eCommerce and the science of frustration

Whether we like it or not, retailers have the power to make or break our mood. So what should you, someone responsible for creating a great online customer experience, do with all of this responsibility? Well, listen for starters. Then try to understand. That’s exactly what we did during a recent investigation into the impact of typically negative online retail experiences on the human brain, compared with everyday situations that consumers find similarly annoying. 

The result? Well,  frustrating situations that occur online are not too dissimilar from frustrations that appear off it. 

In our previous post, we revealed the initial findings from the study we carried out with Goldsmiths University’s Psychology Department. So, we’re back to dig a little deeper into just why people find these situations so enraging and what the science can tell us.  After all, tapping into what makes consumers tick is vital for any retailer looking to ensure that their customers don’t tap out. 

More than just browsing

What does retail frustration actually look like, and how did it manifest itself during our research? 

Fundamentally, we were assessing the reaction in our respondents' hearts and brains during each situation. Our experiment was able to highlight the parts of the brain that were most triggered during the study, the activity showed in the form of a heatmap - red being the strongest (most frustrated) and green/yellow being the most passive. What was most astonishing was that the parts of the brain that were activated when consumers were highly frustrated are responsible for feelings of repulsion. 

So each time your basket times out or your address doesn’t pop up in an online form - our brains are sending signals. Signals that cause us to feel resentful and even repulsed.  

We proved in the lab that these highly frustrating situations are linked to avoidance or withdrawal behaviour. Simply put, annoying situations are often ones that we look to sidestep in the future.

Loyalty points must be earned 

Everyone knows the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” - unfortunately for retailers, it’s simply not the case. If good news travels fast, then bad news travels at lightning speed and isn't easily forgotten. And in case we didn’t already know it - the science firmly backs it up. One lapse in quality customer service might not be a make or break but twice or three times might just mean retailers lose a valuable customer for good. Customer loyalty is far from infinite, it must be earned continuously. 

Most retailers continuously review their eCommerce data and look at customer behaviour. This is a simple method of identifying where cracks in customer experience might be emerging. But rather than just simply looking at cart abandonment data or the number of delivery forms not being completed, the smartest retailers will be asking why? Why is it happening and what exactly is the impact of that? Most importantly they’ll be looking at the science of consumer behaviour and using it to avoid frustrating customers in the future by introducing the right technology.  

The science of retail frustration conundrum doesn’t have an easy solution, of course. There are however a set of fundamentals when it comes to building an effective online presence that retailers should never lose sight of. More about that in our next blog in the Next Level Retail series.