Those of us who are focused on female consumers in particular have to realize that a woman 's brand loyalty truly hinges on both the product and the shopping experience. That said, our success in serving them well will depend on meeting, if not exceeding , their expectations for an improved customer relationship. Of course, just one bad online experience can ruin a customer's loyalty to the brand's off-line channel as well. All the more reason to focus in on the online customer experience!
And there can be no slacking. The early adopter and ultraforgiving online newbie days are long gone (that's so 1996). These days, most online shoppers, newbies or veterans , have higher expectations about Web-site design and customer experience. In fact, a survey of eleven thousand Internet users, including six hundred women, found that 65 percent of consumers will not shop on a poorly designed site, even if it's the site of a favorite brand.  Furthermore, 30 percent of the women surveyed won't use a poorly designed site, and will even cease off-line purchases from a company with a poor site, compared to 27.2 percent of men.
Shoppers who cautiously waited a while before taking their buying power online likely have that much higher expectations of how they will be served. These later adopters of the technology took their time joining the Internet masses so they could be assured that the privacy, security and service issues were already ironed out. These patient consumers were willing to wait in order to be served well when the time came, and so they are justifiably demanding customers.
Overcoming online veterans' experiences with poorly designed sites and meeting online novices' ultrahigh initial standards raises the bar for performance, design, functionality and customer experience. There's little room for mistakes in reaching the majority of online shoppers ”women. Let's take a look at some of the typical online customer experience issues that women will notice:
Common Customer-Service Weaknesses
Slowness, or failure to respond, to customer inquiries.
Lack of personal contact (via an 800 number, online chat or e-mail).
Customer service staff hard to reach or find (with confusing phone tree messages or long hold times).
Customer service personnel not competent or lacking decision-making authority.
Customers required to type out complaints.
The site "Temporarily unavailable" or downloads slowly.
Top Barriers to Repeat Purchasing
No order tracking, or tracking that is poorly executed.
Complicated return processes or policies.
A 2001 study of more than four thousand Web users by Brigham Young University found similar complaints to those listed in most other e-commerce studies:
General Online Shopping Complaints
Having to pay shipping charges or high shipping rates.
The difficulty of judging the quality of merchandise.
The hassle of returning unwanted items.
The possibility of credit card numbers being stolen.
Then there are the more Web-specific frustrations of online shoppers. Retail Forward, a market research firm specializing in retail and consumer product marketing, found that nearly two- thirds of online shoppers are satisfied with their shopping experiences, but more than half cited areas of frustration:
Top Five Online Shopping Frustrations 
Pop-up boxes when visiting or shopping a site: 52 percent
Banner advertisements: 50 percent
Congested Web pages (with ad, image or information overflow): 35 percent
Slow load times: 26 percent
Difficulty finding a specific product: 20 percent
Using guesswork and outdated stereotypes about what women want, rather than involving women earlier and more fully in the concept development and marketing process.
Focusing on flashy technology and entertainment in online efforts, when women really want ease of use, solution-oriented content and superior customer service when shopping.
Sending useless, impersonal, self-serving e-mail (which leads women to opt out of your e-mail list).
Ignoring the integration of online and off-line customer experiences, resulting in an uneven , disappointing experience overall that compromises brand trust.
Wasting customer's time with poorly designed Web sites, weak content and inefficient customer service staff (via phone or e-mail).
 Genex/Synovate National Customer Experience Survey, Atlanta, June 2003, http://www.genex.com/Company/News/Web_Site_Design_Affects_Consumer_Sales.html.
 Internet Users Consumer Panel, September 2001, Retail Forward, Inc., Columbus, Ohio, http://www.retailforward.com.