Close this search box.

The Customer

Putting the customer first

Shoppers enjoy good service and the customer experience when they visit retailers ranked highly in The Customer dimension

Traders that combine a first-rate customer experience with responsive service stand out in The Customer dimension. These leading retailers ensure that their customers’ shopping journey works for them, across the full range of touchpoints.

Whether shoppers visit their websites, download and use their apps, contact them through customer service channels or decide to return an item, it’s important that they can achieve their aim easily and effectively. That’s likely to be a deciding factor both for whether they buy on the first occasion, and whether they are likely to come back to buy in the future.

RetailX researchers assessed the customer service promises that Top500 retailers make, and the quality of the customer experience through more than 40 metrics that, taken together, give a multilayered picture of how well retailers respond to shoppers’ needs.

This starts with how many communication channels retailers offer customers, and continues with an assessment of the quality of service across the channels. Customer service is measured through an assessment of both how fast and how effectively traders respond to shoppers’ queries.

Customer experience is measured by how quickly websites – both mobile and desktop – load and by considering how well retailers inform customers about the products they sell, and how easily they enable them to find them.

Researchers also gauged how easy and convenient the returns process was for shoppers. InternetRetailing Knowledge Partner SimilarWeb contributed data measuring website visits, duration and page views.

What the Top500 do

On average, Top500 retailers enabled customers to get in touch via 9.5 channels. Those selling homewares, drinks, fashion footwear and children’s toys and accessories were among those that offered shoppers a median of 11 channels to get in touch, including email, phone, web submission form, in-store, live chat, and a variety of popular social networks. At the other end of the spectrum, those selling automotive goods and utilities had a median of eight.

Retailers responded to a customer email in an average of 18 hours – suggesting some instances of very slow service.

The median response time was 10 hours. Of retailers measured both this year and last year, 63% responded more quickly this year. A third (33%) responded slower; and 4% were almost the same. The fastest response times came from those selling music, film and TV, while the effectiveness of customer service by email was ranked highest in the grocery sector.

Facebook enquiries had a somewhat faster response, in an average of 13 hours, and a median of five. Although faster than email, this was still several times slower than the median of 45 minutes for the same retailers last year.

We aren’t sure of the reason for this change but will continue to measure this aspect of customer service over the year ahead. Retailers selling children’s toys and accessories were highest rated for service, while consumer electronics retailers were most highly rated for resolving issues. The fastest response times on Facebook came from those selling footwear.

Turning to customer experience, desktop websites loaded in an average of 9.9s, while mobile websites loaded in 9.2s. Among the mobile websites measured both this year and last year, sites loaded in an average of 7s in 2018,, and in 2019 in an average of 8s, while page size, measured in bytes, increased by 27%.

Visitors to Top500 websites spent an average five minutes viewing an average of nine pages, according to analysis from InternetRetailing knowledge partner SimilarWeb.

More than half of retailers shared product ratings (54%) and reviews (57%) on their desktop websites, while on their mobile websites, 81% featured a ‘hamburger’ navigation button – down from 93% last year. Focusing on the end of the shopping process, researchers found that retailers enabled shoppers to return items for up to 34.5 days from the point of purchase, and then took an average of 11.9 days to process a refund. Some 98% said they would fully refund an unopened item, and 95% would refund original shipping costs.

What leading retailers do

Sainsbury’s stood out in this dimension for the speed of its response to customer enquiries on Facebook, replying more quickly than 99% of the Top500, and for the choice of communication channels that it offered to customers. It also shared product ratings.

Marks & Spencer won recognition for the extent to which it shares feedback. It enabled product reviews and star-ratings on its mobile and desktop websites. The food-to-homewares retailers also scored highly for its use of personalisation.

Tesco was highly rated across a diverse range of metrics, from its use of personalisation to the time it took to process a refund and to respond to a Facebook query. Reiss performed strongly on mobile and on social media: its mobile search was deemed highly relevant, while its navigation featured the hamburger button. Its service and issue resolution on Facebook were highly rated, and it processed returns quickly.

B&Q supported a wide range of communication channels – responding quickly on Facebook – and it shared reviews and ratings on its desktop website.

New Look offered fast responses to both Facebook and email enquiries and shared product ratings. Its web visitors looked at a high number of pages per visit.

Wilko shared products ratings and reviews and supported a high number of communication channels. It responded quickly to customer emails.

Iceland shared product ratings and reviews, and shoppers looked at a high number of pages per web visit.

Debenhams supported a wide number of channels, shared product reviews and returned relevant search results. Both Iceland and Debenhams responded quickly to Facebook enquiries.

Read More

Register for Newsletter

Group 4 Copy 3Created with Sketch.

Receive 3 newsletters per week

Group 3Created with Sketch.

Gain access to all Top500 research

Group 4Created with Sketch.

Personalise your experience on