E-commerce survey – Price vs Reputation

An interesting article caught my eye on Friday with a simple enough and important message “Price is important online. But not as important as reputation“.  Referencing a study by usability consultancy Webcredible, the results are used to suggest that “28% of the 1300 online shoppers polled are most likely to make a purchase based on the reputation of a website”.  This is an eye catching statistic and one that will almost certainly be repeated by agencies trying to convey the importance of creating trust in a brand and convey reassurance between a site and it’s users.

I immediately thought about a quote from film critic Dr Mark Kermode:  ‘believe the tale, not the teller.’   Would a customer be able to tell you exactly why he bought from a specific retailer?  Given the myriad of subtle persuasive techniques employed both offline and online, it would be a challenge for any customer to give an honest answer as to why they bought, because in a lot of instances they’ll be responding to psychological effects they may not be consciously aware of.

Secondly and much more importantly, while I broadly agree with the conclusions that ‘experience, trust and reliability matter’, I’m not convinced that too much can be read into the exact statistics quoted.  While the e-consultancy article refers to ‘1300 online shoppers’, a quick glance at the original Webcredible survey says:

‘The ecommerce persuasion research polled 1,382 visitors to the Webcredible website between April and June 2009.’

1300 visitors to a website specialising in web usability consultancy is hardly a random sample of users.  I can only hazard a guess as to the breakdown of survey respondants but I’d be more than willing to suggest that the type of individual looking for usability consultancy is very web-savvy and aware of the dangers of unsecure websites, and he’s also likely to be on a significantly higher salary than the national average.  This would probably decrease the price sensitivity of the user.

An interesting study and an area certainly worth further research, but let’s not be too eager to quote exact percentages based on what appears to be a very restricted demographic sample.

3 responses to “E-commerce survey – Price vs Reputation”

  1. Koss UKNo Gravatar says:

    Good article. I agree with you that “1300 visitors to a website specialising in web usability consultancy is hardly a random sample of users”. Not a survey of your ‘typical’ Ma and Pa shopping for some carpets and double glazing…

  2. Ted HurlbutNo Gravatar says:

    Everything an eCommerce site can do to make customers comfortable and confident in their transaction is essential. Customers aren’t likely to care what the price is if they’re not comfortable. That said, comfort is not the same thing as reputation. Consistently providing customers with well-executed transactions will breed reputation.

  3. Steven NashNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Ted,

    I agree entirely. Retailers need to build trust in their brand and a rapport with their customer for repeat business. It’s usually the worst looking sites with the least persuasive copy and poor usability that are forced to cut their prices in order to get sales.

    My issue isn’t actually with the conclusions (I’m not sure this research tells us anything new), but with the survey sample of the survey, were this a piece of academic research it would be torn to shreds – it’s not ok to use such a severely limited demographic sample and extrapolate percentages for e-commerce as a whole.

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