With holiday shopping season in full swing, online retailers should evaluate their online product support in order to maximize sell-through. The data showing the need for online retailers to provide shoppers with content-based support early in the path to purchase is overwhelming. According to a research conducted by integrated marketing firm AMP Agency, consumers look for product support and owner reviews during the pre-purchase stage of the buying cycle. More than one in seven consumers (15 percent) spend at least 90 percent or more of their shopping time conducting online product research, while 35 percent of consumers spend three-quarters of their online shopping time looking at reviews and other product-related content.
There is a direct correlation between customers who see product support information and owner reviews and an increased level of browsing and purchase intent. A study by Bazaarvoice adds that conversion rates for the increasingly important mobile shopper are 133 percent higher if he or she viewed product-related content early in the path to purchase. But content in and of itself is not the answer. The content must provide value for the customer and not waste their time. Filler content such as social share icons and hastily written blog posts have little effect on converting a shopper to a buyer. Instead, the content provided to a consumer must increase their knowledge of the product and trust in the brand.
By providing trustworthy content such as product support material and owner reviews, new and existing customers will spend more time on the e-retailers site, and will spend more money than if they had not been exposed to these resources, OwnerIQ research has found. Consumers look for online owner manuals and easily accessible support information before they make the decision to purchase. They want to know if a product will meet their needs and/or be a thoughtful gift. They also want to understand any ancillary products that might be necessary or included (i.e., auto charger for a smart phone) so that they or the gift recipient can use the product soon (if not immediately) after opening the box. If they don’t find what they are looking for, they will likely go to a competitor’s website and buy from there if they find the insightful information they are seeking.
Nearly half (47 percent) of men and women in the important 25-34 age group prefer self-directed support from manuals or online forums, according to a report from Accenture. “More than two-thirds of costs associated with returns can be characterized as No Trouble Found (NTF). In other words, the products did not meet the customer’s requirements or expectations, or the customer believed the product had a hardware or software failure, even though no problem was detected when the item was tested against specifications set by the retailer, carrier or manufacturer.”
ManualsOnline reports similar findings. The company’s research revealed that returns cost consumer electronics retailers nearly $14 billion annually, mostly due to “product ignorance.”
Additionally, three-quarters of consumers surveyed by ManualsOnline.com said that the owner’s manual is the first thing they consult for maintenance and troubleshooting — which points again to the importance of having quality online product support that will help owners easily handle the most common maintenance and troubleshooting issues.
A well-written and easy-to-use and understand owner’s manual will often solve out-of-the box or other early issues, mitigating returns and helping reduce calls to more expensive live customer service. The content should be written in such a way that it enables the customer to see himself or herself owning the product.
Online retailers should take time now during the busy holiday shopping season to review their online manuals and product support content to ensure that they are providing material that meets consumer needs in both the pre and post purchase stage of the buying cycle in order to maximize customer satisfaction, and purchase intent.
Chris Parker is director of support solutions at OwnerIQ.