British online shoppers are "passive aggressive"

3rd Jul 2014

Enticing British online shoppers to the checkout is harder than you might imagine - especially as they're keeping quiet about their concerns. 

Research from start-up business,, which aims to provide disgruntled online customers help in resolving disputes with online brands, has shown that the average shopper will not make a complaint about any order that’s under £21.30 - that equates to £777 million being wasted by ecommerce shoppers in the UK. It seems that these consumers prefer the good old fashioned passive-aggressive approach; 40% will refuse to ever shop with you again if you disappoint them, although they’re likely to keep quiet about it. This is worrying news for businesses, which are being deprived of the chance to put things right as well as the chance to collect valuable feedback which could help them improve.

The report, ‘Keeping the Faith: Building Trust in an Online World’ is based on a study involving over 3000 consumers across Europe. It notes that as online shopping becomes more and more popular, customers’ habits and behaviours are changing, and they’re feeling increasingly insecure, developing considerable trust and anxiety issues.

Faceless online brands aren’t exactly instilling trust in their prospective customers, and therefore maybe losing out on sales. Instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt, three out of five customers are looking to online reviews when assessing the credibility of a site they’re looking to purchase from. Meanwhile, 91% use a mix of feedback and online searches before committing to a purchase.

The location of the company in question also plays a big part in customers’ willingness to hand over their cash. UK consumers, the study found, are far more wary of buying from foreign businesses than ones based on British shores. It’s suggested that this is for reasons to do with language barriers and ambiguous overseas complaints processes. However, not all countries produce the same level of shopping anxiety; British online consumers have far more trust in retailers based in America, Germany and France when compared to those in Italy, Span or Asia. 

Also likely to play a part in shoppers’ likeliness to get out their credit card is their confusion around their rights as online consumers. Almost a quarter in the UK (22%) don’t know how their rights differ when they buy online compared with when they purchase in-store. 

Patrick Fagan, associate lecturer at Goldsmiths University – a partner in the study – explained how online retailers could be missing out by not making their processes clear enough. “Consumer decision-making has been transformed by online shopping, which has given consumers the ability to compare products and prices with ease. As a result, shoppers are a lot more sensitive to ‘barriers to purchase’ – that is, split-second reasons not to buy, like a lack of trust, poor feedback from other customers, or prior bad experience with customer service.”

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