London, (8th September 2008): IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group), today releases the results of its E-CUSTOMER SERVICE (e-CSI) INDEX - the key industry indicator and benchmark of e-retail customer satisfaction – as part of a joint venture with eDigitalResearch and Maximiles-operated ipoints.co.uk.

The research, carried out in early August amongst two million members on the ipoints.co.uk online coalition loyalty programme, which provides an active base of online shoppers across a wide range of different retailers, also asked questions about Christmas shopping habits in 2008.

Highlighting the current economic slowdown as the key influencing factor, 68% of shoppers said that they are more likely to shop online for Christmas presents this year, with 77% of shoppers planning to carry out about half or more of their Christmas shopping online (in 2007 it was 56%). This is influenced by the belief in the competitive prices available online, with 79% of respondents satisfied with the competitive pricing available from e-retailers.

The research also highlights that the internet is becoming increasingly important as a tool for research before purchase and for driving consumer choice. The internet will be used by 86% of shoppers surveyed to research Christmas shopping options before buying in-store, and vice versa 59% stated they plan to research gift options in-store before buying online. Interestingly, the research also reveals that 58% of respondents are looking to commence their Christmas shopping earlier this year, to spread the cost, citing the economic slowdown as the main reason.

Overall, the e-CSI Index reveals the number of respondents satisfied with shopping online is high at 79%, with those happy with the delivery of products by online retailers at 80%, and the number of those pleased with the range of products available online at 84%. In addition, 74% are satisfied with security offered by web retailers and 76% are happy with the help available on websites provided by online retailers when they have a query.

James Roper, CEO at IMRG, says: “Christmas can be an expensive time of the year, and this year it will feel particularly so for many who are being squeezed in the economic slowdown. Therefore, it’s great to see the high levels of awareness amongst Christmas shoppers on the competitive pricing available online, an increase in those turning to e-retailers over the festive season and a strong satisfaction rating in the online shopping experience, especially delivery.

“The online route really drives consumer choice, which is great for those of us trying to maintain a champagne taste on a beer budget. So, it’s ideal a large majority of shoppers are planning to use the internet to research the most interesting products and services. It will really ensure they get value for money during the festive period.”

Robert Barker, Chief Operating Officer at Maximiles, comments: "With the slowdown in the economy it makes sense that more Christmas shoppers are going to be logging on to e-retailers sites as they hunt for the best bargains.

“Also, the research reveals online retailers are in a strong position to benefit from a potentially bumper Christmas, particularly as shoppers are generally very satisfied with their online experience. However, it’s important e-retailers look to deliver added-value in a sluggish economy. This means offering tangible rewards and offers to encourage increased customer retention and future spend.”

Chris Russell, Director at eDigitalResearch, adds: “While customer satisfaction is currently high, e-retailers shouldn’t become complacent. With the demand for Internet shopping set to reach a record high this Christmas, e-retailers need to ensure that they have the appropriate resources available to respond promptly to customer requests. Customers often email product or delivery queries before they decide to purchase online and it is important that these queries are answered within 24 hours in order to ensure satisfaction and boost loyalty.”

-ENDS-

About IMRG: IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group), founded in 1990, is the industry body serving e-retail: www.imrg.org
About eDigitalResearch: eDigitalResearch, established in 1999, is a leading digital technology market research firm: www.edigitalresearch.com
About Maximiles: Maximiles are a leading European provider of online marketing services and loyalty solutions. They operate ipoints.co.uk, the UK’s largest online coalition loyalty programme with over 2 million members collecting ipoints from a wide range of different retailers: www.ipoints.co.uk.

Published on: 12:00AM on 8th September 2008