Price trumps convenience for UK online shoppers, new research suggests.
Some 73% of 1,000 shoppers canvassed by Redshift Research on behalf of ecommerce marketplace Rakuten said they regularly go online to buy a product they have previously seen in-store. Asked why, 73% of this group said they did so in order to get a better price. Half (50%) said it saved time, while 47% said it was easier to compare products online. Some 46% cited the ability to use special offers online while 38% said there was better product availability online. Just over a fifth (23%) said they would rather avoid shops.
The study also found that 37% said customer service was more important online than in store, while 39% said service was usually better at a smaller or local business than online.
All of the respondents had previously shopped online and 83% said they frequently did so. Factors likely to encourage respondents to buy again included loyalty programmes and rewards (39%), after sales support (20%), and personalised offers (14%).
Generational differences in attitudes towards customer service also emerged in the study. More than a third (37%) of 18 to 24-year-olds were frustrated when staff showed a lack of knowledge or expertise. A third (33%) of 25 to 34-year-olds found service through their preferred channel too slow, while over 45-year-olds said the ability of staff to speak their language was the most important.
“In the retail business, customer service is vital,” said Adam Stewart, director of marketing at Rakuten’s Play.com. “Channelling best practice from Japan, the goal at Play.com is to offer Omotenashi, a Japanese service style which steps away from the vending machine retail model and aims to go the extra mile when delivering great customer experience.
“As part of this push we recently brought our customer service contact centre back to the UK and have a 55-strong team to advise customers pre and post sale, and this will be increasing to 200 over our peak period. Furthermore we will soon be launching a 24/7 social media channel dedicated to customer service, which will run alongside other channels to ensure we are as accessible as possible.”
• UPDATE In other news, Rakuten announced on November 6 that it had bought logistics company Alpha Direct Services. The Japanese marketplace giant aims to use the French company to boost its logistics capabilities across Europe.
Rakuten says ADS, based in Beauvais, has the potential to quickly scale beyond France into wider Europe. Its merchants will be able to offer same day delivery in Paris and next day delivery across Europe through ADS.
Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and chief executive of Rakuten, said: “Speed and quality of delivery is at the heart of any solid e-commerce proposition and ADS will give us a logistics stronghold in Europe, which will further empower merchants using Rakuten’s marketplaces, as well as supporting future marketplaces.
“ADS’s management team, their proprietary warehouse automation technology and existing infrastructure have strong synergies with Rakuten’s ecommerce and logistics businesses, and will be invaluable as we continue our growth in Japan and globally.”