UK retailers blasted for poor online stores

UK retailers are falling massively short of expectations when it comes to serving customers online, a new report has claimed.

While retailers are competently meeting the fundamentals of e-commerce, such as providing clear product images and effective search functions, they are not providing the engaging online shopping experience that consumers are demanding.

A study by content management firm EPiServer claims 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.

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EPiServer polled 2,000 consumers on the online shopping features they look for in four areas — overall web experience, browsing, buying and after-sales — and benchmarked those results against 25 leading UK retailers selling a range of products, including giftware and homeware.

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.

Furthermore, while 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 are providing these respectively.

“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.”

Wasing said there are major challenges ahead for retailers in the 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,” she commented.

Despite the damning indictment, EPiServer reported that 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%).

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