Online retailers need to switch to free delivery and special offers to boost Christmas sales, according to new research.
The 2008 Consumer eTail Report from GSI Commerce polled the views of a representative sample of 2,043 British adults with research specialist YouGov.
The report reveals that although brand prominence is a central element in 56 per cent of consumers' initial search for an online retailer, more importantly, however, if faced with the choice between a product offered at the same price in two stores, nearly seven in ten (68 per cent) consumers cite free delivery as being the most important factor in their ultimate decision to purchase.
Free delivery is most important for women, with this figure rising to 73 per cent among female shoppers meanwhile 20 per cent of men citing the ability to specify delivery times as the deciding factor.
The report also reveals that, alongside the cost benefits of free delivery, the reliability of fulfilment and returns management was explicitly tied to the potential for repeat sales.
When asked what would be most likely to deter them from making a repeat purchase from a site, almost one in three consumers quoted late delivery (28 per cent) and expensive and lengthy returns procedures (33 per cent).
Steve Davis, President, International at GSI Commerce: "It is simply not good enough for a retailer to offer a good product range or website in isolation. No matter how sophisticated an experience you can provide online, your reputation can be easily undermined by a poor experience in delivery or returns. Especially considering the more cost conscious consumer in the current financial climate, it is clear that retailers should be subsidising their shipping or allocating free delivery costs to establish market share this Christmas."
The report also reveals that shopping cart abandonment is directly connected to usability, 76 per cent of user cited factors related to website functionality or content.
A website that was too complicated to use with ease was the most commonly referenced reason for abandoning a purchase with more than a third of British consumers (35 per cent).
Another one in three (33 per cent) cited a lengthy registration process while eight per cent of referenced a multi-page payment process, making up the 76% who cited usability of the website as most likely to make them abandon a purchase.
Davis comments: "A website is the main point of interaction between the retailer and the customers. Just as in a bricks and mortar store, retailers need to make sure that the steps to purchase are as simple and quick as possible as well as including all the information that might affect the purchasing decision such as delivery options, inventory availability and product pictures. If you don't reveal essential information, such as extra charges for tax, until the point of checkout or- by the same token - if you ask customers to go through steps unrelated to payment once they reach the checkout stage, it is inevitable that you will lose business."
When respondents were asked what would be most likely to provoke an impulse purchase, 38 per cent of consumers quoted limited time offers while 36 per cent cited email promotions. Davis continues: "The same principles of visibility apply to fulfilment as to offers and promotions. The ability to monitor stock information ensures that a retailer can assess not only what its most popular items are but also those that are over stocked and target its offers and marketing accordingly.
Above all, it is vital that each element of the ecommerce cycle is integrated and optimised. If just one component delivers poor service, the brand and profitability of the entire business will suffer."
Research Methodology: This survey has been conducted using an online interview administered members of the YouGov Plc GB panel of 185,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2043 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th November - 1st December 2008. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
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