Discouraging repeat customers - 65% of retailers change Web content less frequently than shop fronts
11 October 2001 - Many UK e-businesses are lagging behind the traditional High Street store in marketing their products and services to acquire and retain customers. This is the conclusion from the CacheFlow UK Commerce 2001TM study of 20 leading High Street chains with shops on and around Oxford Street, the UK’s premier retail environment, carried out by the intelligent content delivery technology provider, CacheFlow. The survey indicates that UK retailers are still a long way off from facilitating the integration of their online and offline offerings and need to invest more time and resources in content management and improving the performance of their e-infrastructures.
Only 35% of Web sites change content on their home page more frequently than their high street counterparts change their window dressing, the survey found. The majority were not taking a consistent approach to content delivery to ensure their customers’ shopping experience is constantly progressing. Furthermore, the survey revealed that web site download times were unacceptably long and online shoppers had to typically wait an average of 35 seconds for a home page to download from an e-commerce site.
A full copy of the report is available at http://www.cacheflow.com/uk/commerce2001.html
"UK retailers rightly spend a great deal of time and money ensuring that their shop-windows are fresh and exciting to encourage customers inside,” said Nigel Hawthorn, channel and marketing director EMEA for CacheFlow. “It is disappointing to see that they are not always giving the same amount of effort to their online presence. In September, more than 18 million of the UK population went online (source: Office National Statistics), more than will walk past a shop window in a year and these potential customers should be given a reason to return regularly to online shops. This is not simply creating vast swathes of content but by ensuring consistent and accurate targeting of customers and regular special offers, e-tailers can get content working for them rather than against them".
One fifth of the retailers surveyed made no changes to content on their Web site home pages while they made noticeable changes to the content of their shop fronts during the research period. These included JD Sports, Next, Vodafone and Hamleys.
HMV refreshed content on its Web site home page and shop front weekly and was recognised as the most consistent retailer amongst the 20 businesses surveyed. WHSmith, Marks & Spencer Tesco, and HMV were the only four retailers that made clearly identifiable alterations to the content presented on their home pages weekly. The majority did not demonstrate a consistent approach to updating their online content.
Internet research issued in 1999 by US Internet analyst Zona Research shows that Internet shoppers are likely to leave an e-commerce site if they are unable to download web pages in less than eight seconds, however, none of the Web sites tested downloaded within this recommended time. The fastest Web site to download was www.vodafone.com, which took an average of 10.9 seconds, which is almost three seconds slower than the recommended time of eight seconds. The two slowest Web sites to download were www.wellbeing.com and www.woolworths.com both of which took nearly 50 seconds above the recommended time to download, more than seven times slower than necessary.
“Performance lies at the heart of much customer dissatisfaction with online shopping and our study shows that many e-commerce sites are still a long way off the mark. The bottom line is that e-tailers must ensure that their IT engine is perfectly tuned and they have built a rock-solid foundation on which they can operate an e-business in a 24/7 environment with high customer expectations. Just like high street retailers have invested in bricks and mortar and distribution processes, so e-tailers must appreciate the significance of the hardware and software that underpins their operations,” said Hawthorn.
“Changing content on a Web site home page is naturally less taxing and costly to implement for a retailer than managing changes to content across the shop fronts of multiple stores geographically dispersed. It is this potential of the Web to help e-tailers target audiences consistently with fresh information that is currently being ignored”, added Hawthorn.
The CacheFlow UK Commerce 2001TM study conducted over the four week period was based on a single test scenario, using a detailed and structured methodology. The methodology was devised to reveal a simple snapshot of how today’s retailers are typically managing their online and offline content from a consumer perspective. The scope of the study formed 20 leading retail businesses with shops on and around Oxford Street, London, which have also established an e-commerce offering as an additional channel to their High Street business. The businesses were selected across a range of retail categories.
Overall the study recommended seven practical recommendations on how retailers can improve the content management flaws spotlighted in the CacheFlow UK Commerce 2001TMstudy. These are explained in the full copy of the report.
1. Test your Web site’s performance extensively
2. Appoint a Head of Content Management
3. Improve your e-infrastructure
4. Update content consistently and frequently
5. Clearly display new content on the home page
6. Ensure online and offline integration
7. Understand your systems and processes
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