By Daniel Hunter

Amazon UK, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser have topped the UK Ecommerce Performance Index study by EPiServer. The report, which scored 25 of the UK’s top retailers’ websites against a detailed best practice benchmark, presents a disappointing average score of 58%, which is short of 2011’s score of 63% and indicates that retailers are struggling to keep up with maturing consumer expectations.

The EPiServer report, entitled Benchmarking the Digital High Street: UK Ecommerce Performance Index 2012 presents the findings of a survey of 1,000 consumers to gauge the expectations of online shoppers, which are then compared with the benchmark assessment of top UK retailers' websites to see just how many are meeting the expectations of today’s web-savvy consumer.

“The overall score of 58% is an indication that retailers are faring reasonably well, but also demonstrates that there is plenty of room for improvement and a real opportunity for savvy retailers to give themselves a significant competitive edge with just a few simple measures," David Bowen, Product Manager, EPiServer, commented.

Whilst the overall average scores were down on last year, the top five performers achieved an average score of 68%, which is a slight (2%) improvement on last year and suggests that the biggest players are maintaining their efforts.

The top performing retailers were:

Amazon — 73%
Marks & Spencer — 70%
House of Fraser — 66%
ASOS — 65%
Argos — 65%

The biggest disconnect between consumer expectations and retailer performance was identified in the speed of checkout process, which was one of the top three consumer demands, where retailers scored an average of just 58% against the best practice benchmark. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cost of delivery was also a bone of contention with nine out of ten of consumers prioritising free delivery options whilst an average of just one in five of the top retailers assessed by EPiServer offered this.

Communication is also very important to online shoppers and most retailers hit the mark by providing an email notification of purchase. However, one in three disappointed when it came to providing an email notification of dispatch.

The retailers were scored in four areas: overall website experience, browsing, buying, and after-sales. Amazon scored a fairly even spread of points in each of the four key areas (75%; 76%; 64%; and 77% respectively), which EPiServer suggests demonstrates that the company has carefully considered the entire online shopping journey and implemented best practice at every stage.

“We’ve seen some great examples of websites delivering excellent service in particular areas, but very few are scoring well at all stages of the online shopping journey," Bowen added.

"Many retailers have fallen down at different points too, so there’s no single point of concern across the board. Amazon is a great example of how taking care of every stage can deliver a superior customer experience and this will ultimately support increased conversions and sale values.

“Our findings highlight areas where even the UK’s top retailers are risking customer loyalty, extra revenue and market share by underestimating consumer expectations. Many of the problem areas could be fixed easily and at very little cost, and the full Digital High Street report includes practical advice and real-world examples to highlight simple measures where retailers could improve the user experience to keep customers spending.”

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