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• Added-value content ignored with only 15% incorporating a blog and 75% failing to include social networks links

London, July 23rd 2009: Many UK retailers are neglecting to include added-value content and features on their websites that will encourage repeat visits, high transaction values and ongoing brand loyalty, a new study from dotCommerce reveals today.

Hitting The Checkout, which assessed 20 of the leading UK-based retailers, highlights that while most have the basics of ecommerce covered, the majority are failing to embrace the rise of Web 2.0 content, such as blogs, videos and user-generated content, or demonstrate integration with marketing tools, such as email and social media links.

The benchmark study, available to download at www.dotcommerce.co.uk/hittingthecheckout, assessed the ecommerce platforms of some of the UK’s leading retailers across a range of different sectors. Each site was evaluated against 26 criteria within seven categories - site content, design, product search, product page, marketing, checkout and after sale – with each retailer awarded a total score out of 100.

Marks and Spencer (82%) and John Lewis (78%) topped the eCommerce League Table, demonstrating that they were going beyond the basics and delivering a rich experience to website visitors, which was clearly integrated with email, after sales and marketing initiatives. However, health and beauty retailers fared badly, with Virgin Vie At Home (62%), The Fragrance Shop (56%) and Avon (54%) languishing at the bottom. The average score was 68%, with only the top two retailers scoring more than three quarters of the marks, suggesting there is still some work to do.

Added-value content

Few retailers provided sufficient added-value content for website users, above and beyond their product detail. For example, less than half (45%) offered any kind of editorial material on their sites to engage customers and facilitate cross-sell. In addition, just 10% allowed users to submit comments or product reviews and only 15% included a blog – valuable for search engine optimisation and customer retention.

Other popular Web 2.0 features were missing too, with only half of retailers using video content to give an extra dimension to the online shopping experience. Three out of four also failed to leverage the rise of social networks by not bookmarking links that will allow visitors to share information on interesting products directly with like-minded friends and peers.

Customer service and design

However, there were some positive signs, with the 20 retailers all scoring high marks for the customer support options available to visitors. FAQs and searchable knowledgebases were commonplace on the websites, offering shoppers easy access to help and support if required. In addition, most of the retailers had paid careful attention to the overall design and layout of the website with good structure on product pages, engaging product images and coherent checkout funnels.

The eCommerce League Table
Hitting the Checkout Scores

82 Marks and Spencer
78 John Lewis
73 Boots
73 Amazon.uk
72 HMV
71 PC World
71 Game
71 Comet
69 Dixons
68 LoveFilm
67 Look fantastic.com
66 Maplin
66 Tesco
65 Argos
65 Play.com
65 Asda
64 Currys
62 Virgin Vie At Home
56 The Fragrance Shop
54 Avon

“We were generally surprised to find a lack of added-value features and content on these websites,” said Simon Bird, Technical Director at dotCommerce. “With competition for every consumer pound at an all time high, it’s more important than ever for retailers to engage with visitors to their sites. Features such as video, editorial content and user generated content can really added something extra to a website and go a long way to increasing the amount of money a customer will spend.

“It is also important to recognise the role that ecommerce sites can play in encouraging shoppers to sign-up for other marketing and promotional efforts, such as email marketing or loyalty schemes. This allows the retailer to begin building long-term relationships with consumers and maximising revenue from their existing base.

Top Tips

Using the information contained within the report, dotCommerce’s Simon Bird sets out some top tips for retailers looking to reinvigorate their website:

1. Include ‘editorial’ content as it’s a powerful way to capture and hold the attention of visitor and encourage them to make a purchase. Only half of the sites we looked at featured video and over 50% didn’t include any real editorial content pages. Give your visitors something extra and really engage them!

2. Include User Generated Content. What if I told you that I could supply you with loads of copy about your products, with experts on hand to answer questions and describe your products in detail, how they have benefited people and how they have been used - all for no cost? This is exactly what Web 2.0 can bring to a site. User reviews, ratings, polls, forums and blogs are all indispensible tools for building customer engagement, confidence and driving sales.

3. Use social networking bookmark links to allow your visitors to share products they like with their friends on social networks. 75% of the retailers assessed failed to include any reference to social networks and only half gave the opportunity to email a page to a friend. Make it as easy as possible for customers to post relevant pages to their online networks by making it a one-click process

4. Capture as much data as possible during the checkout process as this will be vital for future marketing efforts. Just 6 out of the 20 retailers we assessed provided customers with a simple tick box to opt in/out of future marketing communications. If you don’t ask permission or give consumers the opportunity to deny you permission, then you can’t email them with marketing messages.

dotCommerce’s benchmark report, Hitting the Checkout, offers over 130 best practice guidelines and top tips for effective online retailing, with practical information and real-world examples.
To make sure your ecommerce site scores better than the major high street retailers, download the full report at no charge at www.dotcommerce.co.uk/hittingthecheckout
ends

Notes to Editors

Methodology

The 14 criteria in the report were used to evaluate the key factors that need to be addressed by any email marketing campaign to be effective across the four key areas that determine success: deliverability, renderability, open rates and response rates. A range of aspects were considered, including sign-up, unsubscribing, the HTML code used, effectiveness of the design and the subject line. dotMailer analysed a sample of one email from each retailer sent in December 2008. The emails were assessed using a matrix drawn up by dotMailer specialists alongside the DMA’s Best Practice Guidelines. Each retailer was awarded a score out of 100.

About dotCommerce

dotCommerce is part of the dotDigital Group PLC – one of the UK’s leading full-service digital marketing agencies. dotCommerce give customers access to the tailored features, flexibility and dedicated support they would expect from a bespoke web development solution, at a fraction of the price. More information: www.dotcommerce.co.uk

For media information, please contact:

Dan Howe/Danny Whatmough
Wildfire PR
Tel: +44 20 8339 4420
Email: dotmailer@wildfirepr.co.uk

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Wildfire in the following categories: Media & Marketing, Retail & Fashion, for more information visit https://pressreleasewire.responsesource.com/about.