High Street retailers fail the online test – again..!

Retailers with successful “bricks and mortar” stores are – once again – failing to capitalise on the Internet. That’s the conclusion you can draw from the analysis of the annual WebCredible Ecommerce report.

The report looked at ten major retailers and got 1,000 people to score them for various aspects of their web site. The study looked at 20 essential aspects of a shopping web site. The findings show that the vast majority of the retailers fail to achieve anything like a good score. Only seven of the 20 online stores improved their web sites compared with the same time a year ago. There were 11 web sites that actually performed worse than last year

The Number One slot was taken by HMV who achieved a score of 70% – but last year they also scored 70% and only managed 5th place. What this shows is that all the online stores measured in this survey have worsened over the past 12 months.

Considering there has been endless reams written on how to improve ecommerce operations in that period – and there are more consultancy services available – it’s remarkable that these major retailers have fallen so far. So what has happened?

It seems that all the sites have undergone a revamp in the past year – and this has focused on (you’ve guessed it) design. Once again, major companies are “sold” on the need to redesign their stores, rather than focusing on their customers.

Cast your mind back a few years. Marks and Spencer was in trouble with its “bricks and mortar” stores. So what did they do? The redesigned their stores. Their argument was that their stores were no longer looking modern, they were not in keeping with the 1990s. Millions spent on redesign – no impact for the company. So, in comes a new chief executive who – guess what – redesigns the stores (again). The change for Marks and Spencer’s stores came when they started selling what people wanted to buy – focusing on their customers, not their stores.

Online, M&S and other major retailers appear to be focusing all their attention on the design of their online shop, rather than the customer. People do not browse online stores, in the way they do in “bricks and mortar” shops. This is a fundamental behavioural difference that the major retailers have yet to understand, it appears from this latest research. All the time they redesign their online stores to make it easy to browse they are chasing the wrong thing.

This recent ecommerce study of retailers shows us once again, that by focusing their attention on the web site, these companies are losing customers. This Christmas is expected to bring in an extra £3b in online shopping for British retailers alone. This report suggests most of that money is going to go to other ecommerce operators, rather than the main retailers. And what will their response be to that in January when they analyse their sales and see they didn’t do as well online as they had hoped? Well, guess what, they’ll commission a redesign of their web site…..!

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