The results of the latest IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) e-Retail Customer Service Index (e-CSi) indicate that 90% of people will be using the web to research and purchase their Christmas shopping, with 68% planning to conduct at least half of their Christmas shopping online and 71% highlighting that the current recession is playing a large part in their budgeting decisions. The research is part of a joint venture with eDigitalResearch and Maximiles-operated ipoints.co.uk.

The survey took place in November and asked questions and opinion about shopping habits in the run up to Christmas and beyond. The findings support the current assumptions that people will be spending less during this festive season, with 52% planning to spend less this year on Christmas gifts.

The survey provides useful indicators for online retailers to ensure that they remain successful well into 2009. “Online retailers should provide help and support throughout the purchase process, especially concerning the after-sales service to help build brand loyalty – the equivalent of the gold standard in this economic climate,” comments Chris Russell, Director at eDigitalResearch. “With the retail sector slowing down, customer service elements are becoming more important than ever before, and each sale becomes more valued.”

Interestingly, the e-CSi index also highlighted the growing importance of the internet as a research resource, with over 90% of shoppers stating they use the web to research their future purchases before actually buying in-store. Conversely, only 60% would use a store to research before buying online, showing that the internet is a trusted and reliable source for goods and research. Price still stands as the driving force in the decision-making process, with over 60% citing this as the most important thing when buying gifts online.

Books, CD’s, music and games continue to be the most popular goods to buy online, with jewellery, clothing and footwear bought by 64% of respondents. The survey also points to an increase in purchases of clothing online, a jump of 10% since September 2007.

Overall, the results reveal that a high number of respondents (79.6%) are satisfied with the customer experience they receive online, with 76% happy that the internet is a competitive environment when it comes to prices. Additionally, 73% are pleased with the security offered online and 84% pleased that there is a wide range of products available.

James Roper, CEO at IMRG, says: “Smart Christmas shoppers are heading online in droves this year. With retailers under extreme pressure there will be great bargains out there, and the internet is where to find them. The most popular aspect of online shopping is consistently its huge Product Range, scoring 84% on the e-CSi this time. The rise in Delivery Experience into second place, scoring 81.4%, is fantastic news for hard-pressed consumers, and clear evidence of the terrific efforts being made by retailers and carriers working together to provide predictable and reliable delivery options.”

Robert Barker, Chief Operating Officer at Maximiles, comments: "Navigation and usability is important to consumers, however this survey shows that bargains are ruling the fight for popularity. As consumers feel the squeeze and turn to money saving experts to help them save the pennies, retailers have to think of more creative ways to encourage consumers to the high street. We have already seen discount days and special offers flooding through, therefore e-retailers need to be aware that they are also competing with a desperate high street. Added value and additional benefits to the online experience can make all the difference in this slowed economy. There is huge opportunity for online to benefit greatly this Christmas.”

Chris Russell adds: “As much as there are opportunities to benefit from the shift in consumer trends towards online, there are also pitfalls. Supporting customer service needs to be invested in, and the entire customer journey should be seamless. Without this, shoppers may be left disillusioned, which could affect the brand long into the coming year. Email and telephone communications and delivery are obvious areas where mistakes could be made, so attention should be given to these mediums as soon as possible in time for Christmas.”

-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.

Media Enquires:

IMRG eDigitalResearch Maximiles/ipoints.co.uk
David Smith Vicky Wilson Ben Powell (Loudmouth PR)
Tel: +44 (0) 7000 46 46 74 Tel: +44 (0) 2380 215380 Tel: +44 (0) 20 7981 9859
Email: david@imrg.org
Email: Vicky@merchantmarketinggroup.com Email:
benp@loudmouthpr.co.uk

Web: www.imrg.org
Web: www.edigitalresearch.com
Web: www.ipoints.co.uk

Published on: 12:00AM on 5th December 2008