Online retail continues to be the success story of the recession with Paypal recently predicting that by the end of 2011, high street sales will plummet by almost £8.3 billion while online retail sales in the UK will grow by up to 137%.
With this in mind, retailers are spending vast amounts of money driving traffic to their ecommerce sites. But so much of this effort and investment is wasted if retailers don’t maximise their opportunity to convert visitors whilst on their site, and having left it.
To put this into context, dotComnmerce recently embarked on a major benchmark study – called Hitting the Checkout – analysing the ecommerce websites of 20 of the UK’s leading online retailers, to assess their ability to capture and retain website customers by making sure their site is engaging and ‘sticky’. Simon Bird, technical director at dotCommerce, details what makes the best and the worst ecommerce sites.
We ranked all 20 retailers against 24 different success criteria. With an average score of just 68% across all those we studied, the report demonstrates that there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Most online retailers are following best practice guidelines when it comes to the more traditional aspects of ecommerce, for example, the inclusion of easy-to-use FAQs, free-text search with thumbnail images, online order tracking and email order confirmations.
However, what really set Marks and Spencer and John Lewis apart – the two retailers that topped the table – was their inclusion of more ‘value-add’ features, including blogs, video and high quality product imagery. The majority of the retailers assessed – including bottom placed Vie at home, The Fragrance Shop and Avon – failed to go this extra mile.
In fact, only 45% provided editorial content on their site and only 50% used video to give an extra dimension to the online shopping experience. User generated content and social media were also largely ignored, with few embracing blogging (15%) or allowing user comments (10%).
With competition for every consumer pound at an all time high, it’s more important than ever for retailers to engage with visitors on their sites and to keep this relationship alive post-sale. Features such as video, editorial content and user generated content can add something extra to the website experience, supported by relationship marketing activities that can forge long-lasting bonds between customer and brand, encouraging customers to keep returning and spend more as a result.