Consumer: Disappointment for online shoppers

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A survey of British online shoppers has found almost a third reported problems with the delivery of their orders in the lead-up to Christmas.

The YouGov poll for supply chain systems company JDA has given a snapshot of consumer experiences when shopping online before Christmas, with experts claiming the results show retailers failed to meet customers’ expectations.

The survey found 31 per cent of consumers reported delivery problems, 49 per cent experienced missed deliveries or received a missed delivery card despite being at home and 45 per cent said their orders arrived late or not at all.

But many consumers also chose not to have parcels delivered to home, with 39 per cent using retailers’ ‘click and collect’ services. Of these, 61 per cent said they chose the option as they wanted to avoid delivery charges and 53 per cent cited convenience.

The survey found 34 per cent of those who used click and collect said they would use the service more this year and a quarter said they specifically chose retailers who offered that option over those who only delivered to homes.

But not all click and collect experiences were positive, with 35 per cent of those who used it reporting problems such as long waiting times because of a lack of in-store staff (30 per cent) and the lack of a dedicated in-store collection area (29 per cent). JDA said the figures showed many retailers failed to meet their customers’ expectations over the critical Christmas shopping period - in contrast with last year when just one in five consumers experienced similar problems over the year. The Christmas period saw delivery company Yodel apologise to customers when it was forced to temporarily suspend new collections from retailers, blaming the backlog of parcels following the spending splurge on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. JDA also said retailers had struggled to cope with the two back-to-back events.

Jason Shorrock, retail strategy director at JDA, said: “Christmas 2014 was undoubtedly the year that online shoppers saw click and collect as a viable alternative to home delivery. Shoppers want greater flexibility as to how and when they receive their online goods. But at the same time it is clear that home delivery reliability around the Christmas period remains something of a lottery.

“With growing numbers of consumers opting to shop with retailers that offer the option of click and collect, those that can ensure order fulfilment excellence will be ultimate winners. Indeed, our research shows that nearly one in five online shoppers surveyed used an alternative retailer this Christmas as a result of their preferred one not having items available or having delivery times that met their requirements.” The study found 47 per cent of Britons did at least half of their shopping online, with 18 per cent of these consumers saying they ordered more over the internet than they originally planned.

Mr Shorrock said: “The growth of online retail in the UK shows no sign of slowing down. At the same time, customers’ service expectations are greater than ever, meaning they will simply shop elsewhere if retailers fail to meet them. Retail phenomena such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday have only increased consumer demand, yet retailers still struggle to cope effectively with its implications. The Christmas shopping experience can often dictate a person’s shopping habits for the next 12 months and beyond. At a time when margins remain squeezed, retailers need to ensure they are delivering a great experience both online and in store. Those that don’t will not have much to celebrate next Christmas.”

Figures looking at the retail market as a whole show online sales surged 153 per cent year-on-year and pre-Christmas discounts - triggered by the popularity of Black Friday - caused a major change in trading patters in the run-up to Christmas. Tim Spooner, chief information officer at e-retail industry body IMRG, said: “The Black Friday genie is out of the bottle now and, while it will doubtless be an even bigger deal in 2015, retailers will need to develop clear strategies for capturing their share of the sales.”