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Are retailers missing a trick online?

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Despite online sales expected to hit £4.7bn this Christmas, some retailers are missing out by not providing the right customer experience on the web.

According to new consumer research commissioned by Eptica, 55% of UK shoppers say they cannot find basic information, such as delivery and returns policies, on half of the websites they visit. The research also emphasised that consumers are starting their Christmas shopping earlier: a week after Black Friday, 52% of consumers had already finished three quarters of their Christmas spending, with 16% claiming to have completed it.

The consequences of poor service online are blatant, with 42% of the 1000 Britons surveyed saying they will simply take their business elsewhere. Alternatively, consumers are forced to switch to make use of other channels. 41% of surveyed participants said they would e-mail retail companies to have their queries answered, and 17% said they would place a phone call. This increases customer frustrations and may add to retailers’ costs, when web-based interactions would be so much more cost effective.

Speed is of the essence, and prompt action is important, especially at Christmas. Over a third of the nation (39%) said they’d only spend five minutes looking for an answer online before switching to another supplier or channel and 60% will only hold for five minutes on the phone before hanging up. Over half (56%) of consumers expect their email to be answered within four hours where 44% want a response to their tweets within an hour.

“55% of UK shoppers are dissatisfied with the information they receive on half the websites they visit, pointing to a gap between the best and worst retailers” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and co-founder, Eptica.

“As our research found, if retailers fail to deliver, customers have no qualms in either switching to competitors, or moving to more expensive channels such as the phone or email.”

The UK experience is similar to France, where 51% of shoppers said they’d go to a competitor if they were unsatisfied with the service they received. 36% of French consumers would email to get their query answered, while a third would call, and 13% use social media. 19% of French respondents said they’d demand compensation if they failed to receive the service they expected.

“Customers are ever more demanding when it comes to fast access to information – they are simply not willing to wait for an answer to their question, whatever the channel,” added Njamfa. “However there is a chasm between expectations and reality – consumers want responses in hours or minutes on channels such as email and Twitter, yet many businesses take days and weeks to respond. Clearly, companies have to focus their efforts on better meeting customer needs if they are to thrive in today’s service and speed-driven economy.”

Published on Thursday 11 December by Veebs Sabharwal

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