Are SMEs delivering the right online customer experience?

Online shopping is growing in popularity and the internet is increasingly seen as a source of information when looking for goods.


Despite the fact that online sales are expected to hit £4.7 billion this Christmas, many retailers are still not providing the type of web experience that customers want.


That is according to Eptica who discovered that 55% of shoppers said they cannot find basic information on many of the websites they visit.


This includes details of delivery or returns policies which can be incredibly important if customers have any issues with products.


Customers are also shopping at an earlier stage than ever before, with more than half of those questioned saying that three quarters of their shopping was complete just one week into December.


Poor online service can have stark consequences for the companies involved, as 42% of those questioned said they would simply take their business elsewhere.


Alternatively customers are forced to contact firms in different ways, clogging already busy email inboxes and phone lines.


Having to use these techniques only frustrates a customer further while the costs can be even higher when responding to non-online queries. It is therefore recommended that businesses ensure the necessary information is available and easy to find – before it leads to more issues.


Speed of response is crucial at Christmas as many customers say they have better things to do.


As a result, more than a third of people spend less than five minutes searching for information they need and six in ten will not wait any longer than that if contacting firms on the phone.


More than half also expect their email queries to be answered within just four hours.


For many small businesses, not having the right online services could be costing them money and losing precious sales – especially when most of the problems are relatively straightforward to solve.


In instances where the online marketplace is especially important, businesses could be placing themselves under unnecessary strain by failing to have the right services available.


Restructuring is one option which may be worth considering if this is the case while identifying key factors that are influencing business performance is also important.


By Phil Smith


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