The latest study of UK online retailing concludes that website experiences lag behind customer needs. EPiServer’s assessment of 25 of the UK’s top retailers paints a picture of consistently missed opportunities for brands to generate sales online. No silver bullet, but some key learnings any online store should take a look at…
The study interviewed 2,000 consumers and asked them about their online shopping preferences. It then benchmarked the retailers to see how they shaped up. The key results from the EPiServer report paint a picture of consistent failings for online stores to give consumers the experiences they’d like. A few of the headline points show the level of mismatch between expectations and what is delivered:
• 88% of consumers want user reviews; only 42% of retailers provide them
• 80% of consumers want recommendations based on purchases from other users; just 20% of retailers have this feature
• 83% of consumers want to be able to compare products; only half of retailers enable this
The majority of retailers of retailed sites reviewed are also not taking advantage of social commerce, with many neglecting powerful features like recommendations, reviews and social media sharing links.
EPiServerinterviewed 2,000 consumers to explore the online shopping features they look for. They measured on a scale of quality for the 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.
As a study the sample size and the basket of retailers is comfortably large enough to be statistically representative. The average score achieved by the retailers was only 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.
The report paints a depressing picture because the UK is one of the most advanced countries in the world and many of the gaps in website design are at a basic level for any new website consideration. It looks like retailers have built up a good understanding of Web 1.0. Analytics-driven decision making has also become endemic in online retail culture, ensuring that most retailers have split-run testing built into their web content development plans. On the bright side there were two areas in which retailers performed well – 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. Ideas 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.”