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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

Online retailers failing to exploit website potential

Saturday December 12 2009

Many UK retailers are neglecting to include added-value content and features on their websites that will encourage repeat visits, high transaction values and ongoing brand loyalty, according to a new study from dotCommerce.  

Many UK retailers are neglecting to include added-value content and features on their websites that will encourage repeat visits, high transaction values and ongoing brand loyalty, according to a new study from dotCommerce.

 

Hitting The Checkout, which assessed 20 of the leading UK-based retailers, highlighted that, while most have the e-commerce basics covered, the majority are failing to embrace the rise of rich web 2.0 content, such as blogs, videos and user-generated content, or demonstrate integration with marketing tools, such as email and social media links.

 

The benchmark study, (available to download at www.dotcommerce.co.uk/hittingthecheckout), assessed the UK retailer’s e-commerce platforms across a range of different sectors. Each site was evaluated against 26 criteria within seven categories – site content, design, product search, product page, marketing, checkout and after sales service – with each retailer awarded a total score out of 100.

 

Marks and Spencer (82%) and John Lewis (78%) topped the study’s e-commerce league table, demonstrating that they were going beyond the basics and delivering a rich experience to website visitors, which was clearly integrated with email, after sales and marketing initiatives.

 

However, health and beauty retailers fared badly, with Virgin Vie At Home (62%), The Fragrance Shop (56%) and Avon (54%) languishing at the bottom. The average score was 68%, with only the top two retailers scoring more than three quarters of the marks, suggesting there is still some work to do.

 

Few retailers provided sufficient added-value content for website users, above and beyond their product detail. For example, less than half (45%) offered any kind of editorial material on their sites to engage customers and facilitate cross-sell. In addition, just 10% allowed users to submit comments or product reviews and only 15% included a blog – valuable for search engine optimisation and customer retention.

 

Other popular web 2.0 features were also found lacking, with only half of retailers using video content to give an extra dimension to the online shopping experience. Three out of four also failed to leverage the rise of social networks by not bookmarking links that will allow visitors to share information on interesting products directly with like-minded friends and peers.

 

However, there were some positive signs, with the 20 retailers all scoring high marks for the customer support options available to visitors. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) and searchable knowledge bases were commonplace on the websites, offering shoppers easy access to help and support if required. In addition, most of the retailers had paid careful attention to the overall design and layout of the website with good structure on product pages, engaging product images and coherent checkout funnels.

 

"We were generally surprised to find a lack of added-value features and content on these websites," said Simon Bird, dotCommerce technical director. "With competition for every consumer pound at an all time high, it’s more important than ever for retailers to engage with visitors to their sites. Features such as video, editorial content and user generated content can really added something extra to a website and go a long way to increasing the amount of money a customer will spend.

 

"It is also important to recognise the role that ecommerce sites can play in encouraging shoppers to sign-up for other marketing and promotional efforts, such as email marketing or loyalty schemes. This allows the retailer to begin building long-term relationships with consumers and maximising revenue from their existing base."

 

www.dotcommerce.co.uk