E-retailers' customer engagement still at risk
Most British consumers (88%) say they want user reviews on retail web sites, while only 42% of retailers in the UK actually provide that facility, according to a survey of 2,000 consumers and 25 top retailers by EPiServer, which explored the possibilities for developing customer engagement and social loyalty marketing.
The web sites of most UK retailers are currently failing to meet customer expectations, the survey found. While retailers are succeeding at the fundamentals of e-commerce (such as providing clear product images and effective search facilities), they are not providing the engaging online shopping experience that consumers really want.
The majority of retailers were also found not to be taking advantage of social commerce, with many neglecting powerful features such as recommendations, reviews and social media sharing links.
The average score achieved by retailers was a mediocre 63%, with the majority losing marks with regard to 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.
However, retailers generally 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%).
The differences between consumer expectations and retail delivery were marked. When it comes to having "a pleasurable online experience", 89% of consumers expect this, while only 63% of retailers deliver this requirement. Having "a wide range of customer service options" is sought by 84% of consumers, but delivered by only 60% of retailers.
Many consumers said that they were looking for "something a bit special" from their online shopping experiences, and it was here that UK retailers slipped up. Only 68% of retailers provided loyalty schemes, 35% failed to display clear returns policies, and only 50% provided the ability to compare products on their web site.
At the same time, the survey found that retailers were generally failing to use social media features that would give consumers the opportunity to involve their peers in the shopping process. Only one in five (20%) provided the option to share links or products via social networks and only 32% featured blogs or articles.
Recommendations (such as 'other shoppers also bought...') were also cited as important by 58% of consumers, being deemed to be more valuable than other more widely used features such as wish lists, but only 20% of retailers provided shoppers with recommendations based on what other customers had purchased.
"This shows that consumers are not getting the experience they expect when shopping online," concluded Maria Wasing, vice president of marketing for EPiServer. "Retailers need to develop their web sites to provide more engaging and social features, as well as content that will keep consumers on the site until the point of conversion - or at least entice them to return if they leave the site."
The report, entitled 'Developing your e-commerce strategy, has been made available for download from EPiServer's web site - click here (free registration required).