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Rising Expectations, Uneven Delivery: Online Satisfaction Is up for Grabs


May 29, 2013 - BOSTON, MA

As U.S. consumers do more and more online, companies vary widely in their ability to meet their customers' growing expectations. The best -- banks and retailers -- provide three to four times the satisfaction of the worst (health care, utilities, insurance, government services), according to new research by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

"The opportunity for companies in many sectors to improve online satisfaction remains vast," said Thierry Chassaing, a BCG senior partner and coauthor of the report, "Delivering Digital Satisfaction: U.S. Consumers Raise the Ante." "And the gaps are set to widen as mobile adoption expands and almost 80 million Millennial consumers mature."

In a finding some may find surprising, banks top the satisfaction scale -- by a considerable margin. Banks have not only built strong online and mobile capabilities, they have also put those capabilities to work on the tasks for which customers most value ease and speed -- gaining ready access to information, getting help quickly, and transacting business with ease.

Online merchants and media retailers are also among the leaders, not only because they deliver a positive experience but also because they meet customers' expectations for comparing products and options, getting better prices, and engaging in quick and convenient transactions.

Consumers want the laggards, such as health care providers, telco and cable companies, insurance firms, and government agencies, to make it easier to accomplish even the basic tasks online. These companies are missing big opportunities; the research found plenty of pent-up demand in these sectors.

"U.S. consumers share a consistent set of priorities and expectations for online businesses," said Sebastian DiGrande, a BCG senior partner and coauthor of the report. "When deciding whether their expectations are being met, consumers don't necessarily differentiate between online-only businesses and those that straddle the physical and virtual worlds. Closing the gap requires companies to identify where they are able to meet consumer demands and, crucially, where they are not -- so that they can rapidly build capabilities where they've already begun to fall behind."

The opportunity to close the satisfaction gap translates into the potential to add significantly more value through digital channels. BCG found that the average connected consumer in the U.S. receives value of $2,250 a year from accessing companies online in the eight sectors surveyed -- a sum that could nearly triple if all companies matched the best-in-class levels. Consumers receive almost six times as much value from companies in the top-performing sector (retail) as they do from poorer-performing ones.

Behind the online leaders are multiple "aspirants" -- companies in segments whose online experience consumers see as good but also feel could be improved, especially when it comes to facilitating transactions and ongoing interactions. Aspirants include apparel retailers, airlines, hotels, and investment firms.

The research also identified a group of "sleepers" -- real estate agencies, automobile dealers, and supermarkets -- for which both expectations and satisfaction are relatively low. Supermarkets, however, have the opportunity to generate significant satisfaction and value if they improve the quality of their online offering.

"Consumer expectations will only continue to rise -- online and on the run," said Dominic Field, a BCG partner and report coauthor. "More than one-third of consumers are ready and willing now to take advantage of better digital experiences from companies in almost all the business segments we measured. Companies in only a few areas today, notably media and electronics retailers, deliver across mobile platforms. Others will have to raise their digital games as mobile penetration increases, as devices, networks, and apps improve, and as Millennial consumers enter their peak earning and spending years."

The BCG Digital Satisfaction and Value Survey was conducted in March 2013 and had 3,135 total respondents. The survey covered the following sectors (and segments): automobiles, finance (personal banking, investments, and insurance), government services, heath care, retail (apparel, electronics, media, online merchants, and supermarkets), real estate, travel (airlines and hotel), and utilities (telco and cable, electricity, gas, and water).

BCG defined a connected consumer as someone accessing the Internet at least weekly and engaging with businesses online across a range of sectors. The research methodology revealed how much consumers value digital access by asking them to trade Internet usage in the eight sectors for the opportunity to receive varying amounts of cash.

A copy of the report can be downloaded at www.bcgperspectives.com.

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or gregoire.eric@bcg.com.

About The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 78 offices in 43 countries. For more information, please visit bcg.com.

About bcgperspectives.com

Bcgperspectives.com features the latest thinking from BCG experts as well as from CEOs, academics, and other leaders. It covers issues at the top of senior management's agenda. It also provides unprecedented access to BCG's extensive archive of thought leadership stretching back 50 years to the days of Bruce Henderson, the firm's founder and one of the architects of modern management consulting. All of our content -- including videos, podcasts, commentaries, and reports -- can be accessed by PC, mobile, iPad, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The Boston Consulting Group
Eric Gregoire
Global Media Relations Manager

Tel +1 617 850 3783
Fax +1 617 850 3701
gregoire.eric@bcg.com

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