By Marcus Leach
Nearly half (46%) of UK shoppers will be doing last minute online shopping in the week leading up to 25 December this year, but over two thirds (67.3%) don't trust retailers to deliver gifts before the big day according to new research. 27% simply expect deliveries to be late.
The findings come from the Eptica Christmas 2011 Retail Experience Study which also found that 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.
The study provides a snapshot of ecommerce customer service, based on research with both consumers and real world website testing. 1,000 consumers across the UK 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.
85% of top retail sites reviewed in the study 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.
UK consumers are expected to spend more than £13.5 billion during the Christmas period, but this year are expected to be more savvy in their spending, seeking out bargains by buying later to stretch their budgets.
"Given the economic situation this promises to be a hypercompetitive Christmas for UK retailers as customers shop around for the best deal," said Dee Roche, Global Marketing Director, Eptica. "The Eptica study shows that retailers need to do much more to reassure customers that their presents will arrive for Christmas day. Consumers obviously trust Father Christmas to deliver on time - but not the majority of online retailers."
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. 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. The good news for retailers is that there is still time to update their websites before it is too late - but they need to hurry as Christmas is fast approaching," added Roche.
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. Given the speed at which websites can be updated retailers still have time to add Christmas customer service information to maximise their chances of capturing increased sales this year.
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