The outbreak of COVID-19 and its preventative measures have led several businesses and consumers to change their shopping behaviors. Many individuals have inevitably reduced their human-to-human interactions in physical service environments and were increasingly relying on the adoption of digital media and mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets for their shopping requirements.
Consumers as well as businesses are benefiting of faster connections as the loading speeds of these devices is one of the critical determining factors as to whether visitors may (or may not) be willing to browse through e-commerce websites or apps, to proceed to check out, and to lay down their credit cards.
Advances in technological capabilities have improved the consumers’ online shopping experiences. As a result, more businesses are benefiting from the expertise of online marketplaces to deliver personalized services to their customers. For instance, Amazon provides product recommendations to its visitors, that are based on their previous searches.
Ecommerce giants utilize machine learning technologies to segment consumers by geographical location, age and gender, buying habits, total expenditure, and more. They capture data from online users, including their browsing and purchase histories. They distinguish between profitable, loyal customers, price-sensitive customers, and identify those who are likely to abandon their shopping carts.
Prospective consumers will usually compare a wide variety of products and their corresponding prices, in different virtual marketplaces, before making their purchase decision. They will probably check out the consumer reviews to confirm the reputation and trustworthiness of online merchants. At times, they will not be in a position to confirm the legitimacy of certain websites and to determine if it is safe to disclose their payment details to anonymous vendors.
A few websites may require consumers to join their mailing list. They may expect them to provide their email addresses, that they may share with third parties. As a result, consumers could receive unwanted ads and scams in their inboxes. Moreover, they may experience phishing and spoofing. Therefore, shopping web pages should use SSL certificates to prove that their transactions are safe and secure.
Furthermore, e-commerce websites ought to feature accurate, timely and reliable content. They have to be as transparent as possible with online users. They should clarify their terms and conditions as well as their refund policies. The smallest thing that’s out of place in their e-commerce pages could rapidly erode the customers’ trust in their products and services.
Online users cannot inspect (or try) their chosen products until they receive them. They may experience delays in the delivery of their shopping items, particularly, if they get lost, detoured or delivered in the wrong address. Once they receive the product they ordered, they may decide to return it, if for some reason they are not satisfied by its quality. In this case, they could (or could not) be reimbursed for incurring shipping and packaging costs. Shopping websites are increasingly offering synchronous communications facilities to enhance their personalized services through web chat facilities that enable instantaneous conversations with online users.
This development has significantly improved the consumers’ perceptions about the service quality of e-commerce websites and their satisfaction levels. They also increased the chances of their repeat purchases. In sum, this contribution suggests that online businesses and marketplaces should identify the critical success factors that are differentiating e-commerce websites from one another. The most popular online marketplaces are capable of attracting repeat consumers through a consistent delivery of personalized customer service, thereby increasing their sales potential and growth prospects
This research confirmed that the consumers’ satisfaction with e-commerce websites has a significant effect on their loyalty as well as on their electronic word-of-mouth publicity. This is an important finding, considering that there are several shopping websites and online marketplaces where consumers can find identical or alternative products. In this case, the respondents suggested that e-commerce websites delivered good value to them and that they triggered their loyal behaviors. The research participants indicated that they were satisfied with the quality of the shopping websites and with their electronic services.
This study showed that customers were intrigued to share their positive or negative experiences with products and/or services with other online users. Hence, they were willing to cocreate online content for the benefit of prospective consumers. Many customers are increasingly voicing their opinions and recommendations through qualitative reviews and/or quantitative ratings to support other individuals in their purchase decisions. They may either encourage or discourage others from shopping from a particular vendor and/or website.
This research confirmed that the online users’ satisfaction levels with the service quality of the e-commerce website relied on different factors, including website attractiveness, functionality and security as well as on consumer order fulfillment, during and after a purchase. The websites’ designs and layouts can capture their visitors’ attention and may possibly improve the online consumers’ experiences during their purchase transactions.
The e-commerce websites’ appearance and their functionality may entice online users to continue browsing through their content and to revisit them again, in the future. Online users would be satisfied if the e-commerce websites are informative, useful and easy to use. They utilize shopping websites to access relevant content on the attributes and features of products, including consumer reviews. Therefore, the technical functionality of these websites’ inventory systems should feature accurate and timely information on the availability of items as well as on their prices and costs of delivery.
In this day and age, shopping websites should provide approximate shipping dates, estimated delivery times, et cetera. Online sellers should also establish clear information on their returning policies. They may direct online users and past consumers to frequently answered questions, and/or to chatbots. Alternatively, they may offer webchat facilities to engage with their valued customers, in real time.
Although there are many studies that have explored the service quality of e-commerce websites during a purchase transaction, only a few of them have focused on consumer fulfillment (and on their after-sales services). The findings from this research reported that timely deliveries, and the provision of personalized services have a highly significant effect on consumer satisfaction and loyalty.
Service providers ought to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations in different stages of their order fulfilment in online retailing contexts. They ought to deliver the ordered items as expeditiously as possible, to improve their service quality. Online retailers should respond to consumer enquiries, in a timely manner. This way, they can increase consumer satisfaction, minimize complaints and reduce the likelihood of negative criticism (and damaging e-WOM) in review websites and social media.
This is an excerpt of my latest academic article that was published in the Journal of Strategy and Management. It is available here: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JSMA-02-2021-0045/full/html
A prepublication version is available through ResearchGate.