Consumers Still Finding Weaknesses in Brands’ Web Presence

Temkin Group logoThe most recently published Temkin Web Experience Ratings of more than 200 companies across 19 industries reveals continuing widespread disappointment with the quality of the “web experience.”

The Temkin Web Experience Ratings are compiled annually by Temkin Group, a Newton, MA-based customer experience research and consulting firm.  The ratings are based on consumer feedback when asked to rate their satisfaction when interacting with each company’s website.

Temkin ratings are established for companies garnering responses from 100 or more of the ~10,000 randomly selected participants in an online survey conducted by the research firm in January 2013.

Rankings are calculated via a “net satisfaction” score based on a 7-point rating scale from “completely satisfied” to “completely dissatisfied” by taking the percentage of consumers selecting the two highest ratings and subtracting the percentage who selected the bottom three ratings.

Just 6% of the brands earned strong or very strong “net” trust ratings, while ten times as many (~63%) were given weak or very weak scores.

And there’s this, too:  Not much improvement is happening.  More than half of the ~150 companies that were included in both the 2012 and 2013 Temkin evaluations earned lower scores this year than last.

Managing partner Bruce Temkin summarized it succinctly:  “The web is a key channel, but online experiences aren’t very good – and are heading in the wrong direction.”

The latest Temkin ratings give Amazon the top-rank position with a 77% overall rating score.  Other companies ranked near the top include Advantage Rent A Car, U.S. Bank and QVC.

At the other end of the scale, MSN, EarthLink and Cablevision earned the lowest ratings – MSN worst of all.

Indeed, the following industries had composite company ratings that ended up in the “very weak” column:

  • Airlines
  • Health plans
  • Internet service providers
  • TV service providers
  • Wireless carriers

Do any of these industries seem like ones that shouldn’t be on this list?

I didn’t think so, either.

Which ones are the industries that score best in the Temkin analysis?  By order of rank, they are as follows:

  • Banks
  • Investment firms
  • Retailers
  • Credit card issuers
  • Hotel chains

Come to think of it, I haven’t encountered problems online with companies or bands in any of these five industries.

It’s also interesting to consider which companies have improved the most over time.  When comparing year-over-year results for the ~150 companies that were included in both the 2012 and 2013 studies, eight of them showed double-digit improvements in their scores:

  • Blue Shield of California
  • Citibank
  • Humana
  • Old Navy
  • Safeway
  • Toyota
  • TriCare
  • U.S. Bank

On the other hand, a much bigger contingent of 21 companies saw their ratings decline by at least 10 points; the six firms that dropped by 15 points of more were these:

  • Bright House Networks
  • Cablevision
  • MSN
  • ShopRite
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines

You can view the scores (and trends) for all 200+ companies by clicking here to download the full report.

If you notice any rankings that seem surprising – or that don’t comport with your own online experiences – please share your thoughts and perspectives below.

Google’s Instant Search: Instant Irritation?

Google's Instant Search is a Non-StarterHow many of you have been noodling around with Google’s new Instant Search functionality since its unveiling earlier this month? I’ve spent the better part of a week working with it, trying hard to keep a “completely open mind” as to its benefits.

I’ve finally came to the conclusion that … I can’t stand it. I’m a pretty fast typist, and generally know what I’m searching for. I really don’t need Google “pre-anticipating” search results for me, and find the constantly jumping search results window extremely off-putting to the point of distraction.

I gave Instant Search a full week … and couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve now elected to turn it off completely.

Wondering if I was the only one with this view … it certainly didn’t take long to find out that there are a great many people out there who feel the same way. You can use Google search (either the “instant” or “traditional” will do fine) to find any number of blog posts and user comments about Google Instant Search that are just one notch shy of mutinous — and hardly genteel in their choice of language. (A few examples can be found here and here and here.)

If the comments by disgruntled users are to be believed, Bing/MSN may find itself with a nice little bump in search volume market share by the end of September.

And if that actually happens, Google Instant might die a quiet death – which wouldn’t be the first time Google laid an egg in its “throw-everything-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks” approach to product development.

But if Google Instant does gain traction … there are some negative implications for search marketers as well. Many companies seek to structure their online marketing campaigns by determining the optimal amount of spending on search advertising, display ads and social media. The key to success in this endeavor is undertaking a process that examines the millions of cookies and billions of clicks that are made by web users, along with factoring in other elements like geographic location and time of day.

All of this information is weighed against the cost of various ads and the likelihood of success as they are served to the user. That’s determined by running regular models of millions of keywords and word combinations, judging the relative costs to determine the optimum frequency. For some of the most aggressive marketers, these models are run once or twice daily.

The advent of Google’s Instant Search scrambles all of that, because it makes the process even faster and more hectic than before. As those of you who have experimented with Instant Search know, you start seeing “suggested” search results with just the first one or two keystrokes … and those choices continue to change with each new keystroke made or movement of the cursor down the list of Google’s suggestions. For marketers, the result is a lot more velocity on the ad side – and more price changes.

As proof of this, within the first few days of Instant Search’s launch, sites that Instant Search recommends after the first one or two letters are typed into the search box – “Mapquest,” “Ticketmaster” and “Pandora” are three useful examples – were experiencing significant increases in traffic, whereas their hapless competitors were not.

If that’s what is happening with the big boys, where does this put smaller businesses? The answer is obvious: They’re going to get squeezed big-time … and as a result, their search advertising costs are going nowhere but up.

Mighty sporting of you, Google.

Search … and destroy? Nah.

New statistics published earlier this month by Hitwise show that Google continues merrily on its way to even greater heights of dominance in the search engine field.  Despite the Don Quixote-like efforts of other search engines like MSN, Ask and Yahoo to take a run at Google’s position, the latest stats show that Google’s search engine is as popular as ever.

More popular, in fact.  The numbers reveal that Google’s share of search activity has now risen to 72% versus 67% a year earlier, whereas the others continue to decline.  Yahoo is in second position, but getting 21% of search share is about on par with H. Ross Perot’s vote percentage in the 1992 presidential election – all hat and no cattle.

More startlingly bad is MSN’s performance at around 7% of search activity, because they’ve been trying hard to make a dent in Google’s position. Keep on trying, gents.  Maybe you’ll break 10% share before long, although I doubt it.

Does any of this come as a surprise?  After all, people are creatures of habit. And when a habit gets as big as this, it’s really hard to break.

Also, most people typically take the path of least resistance. And when it comes to search, isn’t Google the easiest path?  Simple visual layout … easy to use … robust results.  What’s the point of going anywhere else?

UPDATE4/1/09 – As if on cue, another search engine bites the dust.  Wikia has announced it is closing down its Wikia Search project.  Introduced to great fanfare last year, Wikia was intended to be a user-generated, open search engine.  The problem?  Wikia Search was simply not generating any sort of worthwhile volume.  In fact, traffic was running about 10,000 unique users per month.  That’s just a blip on the screen — and certainly disappointing considering the success of other initiatives like Wikipedia and Wikia Answers.  Further proof that to be first in cyberspace with a good idea and good execution is a huge advantage … and to be fourth or fifth is considerably more difficult, even fruitless.