New research suggests that online customer experience standards are stagnating, with performance in areas such as service and ease of purchase failing to improve year-on-year.
The study, carried out by ecommerce and digital agency Visualsoft, analyses the UK top 250 retailers and found failings across a number of website performance metrics, which could have an extremely detrimental effect on profits.
The research reveals that almost one in five (19%) retailers fail to optimise their onsite search with functions such as autocomplete, well-targeted product suggestions or relevant recommendations. Including these features can double a store’s conversion levels, highlighting a clear missed opportunity.
Moreover, only 37% of retailers make use of live chat or virtual assistant services – a figure which has dropped by 2% in the past 12 months. Studies show that this “humanising” aspect of an online brand, in which customers can receive an instant response to their queries - can boost conversion rates by as much as 40%.
More than a third (35%) of online shopping basket abandonment is due to customers being asked to create a customer account prior to purchase - however, the study reveals that 67% of retailers force shoppers to follow this step. This extra hurdle alone could be costing retailers dearly in missed sales.
Lastly, retailers also perform poorly in terms of ease of purchase. The analysis suggests that more than one in 10 online retailers have eight or more steps before purchase – a figure which is likely to deter many customers from spending.
“Great customer service is a key facet of bricks-and-mortar retail,” notes Gavin Lowther, head of digital, Visualsoft. “However, online stores must also ensure that their site provides an enjoyable and simple buying process, with easy access to help should they need it. Not only does this engender brand loyalty (as consumers are more likely to come back to a site that they found simple to use), it also increases sales.
“Of course, many may not see these metrics as critical as long as consumer appetite for online shopping remains strong. But, as we head into what promises to be a very difficult 2019, the retailers that thrive will be those that get the basics right.
“News of a profit slump at ASOS proves that online brands are not immune to today’s difficult retail landscape and should be doing all they can to maximise sales opportunities.”
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.