Today, people who shop online expect a seamless shopping experience from first click to front door. That means not only good deals and seamless websites, but fast, on-time delivery, products that arrive in perfect condition and an easy returns process. But are online retailers achieving this for their customers?
A new white paper from PFS, titled ‘Are online retailers delivering for customers?’, highlights the areas where retailers aren’t meeting customer expectations and what shoppers expect them to be doing more of to improve the online shopping experience.
Our research surveyed 2,000 UK adults to find out more about their online shopping habits, experiences with online retailers and frustrations they have with the current online shopping experience.
Online retailers aren’t getting it right
This white paper makes it clear that online retailers aren’t delivering as their customers expect them to and these mistakes are frustrating shoppers – enough to make them abandon disappointing brands. The results that online retailers should be most concerned with are:
- Failing to deliver. Over half (54%) of those who shopped online in the last 12 months have had a negative experience with online shopping – from late delivery to damaged packages.
- Three strikes and you’re out. More than six in ten (64%) customers will stop using an online retailer after only three negative experiences. So, you only have three chances to get it right.
- Bad news spreads fast. More than half (56%) of internet consumers who have had a negative experience with online shopping brands shared this with friends and family. Younger shoppers are even tougher, with almost seven in ten (69%) millennials who have had a negative experience stating that they shared the details of that experience with others.
Return to sender
Shoppers are particularly concerned with retailers’ returns policies. If brands make this process difficult, customers are likely to turn away. Three-quarters (75%) of millennial online shoppers say they wouldn’t use an online store that has a strict or a ‘no returns’ policy, while nearly seven in ten (68%) of all those who made an online purchase in the last 12 months would join them in abandoning a ‘no returns’ brand.
In fact, consumers feel online brands should aim higher with their returns policies to meet customer needs. Three quarters (75%) of all consumers believe online retailers should expect higher levels of returns than stores because you can’t physically see the product when buying. More than three fifths (62%) of online customers expect to be able to quickly and easily return products that are ill-fitting or unsuitable.
Blacklisting doesn’t pay
Earlier this year, we read the news that some well-known online retailers have begun ‘blacklisting’ customers who regularly send back items purchased online. While this might seem like the answer to growing returns costs, retailers should beware of taking a tough stance like this as it could cost them more in the long run. More than half (51%) of those who shopped online in the last 12 months state they wouldn’t use a brand which ‘blacklisted’ frequent return customers. This is despite only 5% of online consumers having returned more than five items they purchased online in one year.
Don’t miss out on the Christmas rush
With the peak shopping season (from Black Friday to Christmas) fast approaching, it’s even more important for online brands to make sure they deliver on time over the holidays. Our research also found that more than a quarter of shoppers (28%) expect to spend more online during the 2019 peak holiday shopping season than last year. Brands especially need to ‘get it right’ over the peak season, with more than four in ten e-shoppers (44%) believing that the online orders they make at Christmas are the most important they will buy all year.
Importantly, only 2% of those who have shopped online would be happy to receive a delivery more than a week after purchase in peak season. After all, who wants their Christmas presents to arrive late?
How you can get customers back on board
This white paper shows that customers are starting to fight back against online retailers who fail to deliver. We have always known that bad customer service can put customers off brands, but this research shows just how quickly customers are prepared to abandon online retailers.
Brands looking to hold on to customers need to make sure that their distribution, delivery, returns and customer service all match up to these customer expectations. Getting it right will be key to building customer satisfaction and brand loyalty and helping them grow sales in a struggling retail market.
To find out more about customer expectations from online retailers, download our research white paper ‘Are online retailers delivering for customers?’.