Ideas & musings about consumer behaviour

Telcos embrace the retail eCommerce market with mixed success

By Suzy Coulson, Digital Research Assistant, Global Reviews

It was only a few years ago that telecommunication businesses were often spoken about as slow moving elephants. But the technological revolution and the deregulation of markets have turned a once slumbering business into one of the fastest growing in the world.

Whilst we generally categorise telecommunications as its own industry, when we look at their websites we can see that they are embracing similar online business concepts as the e-retailers, making way to address the fast pace of consumer demand.

For any eCommerce related website, two of the major areas of priority are always the shopping cart and the final check-out process. It’s all very well being able to find the product that you want, but if customers are struggling to navigate the purchasing process then they’ll lose confidence and just shop elsewhere.

Our recent study on the sales journeys in the telecommunications industry showed that 23% of mobile phones customers would leave the website and look for another provider if they experienced a problem.

For the eCommerce industry this is slightly higher at 33%, suggesting that the loyalty for the telecommunication brand and/or product is slightly higher than for general eCommerce.

Finding another bricks and mortar shop that has the same product isn’t always easy, but finding it on another website can take little to no effort at all. Therefore, when it comes to designing an online shopping cart and check-out process, brands should always evaluate how they compare to their competitors. This is no exception for the telecommunications industry. With everyone offering the latest mobile phone products at the same prices, the competition comes down to key differentiators such as value proposition, plans and not least the online shopping experience.

Online retailers well ahead

In our sales effectiveness study in Q2 for mobile phone providers, we assessed how well the telcos performed during the purchase process (shopping cart and check-out). The industry scored an average of 48% with Telecom NZ leading the way on 67%. In comparison to our Q4 study this year for online (eCommerce) retailers, the industry averaged 59% with ASOS performing the best on 74%. So as an industry, the online retailers perform far better.

Telco v Commerce

Before entering the check-out, certain expectations need to be managed in terms of what the process will involve and whether personal details are going to be kept safe. These are simple steps that the likes of Telecom NZ executes well which all industries could learn from.

Do you want fries with that?

Focusing on the shopping cart, we’ve found, with the exception of a few brands, that the telecommunications shopping cart generally fails to provide adequate information and features that would improve the experience. For example, the industry should consider adding a data usage calculator in the buy process. This would help the consumer find the right plan and would aid in the flow of the process, making it more comfortable and streamlined. Upselling is something we’re all accustomed to. We expect to be asked if we “want fries with that” and it’s no different when we’re shopping online. Allowing customers to add to and edit items in their cart can make the buying experience much more convenient and not to mention more profitable for the retailer.

At the end of the process – the check-out – the telecommunications industry averaged 59%, led by Optus on 72% compared to the retail eCommerce industry which averaged 56% and was led by Big W on 73%. While these industries are more on par with one another, they could both stand to improve in this area, particularly around help and support including both online (i.e. FAQs and Chat) and offline support.

While many of us are now entrenched online buyers, there are still times when ‘offline’ options are wanted and needed. If a customer is having trouble with the check-out process, having offline support options could mark the difference between closing the sale and losing out to your competitors, not to mention the trust it instils to have a visible number. The retail eCommerce industry scored just 6% for access to offline help. The telecommunications industry didn’t do all that much better at 14.4%. The few companies that are displaying offline help options have definitely got the upper hand here. By giving this access, they have an additional chance of finishing the sale if there is a problem.

What we observed from these studies is just how closely the telecommunications industry is mimicking our online retailers. By learning from their e-retailing peers, we expect to see the telco industry quickly advance their online shopping experience. We’re also anticipating some developments in integrated, multi-channel experiences.

Download (FREE) the Q2 2013 Industry Summary for Telecommunications

Learn more about our Digital Sales Effectiveness Module

To uncover more about our digital marketing, sales and self-service insights right across the telecommunications and eCommerce industries, please contact:

Ché Carbis
Senior Commercial Director
T: +61 3 9982 3419
M: +61 411 962 857


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