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Bad websites reduce off-line sales

A recent survey by Genex, a US based consultancy of a cross-section of 1,100 Internet users shows quite how much design and usability influence purchasing decisions. Whilst it is well known how much of a positive influence a good website can have on online sales, what the impact of a poorly designed website has on offline sales is less well known. The overall experience that a customer has on a website is influenced by many things; the design of the site, its usability, loading times and accessibility are just a few. Whilst a site may be aesthetically pleasing, if it is not easy to use then the customer may not be able to complete their purchase, or find the information that they need. Equally, an extremely usable site without a modern design can give the impression of a company less professional than they actually are.

How design can effect off-line sales?
According to the survey, 65% do not shop on a poorly designed site - even that of a favourite brand. This figure shows quite how important design is in the purchasing decisions of the online user. You could be losing up to 65% of your potential purchases just because the design of your site is not up to standard. Most people are aware that anyone can build a site and start selling items, so it is understandable for users to be wary of purchasing from a poor looking site. The more surprising aspect of this statistic however, is that users will even refrain from purchasing from the site of a favourite brand if the design is poor. This shows that no matter how much you establish an offline brand, advertise your site, and reassure the user - if the design is poor, this will all count for nothing. An offline brand alone cannot carry a website. The site has to be as up to date and reflective of your brand as possible in order to be at its most effective.

How this can then affect offline sales
The most surprising result from the survey however, is that nearly 30% of respondents said that they would even cease offline purchases from a favourite brand if their online experience is poor. This puts in to perspective quite how important a company’s web presence is in the modern day. Whilst traditionally a website was seen as a complimentary advertising and then sales technology, today it is an absolutely integral part of any company’s image. One area in which the link between a poor online experience could result in a loss of an offline customer is entertainment retail sales. For example, a customer wants to find out more information on the latest release of their favourite artist. For convenience they visit the website of their favourite high street retail brand. From this point the consumer has two options:

  1. Purchase the item online and have it delivered to their door.
    If the online shopping experience is poor it is unlikely that the customer will pick this option – they will simply navigate away to another online shop.
  2. Find the information that they require and then visit the high street store and make a purchase in person. Depending on delivery, stock availability, release date etc. this may even be their preferred option.

However, if the site is poorly designed, the information delivered sparse, or the overall experience found wanting, then they may simply assume that the item isn’t for sale. Worst still, the poor experience of the site elicits a conscious reaction to avoid the brand in the future.

Conclusions
Whilst many consumers will forgive a sales assistant who cannot find a product quickly, as they can put a human face to them, the same is not true of online sales. The perceived problem is not with an employee of the company, but with the company itself. It is this tie between a company’s website and the company itself which the survey highlights most.

As websites are increasingly the first point of contact between consumers and companies, both the positive and negative influence their website experience created has never been more significant.
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