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“Best Online Customer Experience”

by Rob Friesel

Making my usual round through the blogroll, I saw the Keynote Study article mentioned/discussed on Cult of Mac. Intrigued by the mention, I clicked through to the article itself.

My but does someone need to go back to Statistics 101.

The quote that Cult of Mac seemed to fix on was:

Apple was the lone exception, with four in ten (40%) users complaining about the site’s product comparison functionality and information.

While I find myself far more struck by:

Google (16%) was the most popular starting point, followed closely by Dell (12%).

…which (frankly) I think has SELECTION BIAS written all over it.

Some interesting numbers to look at alongside those they mentioned specifically would include:

  1. What is the operating system you use most often?
  2. What operating system do you use at home?
  3. What browser do you use?

Weighing these questions would give us better insight into the mindset of the individuals polled. Let’s refer back to that quote: “…Google (16%) was the most popular starting point, followed closely by Dell (12%)…” What is this really saying? It’s saying that 12% of the people polled are looking for a PC right off the freakin’ bat. By preference? Habit? Ignorance? Who knows… But we have 12% of people polled by Keynote saying right off that their starting point is looking for a PC. Oh wait. Right. A Dell PC.

One of the things that I find further staggering is the assertion that “users complain[ed] about [Apple’s] product comparison functionality and information.” First off, the paper doesn’t elaborate on this with specifics. Second, (and maybe this ties in with the selection bias) it seems to gloss very merrily over the fact that product comparison seems built right into the Apple store’s interface. Let’s take an easy one… Let’s look at the first click-thru for the iMac G5:

We see the three offered models side by side by side; each column’s header gives you the key salient information of each model (e.g., 20-inch 1.8 GHz) with the price right below it. The details of each’s standard configuration is then listed out line-by-comparable-line. So where’s the disconnect? Can’t compare the iMac against the PowerMac against the PowerBook? Perhaps but I hardly see how this fails to stack up against Dell’s comparison “tool”. “Good” vs. “Better” vs. “Best”? Who comes up with this stuff?

But now it sounds like we’ll be re-butting me with my selection bias, right?

To Dell’s credit, they’ve collapse some of the categories a bit — which is arguably helpful for someone that doesn’t know if they’re in the market for a value notebook computer or a really honkin’ powerful laptop. Someone in the frame of mind of “I need a laptop” might be instantly thrown off by having to make the informed first (second?) click of iBook vs. PowerBook. Still, I’m right back to criticizing those painfully uninformative, almost cloying comparison charts. Marks of “Best” the whole way across every model for “Use Microsoft Excel/Powerpoint”? Who would look at this and decide to start future purchases on this site?

Especially when there’s such a mind-blowing typo as:

Microsoft®  Windows XP Operng Systems Ready for Word Processing, E-mail and Internet

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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