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Festive shoppers increasingly impatient with online retailers

17th Dec 2014
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A week after Black Friday, 52% of consumers had already done over three quarters of their Christmas shopping this year, with 16% claiming to have completed it all. The findings, which come from a nationwide survey we at Eptica conducted this festive season, highlight the intensity and gusto with which people approach their Christmas shopping these days.  They want their shopping done and out of the way quickly, which means they are growing increasingly impatient with online retailers who don’t provide the perfect online experience. Speed and simplicity are key factors in who consumers choose to buy from.Infographic on Eptica Christmas Consumer research

Yet many retailers are still failing to get even the simplest things right. Of the 1,000 UK consumers we questioned, 55% said they can’t find basic information, such as delivery and returns policies, on half the websites they visit. 1% said they hardly ever found what they were looking for.

The impact of poor service
These are elementary errors and the consequences are brutal. 42% of people in our survey said they simply take their business elsewhere if they don’t find the information they are looking for. Over a third (39%) said they’d only spend 5 minutes looking for an answer online before switching to another supplier or channel.

Even if shoppers don’t immediately go somewhere else, they will impose additional costs on the retailer by moving to a more expensive channel to get the information they need. 41% of people in our poll said they would email, and 17% would call, to get answers to their queries. 6.5% said they’d use social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to get in touch. Having to pay contact centre agents to answer emails, calls and social media messages for basic information is an expensive waste of resources, compared to getting it right first time.

There is little relief for retail customer service departments because shoppers’ impatience continues when they switch to another channel.  60% 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, with 87% wanting an answer within 24 hours. 44% want a response to their tweets within an hour, and 60% expect a reply within 2 hours. We’ve previously seen that many companies struggle to meet these targets, often taking days to respond to emails.

Cross-channel comparison
UK retailers who think online shoppers are getting too demanding over here, need to spare a thought for their French counterparts.  When we conducted a similar survey in France, 19% of shoppers said they’d demand compensation if they failed to receive the service they expected. 51% of shoppers said they’d go to a competitor if they were unsatisfied with the service they received. 36% of French consumers would email to get their query answered, while a third would call, and 13% would use social media.

Online sales are expected to hit £4.7 billion this Christmas and the number is likely to increase in coming years.  Retailers who want to give themselves a realistic chance of winning a chunk of these festive sales, should be making every effort to ensure a smooth and hassle-free online experience for customers. And that includes ensuring that answers to questions that shoppers commonly ask are placed prominently on their websites. 

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