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UK retailers failing to meet consumer demand for engaging e-commerce experiences

Saturday April 16 2011

The websites of UK retailers are failing to meet consumer expectations according to an EPiServer study, which asked consumers about their online shopping preferences and then benchmarked retailers to see how they shaped up.

While retailers are ticking the boxes when it comes to the fundamentals of e-commerce, such as providing clear product images and effective search, they are not providing the engaging online shopping experience that consumers are demanding. The majority of retailers are also not taking advantage of social commerce, with many neglecting powerful features like recommendations, reviews and social media sharing links.

The EPiServer report, entitled ‘Developing your e-commerce strategy: how to deliver what consumers really want’ presents the findings of a survey of 2,000 consumers exploring the online shopping features they look for in four areas: overall web experience, browsing, buying and after-sales. The report then reveals how 25 UK retailers, taken from the Hitwise Top 50 Hot Shops list, measured up to these consumer demands in a benchmark study.

The average score achieved by the retailers was a mediocre 63%, with the majority losing marks around value-added and social features. Despite 88% of consumers saying user reviews were vital or important to their e-commerce experience, only 42% of retailers provided them. And when it came to product recommendations like ‘other shoppers also bought’, only 20% of retailers included these despite 80% of consumers stating they were important.

Retailers performed well against the two elements that were ranked top by UK consumers, with 97% having a site that was easy to navigate and 96% having an effective search function. Retailers also scored well in other areas such as providing high quality images (96%), immediate email confirmations (96%) and swift product delivery (96%). 

However, many consumers revealed they were looking for something a bit special from their online shopping experience and it is here that UK retailers slipped up. Even though 89% of consumers said they wanted a pleasurable online experience and 84% stated that a wide range of customer service options was important, only 63% and 60% of retailers providing these respectively. Elsewhere, only 68% of retailers provided loyalty schemes, 35% failed to display clear returns policies and only half provided the ability to compare products.

Ignoring the social web The survey found that retailers were generally failing to use social features that would give consumers the opportunity to involve their peers in the shopping process. Only one in five provided the option to share links or products via social networks and just 32% of retailers featured blogs or articles.

Associations like ‘other shoppers bought’ were cited as important by 58% of consumers and deemed to be more valuable than other more widely used features like wish lists, but only 20% of retailers provided shoppers with recommendations according to what other users purchased. 

“This research shows consumers are not receiving the experience they expect when shopping online,” said Maria Wasing, VP of Marketing Europe at EPiServer. “UK retailers need to develop their websites to provide more engaging, social features and content that will keep consumers on a site until a point of conversion or entice them to return if they leave the site. There are major challenges ahead for retailers in this fast-evolving digital age. The ones that tap into the power of the ‘social-web and social commerce’ to gain traffic, loyalty and revenue will be the ones that succeed.”

Tagged as: online | etail | retail | ecommerce |

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