Leading European brands offer shoppers a sophisticated customer experience
Customers enjoy a fast and effective online experience when they buy from Europe’s leading brands. InternetRetailing researchers tested the leading Top100 consumer-facing brands in the European Economic Area, plus Switzerland, for the speed of their websites and the customer service that they offer. Researchers aimed to measure their performance as a group in serving customers, while also setting out to identify the leaders in this field.
They found that at their best, brand websites loaded in seconds, while customer service staff resolved queries over email, telephone and social media in a matter of minutes. Those brands whose websites loaded quickly and which offered speedy answers to shoppers’ queries were highly rated in this Dimension.
Performance across the Top100
The best customer-facing service was found in the fashion sector. Brands selling footwear and clothing enjoyed slightly higher metrics, on average, than those selling consumer electronics and sports and leisure equipment.
When researchers analysed the geographic presence of brands within the European Economic Area, plus Switzerland, those based in the UK scored most highly in our tests. The UK’s scores were followed by Slovakia, Hungary and Norway.
“Apple’s combination of flagship stores and customer service is being mirrored by other premium brands.”
Testing web speed
Researchers measured the website experience through a Chrome desktop browser. They determined that since the best sites become more visually complete faster, they took an approach in this Dimension of rewarding those websites that load important elements first. They found that the leading brands’ websites typically became visually complete and finished loading in half the time taken by the average website.
They also found that, on average, the first byte of Top100 websites was loaded after half a second. On average, rendering started 3.5s into the process and homepages were visually complete in just over 9s. The full html load took 8s.
On average, the process involved 121 requests to the server as a 3.7MB page loaded.
Measuring customer service
Researchers measured brands’ customer service through how long staff took to answer queries made by phone, by email and on social media. They also made a judgement on how well the queries were answered. Since the research team could not test all of the 26 official languages of the European Economic Area, it took the decision to limit its tests to English language customer services operated by Top100 brands.
Of the Top100, 80 had a UK customer service phone number. The vast majority of these connect to a human, rather than a robotic answering system. A simple query was resolved in an average of 100s on the phone, including ring time.
Almost two-thirds of the Top100 – 65 brands – have a UK-facing Facebook page that accepts queries. These queries were answered in an average of 8.5h. One point worth noting is that 5% of brands asked a question as part of their response to a Facebook query.
The 41 Top100 brands that have a UK customer service email address took an average of 23h to respond to an email query.
Leaders in the field
Leading brands in this Dimension hailed from the fashion, technology and accessories sectors. They included Apple Store [IRDX RAPL], Nike [IRDX RNKE], United Colors of Benetton, Lyle & Scott, Pearl and Filofax.
Apple Store addressed issues quickly, with a service that received top scores from testers. Throughout Europe, the consumer technology company uses a network of stores, freephone help numbers, premium and authorised resellers and training centres to help people understand its products. It’s an approach that combines marketing with customer care to good effect. Apple’s combination of flagship stores and good customer service at full price is one that’s being mirrored by premium brands in other sectors.
Nike had 25 country-specific landing pages, suggesting it has put resources into localisation, while men’s clothing brand Lyle & Scott responded quickly to InternetRetailing researchers. It also stood out for the depth of customer service information on its website. This ranged from FAQs and delivery and returns information, through to a phone number and web submission form to help customers get in touch.
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