The Year Ahead: What Customers Want in Their In-Store and Online Experiences

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What makes good online and in-store customer experiences? Here’s what your customers think.

a storefront and iphone showing two chat bubbles with a ghumbs up and red heart on a blue background

A majority of U.S. customers now prefer to shop online, according to a recent Capterra survey.

Overall, 60% of U.S. customers who completed an online or in-store purchase in the past 12 months say they prefer to shop online, versus 22% who prefer to shop in-store and 18% who have no preference.

For small businesses, it’s crucial to meet your customers where they prefer to shop.

In this article—the third in our recent customer experience (CX) survey series—we’ll cover what makes positive and negative customer experiences, as well as aspects of good online and in-store experiences. You can find part one of our series here, and part two here.

Use these results for a big-picture look at what matters most to customers overall, then survey your own customers to make sure you’re delivering on the things that count.

What makes a positive customer experience?

Quality products are the key to customers’ hearts, according to survey respondents. When asked to rank the most important aspects of a positive customer experience, a majority (78%) put the product working well as their first, second, or third choice, including 58% who said it was most important.

The next most important aspects include the product or service being a good value (47% of respondents ranked it first, second, or third), timely customer service (42%), positive interactions with company staff (38%), and generally feeling satisfied (27%).

a bar graph showing that us customers say quality products are most important for good CX

These results show that all businesses should be doing research to make sure their products are working well for customers. Investing in user experience (UX) or customer experience software will give you valuable insight on the aspect customers deem most important: your product.

What makes a negative customer experience?

In many ways, customers’ primary complaints about negative customer experiences are the flip side of the important aspects cited above. Product quality again came out on top.

When asked to rank the worst aspects of a negative CX, 67% listed the product not working well as their first, second, or third largest complaint. About half of customers (51%) ranked negative interactions with company staff as a top complaint, followed by poor value (43%) and slow customer service (39%).

Roughly one-in-five respondents ranked not feeling respected or satisfied (22% each) as top CX complaints.

bar graph showing data that us customers say faulty products are the worst aspect of bad CX

The most important parts of good in-store customer experiences

When asked to rate the importance of various aspects of in-store shopping experiences, most respondents cited affordable products (92%), friendly staff (90%), and high-quality products (90%) as moderately or very important.

Nearly nine-in-ten respondents cited quick checkout (88%), knowledgeable staff (88%), and fast service (87%) as at least moderately important. Lowest on the list—though still at least moderately important for 60% of customers—is a store with staff that leaves its customers alone. In comparison, 81% say staff that offers to help is important for a good in-store experience.

data in a bar chart showing u.s. customers on what makes good online shopping experiences

Overall, there were few demographic differences on these questions. All in all, customers want similar things out of their in-store experiences: quality products at a decent price, fast service, and friendly, knowledgeable staff.

The most important parts of good online customer experiences

When asked to rate the importance of various aspects of online shopping experiences, most customers rated easy payment options, affordable products, high-quality products, and a fast website as moderately or very important (about 93% each).

An easily navigable website, quick checkout, a trusted brand, and customer service options on the website (such as live chat or chatbots) were also frequently cited as at least moderately important for a good online shopping experience.

A website that features personalized suggestions for the user was the main outlier; only 43% of respondents saw it as at least moderately important.

a bar chart showing data from u.s. customers on what makes good online shopping experiences

Make your CX great with software

Creating positive customer experiences is about knowing your customers’ preferences, wants, and needs. While broader surveys such as this one are important for keeping an eye on shifting trends and overall consumer preferences, there’s no substitute for deeply knowing your own customers.

Customer experience software can help you listen to your customers and monitor improvements to the customer journey.

Check out the first two articles in our customer experience survey series to learn more about American shoppers’ customer experiences and customer service interactions in the past year.


Survey methodology

In August 2019, Capterra used Amazon Mechanical Turk to survey 267 consumers. Survey respondents were required to live in the United States and to have made an online or in-store purchase in the past 12 months.

Looking for Customer Experience software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Experience software solutions.

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About the Author

Kristen Bialik

Kristen Bialik

Kristen Bialik is a senior specialist analyst covering customer experience for Capterra. She holds B.A.'s in English and Communications from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in Journalism Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Follow her at @kebialik for insight on CX for small and midsize businesses.

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