‘Immersive and interactive’ websites garner more loyalty

shopping 1Online retailers are being urged to focus more on making their sites immersive and interactive and not just convenience and a smooth shopping experience if they want to build true customer loyalty.

That is according to new research by Durham University Business School, published in the Journal of Retailing. Conducted by Markus Blut, Professor in Marketing and International Business, alongside a number of co-authors, it seeks to understand the shifts in online retail.

The researchers analysed a database that taps into more than 20 years of website attribute effects, covering almost 120,000 consumers in 25 different countries, and, by using an analytical model, they divided each website attribute into either an efficiency or experience category, and tested whether or not these had built customer loyalty.

The researchers found that, though having an efficient website keeps customers content, it is actually an experience-focused website that is more directly likely to build customer loyalty within consumers.

Some differences exist depending on the offered product and country culture; experience-focused websites are relatively more impactful for services (vs. products) and in country cultures with long-term (vs. short-term) orientation and high (vs. low) self-indulgence.

The researchers say that efficiency helps to build trust with consumers, as well as value and satisfaction with the service, but this only keeps customers loyal if it continues to always be the case – it does not breed loyal customers.

However, providing an immersive experience on the website is more likely to have an immediate, direct impact on the loyalty of the customer, as consumers who enjoy shopping with the online retailer will come back again. This is something that simply focusing on efficiency cannot recreate.

Professor Blut said: “With consumers more and more likely to be suffering online fatigue, it’s becoming harder to grip their attention and truly captivate this audience.

“Online retailers like Amazon have certainly had success by offering a good, efficient service, but this is something smaller online retailers will not be able to compete with. If they want to secure a loyal following, they have to be offering them an immersive experience.”

Though having a basis of good quality service is still important, the researchers highlight that this alone is not a differentiator for an online retailer anymore. Companies need to focus on both a high-level of service, but also a high-level experience for consumers too.

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