Customer contact and delivery have become the two main areas in which online retailers need to improve in order to capitalise on customer loyalty and brand satisfaction, according to an e-retail benchmarking study from eDigitalResearch.
The study used online mystery shoppers to evaluate more than thirty popular shopping web sites in the UK, specifically examining the overall customer experience and factors that drive customer loyalty and brand advocacy.
Customer contact challenge
Among the main factors involved in loyalty to online retailers, managing increasing levels of customer service contact - both by telephone and by e-mail - has become a challenge for many of the e-retailers examined.
Although the majority of consumers surveyed by eDigitalResearch said that they expect a response within 24 hours of sending an e-mail, many businesses seem unable to provide that level of service. It is therefore important that this aspect of the online sales process is improved, otherwise brand loyalty remains at risk.
The delivery challenge
The other main aspect of e-commerce that the survey identified as a cause of customer complaints was delivery. After a purchase has been made online, customers expect their goods to be delivered at a time and place that suits their schedule and needs.
Customers are increasingly looking for more flexible delivery options to meet their own individual requirements, and online retailers that fail to provide those kind of options risk lose significant business to those that do.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the e-retail study identified Amazon as being the overall leader in terms of customer service, having scored the highest for customer telephone contact as well as for accurate search results and web site 'first impressions'. Amazon has scored well in the study for the past seven years. John Lewis Direct also scored very highly for both e-mail and telephone support.
According to eDigitalResearch director Michelle Fuller, "It is a concern that so many online retailers are overlooking important aspects of their service, such as customer communication and delivery. Both loyalty and customer conversion are affected when customers e-mail product or delivery queries before making a purchase online and their query goes unanswered."