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EDITORIAL The customer is always right – and retailers are responding

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The customer is always right is an adage long taught to anyone joining the retail industry and it seems that it is more apt today than ever before. With shoppers wanting sustainable and ethical retail, along with personalisation and, perhaps above all else, rapid delivery, retailers have very rapidly risen to the challenge.

Research out today by Barclays Corporate Banking suggests that UK retailers have cancelled £7.1bn in contracts with suppliers that don’t meet stringent ethical and sustainable standards in the past year alone. This has been driven squarely by what consumers want, especially Gen Z, says the research, with two thirds of 16-24-year-olds would stop shopping with their favourite retailer due to ethical concerns and 68% of 25-34-year-olds would cut ties and shop elsewhere if their favourite retailer was found not to meet sustainability standards.

This has seen retailers rapidly ditch suppliers where they see the use of unsuitable materials, environmentally unfriendly production and poor ethical treatment of workers.

Similarly, a separate study by consulting company KPS finds that most B2C and B2B online retailers offer free delivery, with 60% now looking at also offering same-day delivery. This comes from listening to customers: 66% of whom say that convenience of delivery is key, while personalised apps and website experiences are also important.

The importance of service and convenience is borne out by real world retailers. Across January, online grocery sales grew by 13%, up from 11% in December and showing that, outside of peak, the convenience of online grocery shopping is still a high priority for many consumers.

Dunelm, which reports record sales and profits for the half year, is also benefiting from making online shopping – and fulfilment and delivery – a priority. 33% of its total sales are online, up 120% on pre-pandemic levels. This has been a direct result of making its online offering very attractive and through investment in fulfilment centres so that delivery can be swift and convenient.

Where online retailers are falling down, however, is in monitoring checkout conversions. Despite an online cart abandonment rate of 68.8% on average, some 42% of online retailers are failing to measure checkout conversation, their most important metric for completing online sales, finds a study by Fetchify.

With cart abandonment being the one metric can that you need to work on, it comes as a surprise that 42% of retailers don’t have enough time or resource to look at it. On the plus side, 60% are investing in making checkouts easier to use with better address look-ups and 20% are investing in re-engagement techniques, it seems that with many consumers looking to shop online, there is still some way to go with addressing the basics.

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