Online Shopping Frustrations Impact The Brain In The Same Way As Theft Or Internet Outage – Customer


A dark place: the frustrated customer’s mind (Image: Shutterstock)

Getting your wedding dress to arrive the day after the big day, not being able to get tickets despite waiting in line and returning your goods to the depot due to address issues are the main frustrations of e-commerce – and they disrupt your brain. Literally.

A first-of-its-kind study revealed how the brain responds to common frustrations with selling online and underscored the importance of developing a seamless customer experience.

Conducted by scientists at Goldsmiths, University of London, in partnership with e-commerce experts, Loqate, a GBG solution, the study presented participants with 36 frustrating scenarios – half detailing online retail experiences and the half of daily events. Brain responses were monitored using a 64-electrode electroencephalogram (EEG), cardiac responses were measured using an electrocardiogram (ECG), and self-reported behavioral data was also collected, before testing. rank them in order of severity.

Psychologists observed that three retail scenarios fell in the top quartile of the results. These triggered neurological responses similar to some of the more frustrating non-business scenarios, including stealing a bike, arriving late, and losing an appointment because you’re stuck in unexpected traffic. and being cut off from the Internet moments before important work. Meet.

The most frustrating retail scenarios were:

  1. Have a wedding outfit delivered after the day after the big day – despite paying extra to receive it on time.
  2. Spend an hour in line for a hot ticket to an event – only for the website to go down when you hit the first row in the queue.
  3. Have a highly anticipated delivery returned to the depot due to the address not found.

High-density EEG imaging revealed that these unpleasant online retail experiences produced stronger frontal alpha asymmetry in the brain, indicating repulsion. Likewise, online retail scenarios triggered changes in heart rate variability that characterize the ‘fight or flight’ response – reinforcing the evidence suggesting that these situations are very aversive and that people would seek to avoid. the future.

Other key findings from the study suggest that people were bombarded with memories of their own disappointments with online e-commerce, as large increases (20% or more) in high-frequency gamma signals were detected at one time. to the far left and far right of the brain when comparing responses to detail verses. Non-business scenarios.

Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya, Goldsmiths, University of London, explains: “These high frequency gamma signals from frontotemporal brain regions during retail scenarios suggest higher memory engagement and a higher level of memory. integration of memory, attention and emotional arousal – all of which are critically engaged for a very frustrating experience due to its personal relevance. The study shows that our brains respond to retail experiences, especially the most frustrating, vigorously. “

Dr Jack Lewis, consultant neuroscientist on the study, adds: “This data shows that not only do consumers vividly remember their own very frustrating online shopping experiences, but when those memories come back, they come with redundancies. changes in brain and heart data that indicate an urge to flee. This is objective data indicating that frustrations in the context of online retailing are powerfully repulsive – so it seems likely that consumers would go to great lengths to avoid repeating such experiences in the future.

The results are concerning for retailers, many of whom are struggling to meet consumers’ appetites and expectations for online experiences in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of consumers reporting problems with non-food retailers rose to 12.6% in July 2021. This is the highest since the record started and coincides with a sharp increase in online shopping.

The business consequences of these bad experiences can be serious. Research by Loqate found that, on average, consumers quit a bad fund 6 times a week, with the quits each worth around £ 44. In addition, two in five Britons (42%) would never return to a retailer with a bad online payment experience.

Matthew Furneaux, director of location intelligence at Loqate, says: “In our quantitative and psychological research, the same result is clear and sharp. A frustrating online retail experience is likely to jeopardize the repeat of the custom. And with the retail landscape as competitive as it is, retailers simply can’t afford to do it. “

Furneaux concludes: “The shift towards online commerce initiated by the pandemic is permanent. Retailers really need to consider their entire digital experience – from payment technology to address verification – as this will only become more intrinsic to their relationship with customers and indicative of business success.

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