We recently tested today’s digital high street by surveying 1,000 consumers about their attitudes and personal experiences before benchmarking these findings against the performance of the UK’s top 25 retailers.

The after-sales period is a crucial time for retailers to show customers they are going the extra mile and to ensure they come back to the site for future purchases. However, the average score in this area was only 65%, so where can retailers improve?

Falling short on SMS

Our research demonstrates that communication is very important to online shoppers, and most retailers hit the mark by providing an email notification of purchase.

However, one in three failed to keep their customers up to speed when it came to providing a simple email notification of dispatch. The most common area where retailers were falling down is in providing SMS updates along the delivery journey, with only one in five providing an SMS alert at any stage, as Kiddicare does:

The good news for retailers is that implementing a few basic automated processes, such as email or SMS notifications, which are simple to provide but hugely valuable to the customer, can elevate an after-sales experience from good to outstanding. 

Who does it best?

Apple, Topshop, River Island and Boots all scored a healthy 85% by providing online order tracking, email notifications, SMS alerts and delivering orders in good time.

So what can we learn?

The average overall score for after-sales service of 65% indicates that there is plenty of room for improvement, even among some of the UK’s top retailers.

We’ve put together five top tips that will help retailers offer an exceptional browsing experience:

  1. Send a confirmation email.  Once a shopper has purchased an item, make sure they receive an almost immediate automated confirmation of the purchase. Ensure that your communication is optimized for the screen that your customer uses. In a multichannel world, customers expect it.
  2. Delivery notifications. In an increasingly mobile world, it’s a nice touch to give customers the option of receiving a text message to confirm their delivery time. Again, if you are sending e-mails, make sure that the communication and landing pages are optimized for multi-screens.
  3. Confirmation of despatch. Let your shopper know when you’ve despatched their product, as they’ll appreciate knowing the process is moving forward. If things are delayed, make sure you tell them and don’t leave them wondering. Give your customers the option to track their purchase online, or provide tracking numbers so that they can do this via the postal service or courier.
  4. Loyalty counts. 57% of people have a few favourite websites they shop from, so don’t forget to nurture your customers for the next purchase. Use their profiles to offer them personalised email and social offers, or give them special status for shopping regularly with you.
  5. Make delivery easy. Be flexible with your delivery methods by giving customers the choice to pick up their purchases from the shop. Similarly, make returning an item as easy as possible, whether this is done via shipping or taken into store. Customers see the brand as a single entity, so engaging through multiple channels should be seamless.

    Econsultancy’s Christmas 2012 Online Shopping Survey found that a lack of convenient delivery options was a barrier for some shoppers: 

Q: Did you avoid making an online purchase due to a lack of convenient delivery options? (1,000 UK respondents)

Many of these features are easy to implement and, considering how crucial an enjoyable after-sales experience is in generating return business, retailers should be taking steps to improve the customer experience beyond the transaction.