By Suzy Coulson, Digital Research Assistant, Global Reviews
As we neared the end of 2013, it was predicted that Australians would spend $30 billion over the festive season. This total was well exceeded with an estimated total of $42 billion being spent, according to the Australian Retailers Association. During the post-Christmas sales (Boxing Day to mid-January) it is predicted that a further $15 billion will be spent (up 3.8% from last year), showing that the retail sector is indeed booming.
This past quarter (Q4 2013) Global Reviews ran a study that measured the sales effectiveness of online retailers. Given the competitive nature of the industry and recent increase in customer spending, our aim was to assess and benchmark just how well equipped online retailers are in supporting customers with a great online purchase experience.
The benchmark study evaluated both local and international online retailers and it measured how each brand’s website performed across the various phases of the online customer journey; from how well the website can initially engage with the customer through to the effectiveness of the ‘checkout’ process.
Harvey Norman leads the way
Overall the industry averaged 54% and was led by Harvey Norman with a score of 61%, closely followed by Big W and Dick Smith on 60%. While these 3 brands topped the list, they weren’t consistently the leaders across each stage of the consumer’s journey. Every online retailer that was measured had its own wave of peaks and troughs showing that no single retailer is providing a steady customer experience journey.
The one area that was consistently low across the industry is what we call ‘channel selection’. The industry averaged just 39% when it came to explaining to consumers the purchase options available to them; whether all they offer is online or whether they provide other methods as well (eg. phone, store, etc). Even with the low overall score in this category, there was a mixed bag of performance across each brand meaning that there’s an opportunity to differentiate. JB Hi-Fi, for example, scored 80% for the way in which they communicated the purchasing options, but when it came to actively promoting their online channel, they scored 0% – giving them an overall score of 33% for this stage of the journey. Why buy online? Why not!
Customers switch between online and offline when purchasing
We’ve also found that the ability to effectively reveal and promote options to purchase can influence the customer’s experience with the brand. In an aligned study this quarter where we uncovered how retail consumers make decisions online, we found that when researching and shopping online, 47% of consumers would also want to go into a store in person to either finalise the purchase or conduct additional research. Therefore, while consumers are moving between the online and offline stores, brands should be doing it too.
Looking back at the channel selection results we found a positive correlation between how well a brand performed in this area with how likely customers were to recommend that brand’s website (Web Promoter Score or WPS). While all brands assessed received a negative WPS, we found that the better the display of channel selection information, the better the WPS score, as illustrated below.
Before you go and redesign your business model, this does not mean that retailers need to offer multiple channels from which to purchase through (in order to provide a positive customer experience). It essentially means that each available channel option needs to be made much clearer to consumers. If a retailer solely runs an online business then does its website explain that there are no other buying options? If multiple purchasing options are available are locations and hours of operation clearly presented? In a time where there are multiple retailers stocking the same or similar products, having customers actively recommend your website is one of the best forms of promotion you can get.
For more details on these results and to understand what represents best practice in online retail sales, please contact:
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