Close this search box.

The Customer: Offering customer choice

The metrics in The Customer Dimension, which show European retailers maintaining their performance from last year, suggest that companies have already optimised performance in key areas.

How far do leading European retailers go to enable customers to buy in convenient ways? That’s the question at the heart of The Customer Dimension and one that RetailX researchers aim to answer through analysis of the service, the levels of convenience and the range of choices that retailers offer shoppers when customers visit their websites, pay for orders and return products. Our aim is to provide an industry benchmark so that our analysis here is a way for retailers to understand both how their performance measures up, as well as the steps that can be taken to improve performance.

How fast are European retail websites?

How quickly a web page loads can make the difference between whether customers stay to browse and buy or move on quickly. But RetailX research shows that Top500 European websites continue to load at a similar speed in 2019 as they did back in 2018.

Top500 desktop landing pages load in a median of 9s, from 8s a year earlier, with those selling fashion clothing (8.5s), fashion accessories (8.5s), sports clothing (8.4s) and fashion footwear (8.4s) loading the fastest, which suggests these websites are the best optimised for desktop users. The slowest median loading times are among those selling health products (10.3s), grocery (10.2s) and cosmetics (9.8s).

Desktop landing pages continue to be a similar size, growing to 2.6MB from 2.5MB in 2018. Websites that rely on their visual appeal tend to be largest, with those selling jewellery, fashion clothing and cosmetics (2.9MB) at the top of the list, followed closely by footwear and fashion accessories (2.8MB). The lightest websites analysed were from retailers selling software (2.0MB), equipment for the garden (2.2MB) and for trade or DIY (2.3MB). Websites selling to Danish customers show the most striking change, with the median size up by 0.5MB at 2.7MB.

On mobile, website load times have stayed stable at 7s, although that median time is beaten by those sites selling books (5.6s), software (5.9s) and garden equipment (6.0s). Slower times were recorded for sites selling cosmetics (8.6s), sports equipment (7.8s) and health products (7.6s).

Mobile website sizes have grown slightly in 2019, up to 2.2MB from 2.1MB in 2018. The heaviest mobile websites are found in the grocery category, (2.4MB), while fashion retailers, whether they sell clothing, footwear or accessories, come in at a median 2.2MB, in line with the overall RXEU Top500 index. RetailX researchers suggest that members of this group appear to optimise their mobile websites to suit mobile connections, where speed might be
a particular concern.

How long do European customers have to make returns?

EU distance-selling regulations guarantee the right for shoppers to return orders bought online within 14 days. But many retailers go well beyond that to offer extra days and improved services such as free returns. RetailX findings show that the length of the median return policy increased among Top500 retailers selling in the EEA to 21 days in 2019, from 19 days in 2018.

That top-line figure reflects the finding that retailers in 22 countries increased the amount of time that their customers have to make a return. The longest extensions have been in the Netherlands (to 25 days) and Finland (to 23 days), where retailers offer, on average, an extra nine days. In Hungary, meanwhile, retailers have extended their return period to an average 17 days, from the statutory minimum of 14 days last year.

Traders delivering to Greece extended their returns period from 24 days last year to 30 days this year, putting the market on a parity with Lithuania and Romania, where traders continue to offer a median 30 days for shoppers to return unwanted purchases.

What payment options do retailers offer?

For the first time, RetailX research went beyond looking at how many payment methods retailers offer to discovering which methods are most popular. Credit and debit cards are the most commonly found, with Visa and Mastercard both offered by 98% of the Top500. The next most popular payment provider is PayPal (81%) followed by American Express (62%) and Maestro (46%). Bank transfers are accepted by 25% of the Top500 and cash on delivery by 21%, while there is wide use of some country-specific payment methods.

For example, payments through Dutch payment system iDEAL is offered by 20% of the Top500 and 16% offer electronic funds transfer (EFT) payments through the French Carte Bleue system. Some 16% of traders offer Sofort, a Euro bank transfer method that is most popular in Germany and can also be used for Euro payments in seven further markets: Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Klarna’s flexible payment options are also gaining traction, with 16% of Top500 retailers now offering them on their websites, according to RetailX research.

Other payment methods used by more than 10% of leading European retailers include a store line of credit (14%) and Diners Card (13%).

Those with a lower presence include Belgian payment method Bancontac (7%), payment by invoice (6%), Apple Pay (5%), Masterpass (5%), Japanese payment method JCB (5%), German method Giropay (5%), Portugal’s Multibanco (4%), Przelewy24 from Poland (4%), Delta cards (4%) and Discover (4%). Amazon Pay is offered by 3% of Top500 retailers.

Case Study:

The choices that H&M gives its customers

Swedish retailer H&M offers customers a range of alternative ways to pay, while also giving them plenty of time to make returns, should they need to do so.

Payments can be made via Visa, Mastercard or PayPal. Thanks to a recent service update, those who sign up to be an H&M member add to that the ability to use Klarna’s Pay Later scheme – and delay payment for up to 30 days or split the bill into monthly instalments – whether they are buying via the H&M app in a store or online.

“Shopping at H&M should be convenient, relevant and inspiring and we are happy to now offer fashion fans in the UK a whole new way of paying for their fashion finds,” said Toni Galli, country manager for H&M UK & IE.

The new payment feature has been introduced first in the UK and will be launched in seven more markets this year before being extended still further in 2020.

When it comes to returns, shoppers have 28 days to send back an unwanted item, while returns are free and can be made via channels including a courier, to the store, parcel shop or post office. However, that may differ when shoppers are returning a larger item.

Members also get free standard delivery when they spend more than £20, and free click and collect, on any item. For non-members, there’s a charge of £3.99 for both services, although click and collect is free to those spending more than £20.

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