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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

Sluggish websites threaten UK retail Christmas bonanza

Tuesday December 15 2009

70% of UK shoppers plan to spend more than £200 online in the run up to Christmas, but only if the sites work  

70% of UK shoppers plan to spend more than £200 online in the run up to Christmas, but only if the sites work

 

More than two thirds of UK shoppers (70 per cent) plan to spend an average of £220 of their Christmas shopping budget online, according to research from business transaction management (BTM) technology provider, <a href="http://www.optier.com" target="_blank">OpTier</a>.

 

However, despite this optimistic outlook for online retailers, the vendor is warning that slow performing websites threaten to leave a large pound shaped hole in etailers’ Christmas stockings.

 

Unsurprisingly, the research highlighted that most UK consumers (73%) still need to ‘touch and feel’ products they buy. But, when it comes to the actual online shopping experience, a poor performing website was the biggest turn-off with one in six citing this as a frustration. This has become particularly worrying as online retailers prepare for ‘cyber Monday’, the busiest internet shopping day of the year that commonly falls on the first Monday of December.

 

Getting the basics right

 

Many retailers have invested heavily in their websites in the run up to the busy Christmas period, but OpTier’s research indicates that if they are unable to get the basics right, consumers will shop elsewhere. This, it said, should be a wake-up call to retailers in the UK, particularly in light of research from <a href="http://www.imrg.org" target="_blank">IMRG</a>, an industry group representing internet retailers, which suggests that internet sales now make up between 10 and 15% of total retail sales in Britain.

 

Almost three quarters of people surveyed said they would use a mixture of the High Street and online to do their Christmas shopping. Fewer than one in five people, just 16%, said they are planning to shop completely offline.

 

“Every year we talk about how online retail sales continue to be robust, but the number of etailers still not getting it right is staggering. If one retailer fails to deliver, shoppers will simply move on until they find one that can. It’s the nature of supply and demand. In the online world, retailers can’t afford to be caught with their pants down,” said Colin Rowland, senior vice president of operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at OpTier.

 

Making the online experience easy

 

Surprisingly, ‘buying from a known brand’ ranked low in consumer priorities when online (15%). Instead respondents indicated a desire for the easy life with the most important factor in their online experience flagged as ‘simple and reliable processes’ (41%). The second most important factor (20%) was ‘quick delivery times’ and in third place was ‘ease of use’ (19%).

 

“In the last 18 months, customer expectations of their online experience have evolved significantly. It’s no longer enough to have a great front end – increasingly consumers care about what goes on under the hood because that’s what impacts their experience the most,” continued Rowland. “Getting the basics right – website performance, transaction processes and the management of customer’s purchases from payment to delivery – is absolutely critical. Etailers who asked Santa for a well managed IT infrastructure last year stand to reap the benefits over the coming weeks. Those who left it off their list will have a tough time retaining customers into 2010.”

 

OpTier said its research was based on a UK wide sample survey of consumers and was carried out via <a href="http://www.esurveyspro.com" target="_blank">eSurveysPro.com</a> in November 2009.