Nearly half (46%) of UK shoppers will be doing last minute online shopping in the week leading up to 25 December 2011, but over two thirds (67.3%) don’t trust retailers to deliver gifts before the big day, according to new research by email management company Eptica.
The findings, from its Christmas 2011 Retail Experience Study, also show 27% of shoppers simply expect deliveries to be late.Shoppers’ mistrust of retailers’ ability to deliver items on time is made worse by unclear information and unhelpful answers to delivery questions on their websites, Eptica reports.
The study is based on research with 1,000 consumers and website testing. Shoppers were questioned online about their shopping habits while 40 leading retail websites in the fashion, consumer electronics, food and drink and CD/DVD/book sectors were visited in November 2011 to find out information on Christmas delivery dates.
Website research uncovered a gulf between best and worst performing sectors, with fashion retailers most likely to display delivery dates and food and drink websites least helpful in providing delivery information, said researchers.
Of the top retail sites reviewed, 85% failed to provide straightforward details of final ordering dates to guarantee Christmas delivery, with the majority leaving it to shoppers to puzzle it out for themselves based on standard delivery information or forcing them to call or email already stretched contact centres, said Eptica.
“Given the economic situation this promises to be a hyper-competitive Christmas for UK retailers as customers shop around for the best deal,” said Dee Roche, global marketing director, Eptica. “The Eptica study shows retailers need to do much more to reassure customers their presents will arrive for Christmas day. Consumers obviously trust Father Christmas to deliver on time – but not the majority of online retailers.”
The 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, the company said. This uncovered major online customer service issues amongst 100 top UK companies, with websites only able to provide the answer to 50% of enquiries on average. When it came to email the picture was even worse, with less than half of companies (48%) correctly answering questions sent through the channel, 47% not acknowledging receipt of email and one in four (27%) simply not responding at all. Overall, it identified a lack of investment in online customer service systems that can provide quick and accurate answers on key channels such as the website and through email.
“Providing quick, understandable answers to customer questions online will be fundamental to retail success this Christmas. Companies need to be clear, transparent and consistent with information – otherwise they risk losing vital Christmas sales as nervous customers shop elsewhere,” said Roche.