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Published
May 17, 2017
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UK e-tail: click & collect, mobile focus and easy returns are key says report

Published
May 17, 2017

The UK may have the most online-focused consumers globally, but a new report shows that they aren’t completely happy with the e-shopping experience. However, they continue to embrace e-commerce and are increasingly embracing m-commerce too.


E-stores like Asos are increasingly benefitting from UK consumers' love of e-shopping but consumers still meet problems when they shop online - Asos



Yet high rates of returns and problems with Click & Collect remain headaches for both retailers and their customers, the third annual JDA/Centiro Customer Pulse 2017 Report, conducted by YouGov, showed. And with fashion being one of the biggest non-food online categories and issues such as fit being hard to determine from a computer screen, this research can give some useful insights, particularly for clothing and footwear stores.

For the study, the researchers spoke to over 2,000 people during late December, a month when online shopping was very much on consumers’ minds. They found a strong pro-online shopping bias, and an interest in both pureplay shopping via smartphone as well as omnichannel.

And they discovered that almost half of respondents have used a mobile device inside a retail store in the last year. The researchers said 46% of UK adults are using devices in-store for ‘showrooming’ to check and compare prices (30%), to read reviews (22%) and even to entertain themselves while queueing (21%), all of which helps to enhance the shopping experience.  

But it’s not all good news when it comes to buying online. Some 56% of respondents said they’d had a problem with an online order in the previous 12 months, up from 53% a year earlier and only 47% in 2015. Those figures suggest that as online shopping continues to grow, not all retailers are paying enough attention to fulfilling the sale once items have been bought.

Given that 78% of respondents said they’d happily switch retailers if they had problems, that’s bad news for e-stores.
The problems people experienced most were late delivery (42%), missed deliveries due to not being at home (37%), missing items (25%) and damaged items (24%).

Retailers are working to find solutions to these issues and the problem of people missing deliveries due to not being at home could be helped by the current service Zalando is testing. In Belgium it is using geolocation to get parcels to people who can’t be home when the delivery is due or whose offices don’t allow staff to receive deliveries.

One delivery issue that has been a headache for both retailers and their customers is the cost but there are signs in the report that consumers are adapting to an era of higher delivery charges. Free delivery has, in the past, been cited by shoppers as a key feature. But many stores have introduced order thresholds to qualify for this and a number are planning to raise the threshold as costs continue to mount. Others, such as Amazon with its paid-for Prime service, find other ways (rather than simply charging per delivery) of generating revenue to subsidise deliveries, while also gaining huge amounts of data and winning an almost-captive audience for its wider offer.

The new report said shoppers are  ‘getting real’ about delivery charges. Seventy-five per cent of UK adults would be willing to exceed a minimum order value to qualify for free delivery.

CLICK & COLLECT

A key alternative to receiving a delivery at home or in the office is Click & Collect but problems continue to be seen here, although they are falling as retailers get better at ensuring their products are in the right place at the right time.

The survey showed that the number of people who had a Click & Collect problem in the latest period fell to 43%, down from 45% and 47% in the previous two years.


Omnichannel retailers like Zara are making the most of Click & Collect services to sell their goods online and entice people in-store too - Zara



Those who reported problems said a lack of staff meant they had to wait a long time to pick up their order (26%, but down from 35% a year earlier) and staff being unable to find the items that were supposed to have arrived in-store (18% but down from 32%).

Click & Collect usage remains high though with 54% of shoppers using the service last year and 23% of them buying an additional item in the store when they went to pick up their parcels.

REDUCING RETURNS

Meanwhile, the high rate of returns remains a problem for retailers selling goods online with one-third of UK adults returning up to two non-food items annually at present and a quarter of shoppers returning three or more items. There have been plenty of reports on the impact of returns on retailer profits and it is clear that retailers have much more work to do to ensure customers ordering online get the items they want first time.

So why are people returning their purchases? Well, only 17% of shoppers who have returned items said they bought multiple pieces and planned to send some back regardless of whether they fitted or not. But 38% said the returns were made because the items were not what they expected and 32% because they were faulty.

For those who didn’t get what they expected, the retailer task is all about better imagery on websites, more information and, longer term, perhaps features such as personalised visual fitting rooms that minimise the risk of items not fitting.

But some consumers will always return items and Centiro CEO Niklas Hedin said easy returns are a plus for people when they are deciding which websites to spend their money on.“Retailers need to see returns as another customer touchpoint, and a way to make a positive impression that engenders greater customer loyalty. It will be those retailers that offer a full-circle brand experience that will capture the larger share of customer wallets,” he said.

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