Anecdotal evidence and experts concur that online shopping is gaining an ever-larger share of wallets in Britain; a recent report by Mastercard confirms that Brits are the most avid online shoppers in Europe with 8% buying online every day and 41% every week (MasterCard, Masterindex on European e-commerce trends, March 2017). Time-poor consumers are opting for online shopping for all sorts of items from groceries to fashion for a variety of reasons such as to save themselves time and money or even simply to avoid traipsing around the high street in search of that unique item they can easily browse for online from the comfort of their sofa.

The availability of portable devices such as tablet computers and smartphones, now owned by four out of five UK consumers (BBC News, UK ‘has never been more addicted to smartphones’, 26th September 2016), as well as high-speed internet available almost everywhere, have also contributed to making online shopping easier and more efficient. Capgemini and IMRG’s latest e-retail index shows that in December 2016 alone e-commerce sales via smartphones rose 47% year-over-year and represented 54% of online sales from mobile devices that month. The market is therefore booming and showing huge potential for future development, but are online retailers ready to grasp the opportunity?

Latest research by Yonder Digital Group reveals they are not, with e-tailers failing to provide customers with top quality customer service and therefore retain and drive sales at a key shopping time: after 8.30pm. Research carried out by independent organization MindMetre Research canvassed the opinions of 2,000 UK consumers asking them which days of the week and at what times of the day they were most likely to shop. The survey revealed that over a quarter of shopping online is carried out at a time when major online retailers are not offering live agent interaction online or over the telephone.

 

TIME OF DAY AGE RANGE
TOTAL 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65 and older
Between 6am and 1pm 13% 4% 10% 12% 17% 17% 18%
Between 1pm and 6pm 34% 26% 34% 32% 31% 37% 43%
Between 6pm and 8.30pm 27% 40% 30% 29% 23% 24% 21%
Between 8.30pm and 10pm 20% 22% 20% 22% 22% 18% 14%
Between 10pm and midnight 5% 7% 5% 4% 6% 3% 3%
After midnight 1% 2% 2% 1% 1% 1% 1%

 

The research also highlights that UK consumers tend to shop online on weekdays (53%) so it is hardly surprising to find that 26% do so after 8.30pm when they have reached home after their commute from work, they have had a meal with their family and are about to watch their favourite shows and unwind. This familiar scenario, however, has clearly not been taken into account by online retailers as 72% do not have live query handling options for consumers shopping after dusk. Inability to find answers to non-standard queries, such as those relating to bulk or repeat purchases for example, is likely to drive consumers to defect to the next e-tailer that actually does provide them with live assistance online or by telephone. Reports confirm that most cart abandonment takes place between 8pm and 9pm (Econsultancy, Nine case studies and infographics on cart abandonment and email retargeting, 25th September 2013), suggesting shoppers won’t wait until morning, when live agent help is available, to carry out their purchase but simply move on to a more savvy retailer. In fact, statistics show that around 60% of baskets filled by shoppers online are then abandoned, costing the industry up to £1bn lost sales each year in Britain (Marketing Sciences, How can online retailers learn from abandoned baskets? 1st July 2015). Previous research by Yonder Digital Group has shown that, conversely, having access to the full range of communications channels – automated and human – to resolve queries, encourages customers to stay loyal and even increase their spending (84%).

So, while online retailers may think they are making a saving by reducing the hours they deploy live agent support, they are actually incurring loss of revenue caused by not meeting customer expectations. Thorough analysis of the customer journey to purchase- touch points used, potential turn-off, typical stage for cart abandonment- can help online retailers understand when live agent support is most needed and plan strategically. Understanding the role of each tool and its link to revenue generation is critical to ensuring that it is deployed at the right stage concentrating support where and when it is most required. Multichannel customers require a multichannel approach and businesses will need to step-up their data analytics. Most of all though, UK consumers clearly reveal that they need to be able to access a full range of touch-points to be able to make their purchases and stay loyal, so failing to provide this level of service to one in four potential customers is a huge risk to be taking.