asked about a company they are not satisfied with.

Then we asked a series of questions, including: “Which one of the following is true about [company name]’s marketing? Select all that apply.” The below percentages represent the percent of respondents who selected each item.

To see 27 more charts from the study, download the free report.

An easy purchasing experience is table stakes

As I mention in the summary of this article, much has been made about creating an easy purchase experience. And this is clearly important to customers. “Purchase experience (whether online or in person) is easy” was the top response for both satisfied and unsatisfied customers. More than half (55%) of satisfied customers agreed to this description of the marketing of the company they were satisfied with, and almost a quarter (24%) of unsatisfied customers agreed as well.

In the year 2017, the purchase experience can be extremely complex. No longer are many customers simply walking over to the corner store, saying hello to the shopkeep they’ve known for years, grabbing a product off the shelf, and plunking down cash for it.

The buyer’s journey now includes bricks and mortar, online and mobile product research. It takes more than a local shopkeep to remember customer purchase preferences; it takes technology systems and databases. Basic operational functions like inventory management and product fulfillment can be a competitive advantage.

And even how customers purchase has gotten more complex. Sure, they might want to purchase with cash. Or they might want to buy with a credit card, debit card, gift card, rewards points, digital wallet, brand app or Bitcoin. Paying with your watch used to mean hocking your Rolex to a pawn shop; now it means connecting your AMEX card to your Apple Watch.

Let’s take a quick, closer look at three ways to ease the purchasing experience:

Inventory management as competitive advantage

Inventory management is just one example of a previously back-office operational function that can create a competitive advantage. Sure, it has always been vital to a retailer’s success. Having the right amount of product on-hand to meet customer demand is the lifeblood of a retailer. Too much and the costs will eat you up. Too little and you’re losing out on sales and alienating customers who may not return.

But now, retailers can use this information in a smart way by making it transparent to consumers. A bricks-and-mortar retailer who also sells through ecommerce can compete with a pure ecommerce play that offers quick and free fulfillment (say, Amazon) by clearly showing what products are in stock right at this very moment near the customer. That is even quicker fulfillment than same-day delivery.

Web usability as competitive advantage

A lot of money is spent driving customers to websites. Everything from digital media like display ads to offline media like print advertising. Heck, even naming rights. Here in Jacksonville, we have the TaxSlayer Bowl. I assume the company is using the convenient timing of the bowl game to get people to visit TaxSlayer.com to do their taxes just as tax season is about to hit.

But, what then? If you spend all that money on driving people to a conversion objective, it’s important to then also invest in web conversion optimization to reduce the friction and better communicate the value of that website.

Consumers notice this disconnect. Here’s how one consumer who completed the survey put it, “Marketing has to go hand in hand with a website. Too often the marketing is great but the website is lacking. Please try out your website before you market it. Too often the website does not go from one item to the next and in the cart and back to shopping. If that is not fixed — marketing is money spent badly.”

Customer service as competitive advantage

Even with the clearest inventory management system and the best customer experience on your website, customers will sometimes need to interact with a fellow human.

So, as one survey respondent suggested, you should, “Make sure it's easy for the customers to get in contact with your company very easily and efficiently.”

Purchase experience as brand differentiation

As you can see from the data, while an easy customer experience is important, it was not the main differentiator between satisfied and unsatisfied customers.

The main differentiator was creating an enjoyable purchase experience for customers. “Purchasing experience (whether online or in person) is enjoyable” was the second most popular description of a company’s marketing by satisfied customers (46%), but it drops to the eighth most popular response (out of 10 options) for unsatisfied customers (10%).

Here’s my interpretation: If you don’t have an easy purchase experience, fix it. You’ll lose customers if you don’t.

However, it isn’t enough for true, sustainable success and brand growth. So once you’ve created an easy experience, focus on the real differentiator — making an enjoyable customer experience.

This is important in your marketing, as this respondent notes: “Overly repetitive ads on any medium turn me right off to the product. Funny, catchy, engaging ads, or ones that have sequences, different parts on different ads, like a puzzle are wonderful. Kind of like the car ad that started at the Super Bowl and ended months later. That was a really great one. It was for the Prius.”

This is important in your customer relationship management, as another respondent advised: “Always cater them to my purchase history and don't always make them about selling me something, acknowledgements are nice also. ‘Thanks for the business’ type of thing.”

And really, your company’s entire approach to business. As another respondent simply advised “Be creative. Be fun. Be real.”

Related resources

Optimization: A discussion about an e-commerce company's 500% sales increase

How to improve your word-of-mouth marketing with unexpectedly awesome customer service

Learn how to remove friction and improve the customer experience of your website in the Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program from the University of Florida and MECLABS Institute

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