Polina Modenova explains how InternetRetailing researchers assessed the ways that IREU Top500 retailers serve their European customers across channels
The leading retailers in this Mobile & Cross-channel Performance Dimension are those that offer fast mobile experiences and seamlessly link digital experience to the store.
Through our research, we aimed to measure how far the leading retailers trading in the European Economic Area, plus Switzerland, are developing mobile shopping experiences that work for the customer on fast mobile websites and apps. We also looked beyond the mobile experience to see how effectively the IREU Top500 retailers are building links between digital (both desktop and via mobile) and the store, creating seamless customer experiences across channels. InternetRetailing Knowledge Partner BuiltWith contributed its research into determining how closely mobile sites met mobile web standards.
Mobile apps: what the Top500 do
It takes a conscious effort for a customer to download a mobile app and since each one takes up valuable storage space on a mobile device, most shoppers won’t make room for many. So when a shopper does choose to download a mobile app, it must improve the shopping journey significantly in order to avoid being quickly deleted.
During our research, we started by looking at whether retailers offer a mobile app, and at its operating system. Mobile apps are in use by more than half of IREU Top500 retailers – 55% of them offer an iOS app, 49% Android apps. They are most commonly found among those retailers serving the Italian, Spanish, German and French markets, where more than 98% of retailers offer iOS apps to their customers. Not all enable shoppers to buy, however. When we looked at those that do support ecommerce, almost a third (30%) of IREU Top500 retailers offer transactional apps. In Switzerland, more than two thirds (68%) do so.
We then looked at how many retailers give shoppers the choice of viewing the app in another language or for another country. A relatively low number (13% of the Top500) give shoppers this ability to localise their experience. Notably, 60% of Finnish merchants enable customers to change their country or language in the app settings, while 40% of Italian and Spanish retailers offer this language-changing functionality.
We went on to examine mobile apps for cross-channel features that contribute to effective customer service. We found that 10% of IREU Top500 retailer apps enable shoppers to check whether products are in stock in their local store. Around 30% of retailers in Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Germany have a store stock checker.
Wishlists enable shoppers to save products they’ve spotted to buy at another time. Almost a quarter (23%) of Top500 retailers give customers this capability. This is a particularly common feature in the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany and Greece, where one out of every two retailers has it.
Mobile apps: what the leaders do
Apple stands out in this Dimension for its transactional and native store app that’s available in 14 European languages within the EEA region. The app covers all the bases, offering features that range from daily deals and zoomable images through to ratings and reviews and the ability to save to a wishlist. It also stores receipts and reminds users of any in-store appointments.
Value fashion retailer BonPrix offers iOS apps in six languages, and Android apps in 12. Our research found all are transactional and offer a native shopping experience. The retailer’s iOS apps scored full marks for ‘searchandising’ and points users towards other stores that are part of its group. The apps also ask customers for feedback and give them the chance to rate and review products.
UK department store group House of Fraser’s iOS app scores top marks for functionality that includes loyalty card scanning, a barcode scanner and an augmented reality feature that brings catalogue content to life.
Spanish fashion retailer Zara’s iOS app enables customers in the UK, France and Germany to browse in their own language, to buy and to check stock in local stores.
The analysis of app performance recognised Czech general merchandise retailer Alza for dedicated iOS and Android apps in the UK, Czech Republic, Slovakia, German and Austrian markets. Its pan-European Alzashop app is available in Android and iOS to shoppers in 23 EEA countries, and features include predictive search and payment through fingerprint ID.
Fnac, the high tech to entertainment retailer, was highly rated for its iOS and Android app, designed for the French market but allowing users to switch language to English. The transactional app includes daily deals, wishlist and scanners to read both barcodes and QR codes. It also lets users leave product reviews. Most users of the Fnac iOS app are from France, Belgium and Spain, while the biggest audiences for its Android app are in France, Spain, Belgium and Portugal.
