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Consumers Turn Backs to Bells and Whistles

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Posted September 11, 2001 By Michael Pastore     Feedback

U.S. consumers are more likely to revisit Web sites that are fast loading, customizable and more informative than those that offer rich media or content delivery to wireless handsets, according to research by Jupiter Media Metrix.

U.S. consumers are more likely to revisit Web sites that are fast loading, customizable and more informative than those that offer rich media or content delivery to wireless handsets, according to research by Jupiter Media Metrix.

Jupiter's aptly named report, "Back to Basics: Enhancing User Experience at Low Cost," found that businesses should assess the needs of their Web site visitors before investing in costly, high-profile development features such as non-PC transactions or rich media. The findings could serve as welcome news to companies looking to control spending while featuring a user-friendly Web presence.

A Jupiter Consumer Survey found that 40 percent of online surfers will visit a content site (such as a news or information site) more often if its pages load faster, while only 20 percent would be motivated by the addition of a richer media experience.

"To make the best use of their budgets in the near term, most companies should avoid risky, glamorous Web enhancements," said Cormac Foster, an analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix. "Before beginning any site development, companies should survey their users because every site's users are different. Retail sites especially might learn that they can address their user experience issues at a low cost without having to invest in new technologies."

While retail companies have an expanded set of concerns, Jupiter's research found the lessons of content sites still apply. After the retail-specific "more product information" (59 percent) and "product suggestions" (28 percent), online shoppers cite "faster loading pages" as the next most important driver for a return visit (26 percent). According to Jupiter analysts, great progress can be made toward these ends without any additional investment in technology, and retailers should address these concerns before spending on more expensive, lower-ROI initiatives such as enabling m-ommerce (chosen by only 12 percent as a reason to return to a site).

Only 15 percent of users would visit a content site more often if the site delivered information to non-PC devices, such as wireless handsets. In addition to faster loading times, consumers prefer customizable layouts on content sites. The Jupiter Consumer Survey discovered that 36 percent of Web surfers would visit a content site more often if it featured a customized layout, followed by 31 percent who would be motivated to return to a content site by the addition of polling or chat capabilities.

Businesses seem to be responding to the call for customizable, personalized Web interactions. According to a report from Datamonitor, global investment in personalization technologies will grow from $500 million in 2001 to $2.1 billion in 2006.

North America accounts for the lion's share of investment, generating 67 percent of personalization revenues, thanks to its lead in e-commerce and CRM technologies. Europe accounts for 25 percent ($131 million) of global investment, led by Britain with 28 percent, Germany (24 percent) and France (20 percent). Despite considerably smaller economies, Scandinavian countries still account for 13 percent of the European market, due to the advanced state of telecommunications and Internet usage in that region.

According to Datamonitor, financial services and retail are the prime adopters of personalization technologies, together accounting together for approximately 50 percent in both the North American and European market in 2001. Although currently limited to the Internet, the development of wireless devices (mobile phones and PDAs) and interactive television will create new needs and boost demand for personalization software, Datamonitor predicts. Commercial applications and increasing volumes of media content for example, will require personalization to channel this information to the customer according to their needs and preferences.

Privacy is the hottest non-technological issue concerning personalization. While the United States operates on a self-regulatory basis, European countries have considerably more stringent legislation that affects what customer information businesses can gather and what use they can make of it.

"Personalization software is still in its early stages and privacy is an issue," said Antoine Bousquest, Datamonitor technology analyst. "However, personalization will increasingly become crucial to companies as well as a service that customers will expect. As the flow of information grows (be it marketing, service or media content) alongside the development of new channels, it will become vital for companies to acquire the means to target information appropriately."

Reprinted from CyberAtlas

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