It’s a tough old world on the high street, as we’re constantly being told, but there is one strand of retail that does appear to be thriving. The virtual high street, of course. According to February’s e-Retail Sales Index from IMRG and Capgemini, overall spend on the internet in February was 20% up on the same month last year. Indeed, UK online retail sales for January and February alone are worth more than £10 billion. Fashion did even better, with clothing footwear and accessories sales up a staggering 34% year-on-year. Even the Head of Online Selling at John Lewis, Jonathan Brown acknowledged: “Fashion led the way, outperforming 2010 by over 50%.
So is it that easy? Will consumers flock to buy your shiny goods, so long as they’re on the internet? You might have guessed, but a bad retail experience is just as damaging online as it is offline. And if you didn’t already know that, Brand gurus Wolff Olins (with YouGov) have done a survey to prove it.
74% of consumers say they’d never return to a poorly performing website, and that rises to 84% if they happen to be a first-time visitor. And the biggest bugbear of all? 80% of consumers would be put off using an online retailer if there was a complicated returns procedure.
Nothing earth-shattering here but with nearly half (48%) of consumers believing that online shopping can be just as rewarding as offline, there’s a great opportunity for e-tailers to engender a band of loyal repeat customers.
We know that online shopping has a higher percentage of returns than high street retail. That’s the small price to pay for reaching a much wider audience. So perhaps the answer is to build a unique customer experience around the returns process. Let’s make it positive, entertaining and memorable, going all out to highlight customers returning goods as valued. Regular customers should have access to a VIP returns hotline where retailers arrange refunds and replacements without delay.