Belfast Telegraph

Net gains for savvy retailers

By Donald C McFetridge

The latest research to arrive on my desk has found that almost one in six consumers now do virtually all their shopping online. This is yet further confirmation of the popularity and growth of this retail channel.

Royal Mail's annual online research report this year is entitled Delivery Matters Returns Special and focuses on the customer-returns experience.

It points out that online shoppers are looking for convenience and greater certainty in the manner in which returns are being handled. Once satisfied, it is my prediction that growth will be even more perceptible.

Worried bricks-and-mortar retailers need to embrace this change. To do so, they need to understand why more consumers are shopping online.

In addition, more traditional retailers need to accept the fact there are very few retail categories in which consumers are not interested; therefore, there are enormous opportunities out there in every strand of retailing.

In spite of the fact that almost one in every six consumers is doing so much of their shopping online, there are inevitably still problems in the online world.

There is the prevailing issue of cart abandonment halfway through a transaction. Successful online retailers need to understand the reasons behind this, while trying to manage consumers through the process of what they do afterwards.

Online shoppers also have preferences with delivery providers and their perceptions of the levels of service provided and also have issues with returns procedures.

Some 73% stated that they expected free returns and 60% said they would be unlikely to purchase from an e-tailer, or marketplace seller, again if they had been charged for returning.

Some 72% favoured the Post Office (over other locations) as a drop-off point for returns and 77% said they would be more than likely to repeat-shop with a retailer if offered returns with Royal Mail.

It appears today's consumers are demanding more and more from online retailers and will continue to do so - particularly in respect of end-to-end tracking, easy returns policies and more extensive product offerings.

Donald C McFetridge is a retail analyst at the Ulster University Business School

Belfast Telegraph


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