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Thanks to some excellent marks for customer service, lingerie retailer Figleaves was rated the top performing e-commerce site in a study covering the Christmas shopping season. 

The eRetail Benchmark Study from eDigital found that, though marks were relatively high for website usability across the board, customer service was the key differentiator. 

Some highlights from the study...

Overall results

Across the nine criteria used in the study, Figleaves was the top performer, followed by Amazon and Boots. Ryman's new website, which we reviewed last year, also performed well. 

Benchmark results 1

Of the 51 websites in the study, H&M's newly launched e-commerce site came bottom of the table, with just 64.8%. This is no surprise given the numerous user experience issues with the site. 

Christmas delivery issues

A recent poll carried carried out for Econsultancy by Toluna found that a quarter of orders placed by consumers in December arrived late, thanks to the chaos created by snow. 

The eDigital study also shows the effect of the weather. Only four out of the 51 sites benchmarked managed to score 100% for on time deliveries, compared to 38 retailers who managed to achieve this in the autumn study. 

Of the top performing sites in this category, many had their own delivery network, such as Tesco, Littlewoods, Asda Grocery and Interflora. Those retailers that had to rely on the Royal Mail may have suffered more.

For example, Amazon achieved a score of 70%, though the bottom three were H&M and Woolworths with 40% and Asda Direct on 30%. 

Percentage of orders that arrived in the timescale given: 

Benchmark study 2

Customer service

With the disruption to deliveries caused by the snow, managing customer expectations was crucial. Many retailers did this through clear homepage messaging, while some stopped delivering earlier than usual as they didn't want to make promises to customers that they couldn't keep. 

Despite the fact that 26% of orders placed on Figleaves by eDigital's mystery shoppers were late, the retailer scored highly for both email and telephone customer service.  

For telephone customer service, Figleaves was a close second to Interflora, which performed highly thanks to a clear contact number on the website, polite and knowledgeable staff, and a callback option when all agents were busy. 

The worst performers in the telephone customer service category were WHSmith with 51% and ASOS with 0%.

This is slightly unfair on ASOS as, while it doesn't offer telephone customer service, it score well for email, and also has a dedicated Twitter customer service account, something this report doesn't look at. 

For email customer service, Figleaves scored highest on 81.6% overall, and 76.9% for speed of response. The scores were lowest in this category, which reflects the amount of work firms need to do to improve. 

Common problems include making email addresses hard to find, making customers fill in annoying contact forms, and of course, the lack of a speedy response. 

The fact just 14 of the retailers in the study scored more than 50% for speed of email response, and that ten scored less then 10% tells its own story. 

Email offers an opportunity for providing convenient customer service for customers who would rather not use the phone, but very few retailers seem to be offering a satisfactory service, which just increases pressure on call centres. 

To download eDigital's eRetail Benchmark Study, a slightly annoying registration process is required. 

Graham Charlton

Published 4 February, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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