For this new group of seven, art is of no importance – satisfaction is all that matters.

Hewlett-Packard Co., Cisco Systems, BroadVision, Ecometry, Keynote Systems, Usinternetworking and WebCriteria have formed the Web Quality of Experience (QoE) Workgroup. With users becoming increasingly frustrated with shopping on-line, this initiative hopes to establish loyalty among on-line consumers by providing a positive experience when visiting and buying from e-commerce sites.

Data compiled from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) indicates that 67 per cent of first time on-line buyers didn’t make repeat purchases, while 48 per cent of shoppers simply abandoned Web sites because of slow download times and 20 per cent needed a customer service representative to complete their transactions. Nina Abdelmessih, a manager at BCG said, “the honeymoon is over” for on-line shopping.

“Initially consumers would put up with failed transactions and general purchasing problems. (But) consumers are becoming more demanding, and what we’re finding is consumers are still committed to shopping on-line but now they’ll punish the offending Web site; they won’t go back and purchase from the same retailer,” Abdelmessih said.

Grant Gunderson, a solutions manager for HP in Cupertino, Calif., admitted the research complied in June 2000 clearly showed customers were frustrated with their Web experience. Gunderson said customers lamented that the Internet experience was not what they hoped it would be, and that response times was a major concern.

“Whether it’s the network’s problem or the application bottlenecks with the database or there’s a Web server problem, the customers don’t care, because in the end it’s the [businesses’] responsibility to provide the whole end-to-end (experience).”

Dan Warnshuis, a product marketing representative for Cisco, believes part of the dilemma in satisfying the on-line customer is related to technology.

“The technology is not well understood right now; for example, how the network and the server farm work together to form a differentiated level of service (and) not being sure which products to deploy.”

Warnshuis believes that to move forward, tighter integration, along with better operations and support, will be critical.

Gunderson said the businesses’ goal should be to increase customer retention and loyalty by creating an environment where customers “don’t even think twice about visiting their site because they can get what they want, and find what they want quickly.”

Abdelmessih said that while consumers in Canada are ready and willing to shop on-line, some of the major problems attributed to Canadians not flocking to buy on the Web included the lack of “a developed supply base for Canadian retail sites, the physical distribution of our population, (which) makes shipping to Canada a problem, and the sheer economics of shipping and handling costs.”

Also, “there is not a competitive calling from the on-line world for major retailers to get on [the Web], and so retailers themselves are taking a wait-and-see attitude,” she said.

However, studies conducted in 1999 and 2000 revealed an increase in on-line shopping from 57 per cent in 1999 to 78 per cent in 2000; purchasing in 2000 increased from 55 per cent from 51 per cent in 1999. “The outlook for on-line retailing is actually positive from a consumer perspective in the years to come,” she said.

The QoE Workgroup is being led by both Cisco and HP. “We’re taking products that our customers are using today… and testing them with our partnered products and detailing those configurations so that our customers know how to deploy them. [We then create] a blueprint or solutions architecture to help them more rapidly deploy their individual needs,” Warnshuis said.

According to Abdelmessih, there is nothing more important than ensuring a satisfying Web experience.

“Our research shows people who are satisfied buy more, buy more often and across more categories. Satisfying your consumer lowers your cost of acquiring your consumer, can create a more loyal base and can have a material impact.”