Christmas shoppers fear e-retailers can't deliver
Nearly half (46%) of UK shoppers will be doing last minute online shopping in the week leading up to Christmas Day this year, but more than two thirds (67.3%) say they don't trust retailers to deliver gifts before the big day, according to a survey by customer interaction specialist Eptica.
The 'Eptica Christmas 2011 Retail Experience Study' found that, with 27% expecting pre-Christmas deliveries to be late, shoppers' mistrust of online retailers' ability to deliver items on time is being made worse by unclear information and unhelpful answers to delivery questions on retailers' websites.
The online survey asked 1,000 UK consumers about their shopping habits, and also visited 40 leading retail websites in the fashion, consumer electronics, food and drink and CD/DVD/book sectors during November 2011 to ask for information about Christmas delivery dates. The website research uncovered a wide gap between best and worst performing sectors, with fashion retailers being the most likely to display delivery dates and food and drink websites being the least helpful with delivery information.
The majority (85%) of the retail web sites examined failed to provide straightforward details of final ordering dates to guarantee pre-Christmas delivery, with the majority leaving it to shoppers to work out the dates for themselves based on standard delivery times, or forcing consumers to call or email already overloaded contact centres.
The UK is the largest ecommerce market in Europe, with more Britons than ever before (93%) expected to shop online at Christmas 2011 and 58% expecting to do half or more of their festive buying over the internet. In fact, UK consumers are expected to spend more than £13.5 billion during the Christmas 2011 shopping period, but they are also expected to be much smarter than before about their spending, seeking out bargains and buying at the last minute to help stretch their budgets.
"Given the economic situation this promises to be a very competitive Christmas for UK retailers as customers shop around for the best deals," said Dee Roche, global marketing director for Eptica. "Our study shows that retailers need to do much more to reassure customers that their purchases and gifts will arrive before Christmas day."
This inability of retailers to provide accurate customer service answers echoes the findings of the '2011 Eptica UK Multichannel Customer Service Study', published in June 2011, which uncovered major online customer service issues amongst 100 top UK companies, with websites being able to provide answers to only 50% of enquiries, on average. And when it came to email, the problem was even worse with fewer than half of the companies (48%) correctly answering questions sent by email, 47% not acknowledging receipt of an email, and 27% simply not responding at all.
"Providing quick, understandable answers to customer questions online will be fundamental to retail success this Christmas," concluded Roche. "Retailers need to be clear, transparent and consistent with their information, otherwise they risk losing vital sales as nervous customers shop elsewhere."