Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Research: Over 90% expect online experience to at least match in-store

The vast majority of consumers expect online experiences to be at least as good as the traditional in-store experience, with search playing a hugely important role in how they perceive their online shopping journey, according to research from AI platform Coveo.

The survey of 4,000 US and UK adults found that 91% of consumers expect their online experience to match or surpass the traditional in-store experience. However, half of respondents feel that website navigation is complex and slow, with search results often irrelevant.

The importance of search on websites cannot be underestimated, as 42% of consumers got straight to a company website or help centre. Perhaps surprisingly, a lower number of people go straight to Google.

For 56% of respondents, being unable to easily search for the information that they’re looking for negatively impacts their brand perception, while 61% would value being able to find what they’re seeking with just a few clicks and having supporting content to go along with that.

The biggest issue facing 35% of respondents is there being too many choices and difficulty of filtering when searching online.

“Search is the throughline for the entire digital experience,” said Patrick Martin, EVP of Global Customer Experience at Coveo. “As the findings show, people see brand sites as more authoritative than Google search, and embedding AI search and generative answering into sites has never been more important. The search bar is transforming into an intent bar or advisory bar providing a window for brands to interact directly with their customers in different ways to deliver better experiences.”

When it comes to AI, though just 5% of people use tools like ChatGPT for search, more than 72% expect their digital experience to evolve with the technology. For 37% of respondents, there’s an expectation that AI will be able to help educate them on products before they start shopping for a specific project.

Interestingly, the survey also found that customers are increasingly becoming happier to share their data to get better deals and offers, with 65% saying they would be willing to do that while searching online and the same number happy to share with brands they trust (+17 points year-on-year).