Top500 retailers are moving towards offering a seamless and consistent shopping experience
A SHOPPING EXPERIENCE that enables customers to buy easily and in the way that best suits them is the hallmark of the European retailers that lead The Customer Performance Dimension. They do this both through fast and effective websites and through the customer service they offer. Ecommerce and cross-channel retailing are moving towards enabling shoppers to buy whenever and wherever they want, and the leaders in this Dimension do just that.
InternetRetailing Knowledge Partner NCC Group helped to test how fast landing pages loaded for all Top500 retailers. Its Speed Index brings together metrics that include the time each took to be fully loaded and visually complete. Along the way it measures time to first byte – when the page first starts to be downloaded – and when the page starts, and finishes, rendering (the process by which a web browser interprets HTML markup and determines where each element should go on the page and how it should appear) as well as logging the number of web requests needed to complete the page.
The Top500 retail websites fully loaded in an average of 7.7 seconds (s), becoming visually complete in an average of 8.7s. Time to first byte was achieved in an average 0.4s, while rendering started in an average of 3.2s.
Retailers trading in Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark had the best average Speed Index. Those selling in Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark were the fastest to visual completion, on average. Belgian Top500 websites had the fewest number of web requests, at an average of 107, compared to a Top500 average of 126.
Czech electronics and computer retailer Alza stood out for consistently efficient websites. The performance of its Czech Republic website was 13% higher than the average Top500 retail website.
UK fashion retailer Next enabled shoppers in its 31 EEA websites to use their local currency when buying. It also supports 11 European languages, including French, German, English, Italian, Slovenian, Spanish and Russian – in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The trader answers customer queries through local language call centre staff who are available 24/7. Customers can submit their questions via a contact form available on the local website, with response promised within 24 hours. Next country-specific websites loaded in an average of 2.7s, 185% faster than the average load time for Top500 retailers.
Swedish homewares company IKEA operates 26 country-specific websites in 21 European languages. These websites were measured both in technical terms – how quickly the page loaded – and soft metrics, including user-friendliness. Out of 26 IKEA websites, the UK website had the quickest full page loading time, in 3.8s. However, the quickest time to rendering the page was delivered by its Romanian and Lithuanian landing pages in less than 2s. When IKEA’s landing pages were evaluated on user friendliness, its French landing page came out top for ease of navigation while its UK landing page scored highly for search relevance. Both the French and UK landing pages offered three ways of getting in touch with customer service, including live chat available in the local language.
Mango operates ecommerce websites for 31 EEA countries in their local currencies and using major European languages. Customers can get in touch through a country-specific customer services phone number between 9am and 9pm, or via a contact form that was only available in English. Mango websites on average scored top marks for ease of navigation and search relevance.
Electricals business Euronics offered live chat on its Norwegian, Lithuanian and Finnish websites, while also customising its website for Baltic countries such Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, with the Russian language an option on the Latvian and Estonian websites. All of its websites provided phone and email contacts, while the Latvian website also offered Skype as a way for shoppers to get in touch to answer their questions. Its Finnish website rendered in 1.4s, and loaded fully in 4.6s.
Differences between European customers
Retailers trading within Europe must negotiate different relationships with customers, thanks to different shopper behaviour in different markets. IREU research from Knowledge Partner Return Path suggests that shoppers in France and Germany approach reading emails in very different ways. According to the research, 21% of emails sent to French customers before dawn were opened, compared to 22% in the UK and 11% in Germany. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that German consumers often start work between 7am and 8am, and schools between 7.30am and 8am, whereas in France businesses and schools more commonly start for the day between 8am and 9am, and in the UK the typical working day is from 9am around 5pm and, outside big cities, tend to commute in cars rather than on public transport. French commuters, especially those in the Paris area, tend to use public transport, so have more time to check emails while travelling. They are also more likely to be working until 6pm or even 7pm. That behaviour is reflected in open rates for emails sent in the evening across the three countries. While UK shoppers opened 20% of evening emails, and French shoppers 16%, German consumers opened 12%.
Different nationalities also appear to have different approaches to discount emails. UK shoppers opened more emails offering a discount of up to 25% (23% open rate), and a discount of more than 50% (22%), with the open rate falling to 18% for those offering discounts of between 25% and 50%. While 15% of emails offering a discount of up to 25% were opened in France, opening rates in France and Germany for all other discount emails failed to get above 11%. The Return Path analysis suggests that French consumers seem suspicious of large discounts, while in Germany discounting is becoming ineffective due to excessive levels of ‘discount competition’.
Retailers trading within Europe must negotiate different relationships with customers, thanks to different shopper behaviour in different markets. IREU research from Knowledge Partner Return Path suggests that shoppers in France and Germany approach reading emails in very different ways. According to the research, 21% of emails sent to French customers before dawn were opened, compared to 22% in the UK and 11% in Germany. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that German consumers often start work between 7am and 8am, and schools between 7.30am and 8am, whereas in France businesses and schools more commonly start for the day between 8am and 9am, and in the UK the typical working day is from 9am.