By Daniel Hunter

Despite online sales expected to hit £4.7 billion this Christmas, retailers are still not providing the right customer experience on the web, according to Eptica.

Fifty-five percent of UK shoppers said they cannot find basic information, such as delivery and returns policies, on half the websites they visit.

At the same time, consumers are starting their Christmas shopping earlier. A week after Black Friday, 52% of consumers had already done over three quarters of their shopping, with 16% claiming to have completed it.

The consequences of poor service online are stark — 42% of the 1000 Britons surveyed said they simply take their business elsewhere. Alternatively, consumers are forced to switch to other channels. Forty-one percent said they would email, and 17% would call a company to get answers to their queries. This increases customer frustrations and may add to retailers’ costs, as responding to emails and calls are more expensive than web-based interactions. Just 6.5% said they’d use social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to get in touch.

Speed of response is also a crucial factor this Christmas. Over a third (39%) said they’d only spend 5 minutes looking for an answer online before switching to another supplier or channel. Six in ten will only hold for 5 minutes on the phone before hanging up. Over half (56%) of consumers expect their email to be answered within 4 hours, and 44% want a response to their tweets within an hour.

“Christmas is make or break for many retailers, meaning they need to focus on customer service if they want to be successful,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and co-founder, Eptica.

“Fifty-five percent of UK shoppers are dissatisfied with the information they receive on half the websites they visit, pointing to a gap between the best and worst retailers. As our research found, if you fail to deliver, customers have no qualms in either switching to competitors, or moving to more expensive channels such as the phone or email.”

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