Putting the customer at the heart of multichannel retailing means dealing with customers’ enquiries effectively and promptly, while also making the shopper journey as easy and frictionless as possible. Doing both of those effectively will both improve the customer experience and make it more likely that shoppers will be able to complete their errand on the website – boosting the retailer’s bottom line.
RetailX research, published in the RetailX Europe Top1000 2022, suggests that retailers and brands are gradually improving the speed and effectiveness of customer service, while moving away from sharing product reviews and ratings. However, those who do share are much more likely to enable shoppers to add their own product images.
RetailX researchers chose about a dozen metrics to understand the ways that retailers design Top1000 websites around customers’ needs. Key findings are grouped below through two questions: how do retailers handle customer service enquiries? How do retailers simplify the customer journey?
How do retailers handle customer service enquiries?
Prompt and effective responses to an email, coupled with even faster service via live chat, help undecided shoppers to make up their minds about a purchase.
Email responses to a service enquiry
Researchers sent an email with a straightforward service-related question to 770 Top1000 retailers in order to judge the speed, quality and relevance of their customer service. =
From the 746 retailers that were researched both this year and last, the average retailer answered a customer email in 1,640 minutes – the same time as last year – while the median retailer took 21 minutes longer than last year, answering in 1,150 minutes. The fastest median responses came from DIY and trade equipment retailers (826 minutes) and specialist grocers (1,000 minutes). The slowest responses came from florists and gifts shops (2,160m) and jewellers (1,500m).
Emails were answered most quickly when sent from Poland (750m) and the UK (1,130m) and most slowly when sent from the Netherlands (2,150m) and France (1,280m).
Researchers scored the quality of service and the extent to which responses dealt with the issue raised on a scale of one to four. On average, service quality scored 3.39 and the median was 4. The highest quality service was found at hobby retailers (average 3.49/ median 4) and cosmetics retailers (3.63/ 3.98). At the other end of the scale, DIY and trade equipment retailers scored 3.04/ 3.18, while consumer electronics retailers scored 3.17/ 3.21.
When it came to issue resolution, retailers earned an average of 3.3 points, following an increase of 0.015 from last year, while the median retailer earned 3. Issues were dealt with most effectively by florists and gift shops (average 3.58, median 3.7), and supermarkets (3.41/ 3.67) – while consumer electronics retailers and marketplaces scored both an average and a median of three points.
Shoppers buying from Spain enjoyed both the most effective and highest quality service, followed by those in the UK.
Live chat within a minute
In 2022, just 3% of retailers offer live chat within a minute of landing on a website. That’s down from 4% in 2021 and is part of a longer-term trend away from live chat. Cosmetics and consumer electronics retailers (both 4%), fashion clothing and accessories retailers, brands and multi-sector stores (all 3%) are the most likely to offer this, while less than 1% of those selling stationery, maternity and children’s goods, hobbies, garden products, florists or gift shops do so.
The service is more likely to be available from retailers selling to Malta, Liechtenstein (both 8%), Latvia or Lithuania (both 7%). It is least likely from those selling to the UK (2%), Poland, Denmark, Germany or Luxembourg (all 3%). Ireland was the only market where uptake increased (+1pp to 4%).
How do retailers simplify the customer journey?
Making it easy to navigate and site and check that an item is the right one is in itself a form of customer service. RetailX research assesses each stage of the customer journey, from the ease of navigating desktop and mobile websites, to finding out what others thought about products, through to one-click purchasing and returns policies.
Ease of navigation
How easy a site is to navigate is, to some extent, a subjective opinion. Multiple RetailX researchers score each site out of four and the findings are then normalised. The 898 retailers assessed on this metric both this year and last scored an average of 3.06, while the median site scored three.
Researchers found bookshops easiest to navigate, with a median score of 3.3, followed by maternity and children’s goods shops (3.29). At the other end of the scale, the median retailers selling garden products and consumer electronics scored a median of 3.
Hamburger buttons make it easier for shoppers to navigate mobile websites and 96% (+1%) of retailers put them into place. All florists and gift shops, maternity and children’s products retailers, specialist grocers and stationers deploy hamburger buttons on their mobile websites. They are least used by supermarkets (90%), although the vast majority of retailers in this sector do have them.
Shoppers are most likely to be able to use the mobile hamburger button when they buy from Liechtenstein and Finland (98%) and slightly less likely when they buy from Greece and Bulgaria (both 92%). In most markets, the use of mobile hamburger buttons stayed the same as last year and usage did not decrease in any market. It increased slightly in markets where there is relatively low use, including Poland (+2pp to 95%), Spain (+2pp to 97%) and Greece (+1pp to 92%).
This research first appeared in the RetailX Top1000 Europe. Click here to explore the report further and to download a copy.