Dutch department store Albert Heijn supports both iOS and Android apps. Customers can use the iOS app to explore the retailer’s range, save preferred products in the wishlist and find a store near them. However, this app is not transactional.Mobile website: what the Top500 do
While some shoppers may download an app for their favourite retailers, few will download one for every single retailer that they buy from. Other shoppers will always prefer the immediacy of the mobile website. These preference combinations make the mobile site an important part of any retailer’s multichannel shopping experience. We measured websites by how long they took to load, how well they performed and whether traders had optimised their sites for the mobile experience.
Site speed is important because it makes the shopping experience a faster and more pleasant experience. It also gives an indication of how much time and attention the retailer has given to the site. On average, IREU Top500 retailers scored 82 out of a possible 100 for their website performance, as measured through their PageSpeed score.
The fastest websites loaded in less than 3s, and we found the fastest average load times, by country, in Poland, Austria and Greece. Polish and UK retailers were the most successful in optimising their webpages. They loaded html quickly and included a relatively small number of elements in the page.
Research from InternetRetailing Knowledge Partner BuiltWith showed how closely retailers adhered to mobile web standards,. The research found the highest standards among Top500 retailers selling in Norway, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Denmark.
"The mobile site has become an important part of any retailer’s multichannel experience."
Mobile website: what the leaders do
Spanish fashion retailer Zara stood out for an average page load time of 3s across all its mobile domains. The fastest was the UK site, at nearly 2s, followed by the Hungarian site at 2.8s. It achieved nearly 96 out of 100 on PageSpeed score across its websites thanks to a small number of page elements; only 17 were observed on Zara websites.
French value fashion trader BonPrix, which operates 21 country and language-specific websites, stood out for fast web loading times across its sites, in nearly 7s. The average PageSpeed score reached 79. Within that business, its Swiss and German sites scored 93 out of 100, while the BonPrix France home page loaded in 1.8s. The Lithuanian and Estonian sites lagged some way behind.
Albert Heijn, with sites in the Netherlands and Belgium, scored highly in the website performance index and achieved 95 out of 100 for PageSpeed score on mobile. The site loaded in 7.6s, thanks to a light page size of just 530kb.
In the UK, House of Fraser’s page load time was 18% faster than the average of 4s achieved by IREU Top500 retailers.
Cross-channel: what the Top500 do
It’s well documented that when customers use a range of channels to buy from a trader, they go on to spend more with that retailer. Building links between the store and the digital experience makes it easier for shoppers to buy across channels, driving web traffic in store and vice versa.
Our research in this area focused on services that enable shoppers to pick up and return their online orders in the store. We found that almost a third (32%) of IREU Top500 retailers enabled customers to do this. The proportion was higher in Greece, Germany, Denmark and Norway, where two in five of the leading traders offer their shoppers this option.
Click and collect was more widespread. More than half (52%) of retailers enable shoppers to pick up their online orders in the store. In Belgium, the UK and the Netherlands, three out of every five retailers offer this service.Cross-channel: what the leaders do
UK department store House of Fraser performed strongly in the cross-channel sub-Dimension thanks to a service offering that promises delivery to all 32 countries in the market with standard delivery in eight days and express in three, with the exception of Bulgaria. It enables cross-channel services, including next-day in-store collection and the return of online purchases to a convenient House of Fraser store. Shoppers can order via an iOS app, pick up their order from store and return unwanted goods to stores within 28 days.
At Apple, customers can return unwanted goods within 14 days, dropping them off at stores in 19 countries in the EEA region. Others that stood out for cross-channel services included electricals retailer Darty, with the promise of click and collect within an hour in all its French stores. A fast click-and-collect service was also provided by Matalan, River Island and Smythes. Lingerie-to-swimwear trader Hunkemöller offers free click and collect from its Dutch, Belgian and German websites, while click and collect is also free at Matalan.
River Island offers both expedited and standard click-and-collect services. The expedited service sees parcels delivered in two days to third-party collection shops, and stores around the UK, while the standard service is free.