Each year, the folks at Ampersand produce a report surveying the major players in the multi channel business world. It’s a fascinating insight into the state of the market, illustrating who’s offering what and how and, more importantly, if it’s working. So, in terms of knowing what to avoid or embrace yourself, for your own business, there are plenty of lessons.
These can be difficult to extract without the luxury of time, so, in this post, we’re going to highlight what we see as the main takeaways.
Ampersand looked at 187 multichannel retailers, defined as those who sell goods both online and instore, ranging from Adidas to Zara.
Taken together, the picture Ampersand paints is of a pioneering few leading the way in customer service and website functionality with the bulk needing to catch up.
In what respects? We’ll consider the retailers’ performance in three areas:
- Customer experience
- Delivery and returns.
On technology, the report cites research that UK consumers use an average 1.6 devices when buying online. That means websites must not only cater for a variety of devices, to be responsive for mobiles, for example, but also build in features such as ‘persistent carts’ – carts that remain filled with the same goods as customer browse on different platforms.
Automatic geolocation, which tailors web content to user location, was also absent from many retailers’ pages. That’s unfortunate, because it shuts down the opportunity to benefit from bespoke deals, such as discounted parasols for those near the sea, that have greater likelihood of success.
And then there’s speed. Harnessing Google PageSpeed, which evaluates sites on loading time on mobile and desktop, Ampersand found many wanting. Where 0 equals the worst, and 100 the best, a sizeable percentage – 39% – clocked in at under 50 for mobiles. The figure was worse for desktops, where 34% were under 50.
That’s not good. The relationship between website loading speed and sales is straightforward – the slower the speed, the fewer the sales. But is seems many retailers’ web designers simply aren’t prioritising loading time as they should.
Turning to customer experience, Ampersand found that 73% of retailers don’t offer stock checking in-store, an obvious benefit to anyone struggling to pin down that essential item.
Not only this, 44% didn’t show accepted payment types until the basket page, frustrating those customers that believed they could pay for the item(s) they’d chosen until the last minute. Transparency, underscores the report, is key to abandoned basket reduction.
Alternative payment methods, like Amazon Pay, are also on the rise – 83% of the retailers surveyed now offer it, compared to only 33% in 2015. But wider alternative payment adoption hasn’t been problem-free with many retailers struggling to process PayPal refunds, for example. It’s great there are more payment choices available to consumers, but companies need to ensure they better anticipate future problems.
Intelligent navigation is also beneficial, particularly ‘faceted’ navigation, or the ability to filter product page results by more than one category, which helps customers find that all-important item. Pleasingly, 82% of retailers now offer it, although Ampersand claim certain retailers could refine it further.
Other improvements suggested by Ampersand are wish-list functionality, available without registration, and product zooms.
Delivery and Returns
Finally, how did the 187 retailers shape up on delivery and returns?
Regarding delivery, Ampersand found limited choice and speed. Just 8 offered delivery to a non-store location, like a locker, while only 30% offered next day delivery on Sundays. 67% maintaining click and collect took more than a day to fulfil.
The limiting factor, say Ampersand, is convincing retailers that a range of options needn’t absorb profits so long as customers are charged for it. Nor that this should be a straightforward transaction, in which money is lost in exchange for a service, but potentially given back as a voucher or loyalty points, akin to a deposit, as a reward for physically showing up for using click and collect.
Conclusion – Don't Be Left Out
Technology is advancing rapidly, affording retailers great new opportunities to win custom and please customers along the way. But it’s not without danger – retailers must a) be alert to new developments and b) be mindful of new problems they can create.
Khaos Control Solutions, the company behind Khaos Control Cloud, started in 2000. If we failed to keep up with the times, and offered customers yesterday’s functionality, we wouldn’t be here now, poised to power business growth into the 21st century’s third decade with an innovative new product, Khaos Control Cloud. Take payment methods. Ampersand talk about making the most of new ways to pay. And you can with Khaos Control Cloud’s SagePay integration, which treats PayPal, for instance, as a different type of credit card.
Don’t be left out. Get started with a free trial today.
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