Brand Web Sites Come Up Short with Many Consumers Staff

Updated · May 21, 2001

The Web sites of consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands do a good job of providing contact and basic product information, according to a study by Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), but the sites are missing opportunities in other areas.

The study found that that most consumers visit manufacturer Web sites to find company contact and/or basic product information, and that CPG companies are generally satisfying these needs. Two of the top features consumers want in a brand Web site are an 800 number (63 percent) and an e-mail address (61 percent) with which to communicate with the company. These are offered by 69 percent and 81 percent of companies, respectively. More than half (56 percent) of consumers look for basic product information on a brand Web site and 91 percent of manufacturers offer this.

When it comes to other features of CPG sites, companies are often overdelivering — and likely overspending — on features that consumers care little about. For example, while 38 percent of manufacturers' Web sites offer games and activities and 41 percent feature lifestyle information, the survey showed that only 12 percent and 27 percent of online consumers, respectively, want such “community” offerings.

IRI's findings also show that companies are not meeting consumers' desire for promotional offers from their Web sites. Approximately half of all consumers surveyed want free samples (55 percent) and coupons/special offers (48 percent) from the brand sites they visit, while only 22 percent and 19 percent of manufacturers, respectively, offer these features.

“Our findings show that while manufacturers are doing a lot right when it comes to their brand Web sites, they could still be much more efficient with their spending,” said Brian Murphy, IRI's e.Ventures partner. “There has been a lot of hype about the need for companies to build a community on their Web sites. However, our research shows that consumers don't rely on brand Web sites for community. There are more trusted and complete sources for this on the Web. Manufacturers should focus on the basics: provide product
information, facilitate consumer contact, and collect feedback on product satisfaction and consumer needs.”

CPG manufacturers are missing opportunities on their Web sites to obtain helpful information from their customers. For example, 74 percent of consumers surveyed are willing to provide product satisfaction feedback at a Web site, and 50 percent are agreeable to answering questions about their product needs and preferences, while only 38 percent and 31 percent of manufacturers, respectively, are asking for such information.

The study also found that while 72 percent of manufacturers sponsor brand Web sites, only 28 percent of these companies are attempting to calculate the return on their investments.

“To date, manufacturers have been doing a lot of experimentation with brand Web sites. As brand sites increasingly become part of their marketing mix, manufacturers need to better ensure that they maximize the return on their online investment,” Murphy said.

Despite recent failures among CPG e-tailers, the study found that consumers are optimistic about the Internet's potential as a viable sales channel:

  • Trial is relatively high: 23 percent of primary shoppers who are online have purchased a CPG product online more than once in a three month period.

  • Shoppers plan to increase spending: Currently 10 percent of online CPG consumers purchase 25 percent or more of their CPG products online. Next year, the number of online CPG consumers exceeding the 25 percent mark is expected to triple.

  • Online CPG shoppers are satisfied: Half of online CPG shoppers are very satisfied with the current state of CPG e-retailing, and more than 75 percent have encouraged their friends to shop online.

The study did reveal several factors that will limit the growth of e-tail if not addressed, however. For instance, e-retailers do not have a clear picture of the primary reasons that consumers do and do not shop online. The leading reason consumers shop online is that they value the ability to shop any time of day, but only half of the e-tailers surveyed placed this among the top three drivers. On the flip side, e-tailers underestimate the impact of delivery charges and the desire to review products in person as deterrents.

Reprinted from CyberAtlas

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