$53 million per month Estimated cost to a global brand white-goods manufacturer due to a poor website experienceLet me explain the story…

A global white-goods brand, lets call them GlobalBrandlux.com, sent me a survey asking what I thought about my recent website experience. Here’s my response – I wanted to be honest and constructive:

“Sorry, but this is one of the worst product websites I have come across for being able to find (and identify) a particular product. On-site search is a key feature not working that appears to be an after thought. For example…

Returned results for my queries are either irrelevant to me, poorly described (so I don’t even know if it is relevant to my query), or produce zero results. After many, many attempts and double checking that my query for a specific product number exactly matched what was written on my appliance, I discovered the zero results was due to your search function not recognising any “-” characters in the number, or spaces. It has to be a continuous sequence of numbers. That is not how it is written on my appliance and is just plain annoying!

The overwhelming lack of product photographs and the use of superficial descriptions makes matters worse.”

The impact of poor user experience…

I found the following Google Trends graph interesting. It shows the drop in query volume for the GlobalBrandlux.com brand term over the years – a very large 60% drop from their peak of June 2004. May be other people have had similar bad experiences and gone elsewhere… Just a speculation that something is going wrong at GlobalBrandlux.com, not causality…!
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So, what happens next – for me the consumer…?

Coupled with the fact that our 5 year old appliances are already starting to fall apart, this web experience made me feel that I will not purchase from this company again (a considerable sum of money). The sad thing is, if the web experience had been a good one – allowing me to order my replacement parts on the first visit – instead of taking me over 5 visits and requiring 6 emails to the customer service department to get it right – they could have gotten away with it. That is, kept me as a future customer.

How many other people go through this bad experience on the web every day….? It amazes me why so many web sites are so poor form a user experience point of view.

Calculating the lost revenue for GlobalBrandlux.com…

  • I estimate a household similar to mine(!) renovates its kitchen every 10 years to include a freezer, fridge, microwave, dishwasher, oven/hob, vacuum cleaner.
  • I estimate the total cost for a complete set of kitchen appliances from GlobalBrandlux.com at $7,000 USD
  • According to compete.com, the US version of the GlobalBrandlux.com website received 39,000 unique visitors in January 2013. This is a company that publishes its sales figures online. So I know that the US market is 26% of their global sales by revenue (2012 figures).
  • Assuming this directly correlates with visitor volume, the total global website monthly unique visitors = 150,000
  • Lets assume 10% of these are existing customers that would purchase again within 10 years (15,000 visits per month)
  • Lets assume half of these people – only 5% of the total traffic – like me, are so p*ssed off with the web experience they decide not to purchase form this brand again. That’s 7,500 people.
  • Cost = 7500 x $7000
  • = $52.5 million, per month(!) lost revenue

Caveats – there are always caveats with data (make sure you always have yours thought through when presenting your data story)

I deliberated decided to only consider existing customers of GlobalBrandlux.com so that I know I am dealing with people that have previously committed to a significant purchase from them in the past i.e. likely to purchase again – if their experience is a good one.

Apart from the standard issues of data accuracy (multi-device usage, cookie loss etc. – see Chapter 2 of the book, or the my accuracy whitepaper on this subject), here are some of the caveats when making this calculation:

  • The number of unique visitors reported by compete.com for Jan 2013 may be a peak (or trough) that can change significantly throughout the year and over time.
  • 150,000 unique visitors does not mean that over an extended period, say 12 months, that 1.8m unique visitors came to the website (i.e. 12 x $52.5 million should not be assumed).
  • I have assumed each customer would purchase a complete kitchen appliance set. Maybe some would only purchase a microwave, at a much lower value. That said, over a 10 year period, the objective of GlobalBrandlux.com will be to sell an entire suite of kitchen appliances. I have found it quite common that people do this i.e. purchase the same brand throughout their kitchen.

Why are organisations so negligent at this…?

Seriously, some simple JavaScript validation for the on-site search function would go a long way to improving things. By that, I mean removing any non-numeric characters/spaces from a product number that a visitor types in (as it appears all product number sare stored this way at GlobalBrandlux.com). A first-year computer science student can do this, as well as anyone with a basic ability of JavaScript, such as me.

I agree that beyond that, it gets more laborious to improve things – photographing all products (though that has probably been done by someone else in the organisation before), improving product descriptions so that it makes sense to anyone who did not actually build the thing. However laborious these tasks may be, they can surely not come anywhere close to the $52.5 million per month being left on the table.

The point of my simple econometrics calculation is to show that their is a great deal of money being left on the table by organisations not taking the user experience seriously – or even considering it, in the case of GlobalBrandlux.com. Even if my estimations are out by an order of magnitude, it still remains at several million dollars per month!

Have you ever monetised a bad web experience?