The fundamentals of retail: Which European countries are leading the way?

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Author: Annabel Thorburn, Director of Retail Services, eCommera

When it comes to delivering a great customer experience, there are myriad aspects for retailers to get right – from delivering on promise, to quickly resolving contact centre queries, to minimising the amount of returns.

But which European countries are most successfully delivering on the fundamentals of retail? At eCommera, we recently surveyed 500 European fashion retailers to find out how well they are performing in various aspects of retail. Here we take a look at some of the key findings by country.

 

Nordic retailers failing to deliver on time

 

When asked to identify the top three areas their customers would say they need to do better, retailers’ answers varied markedly by country. Enhancing the product range came out on top (chosen by 37% of retailers overall), with retailers from France and Benelux in particular citing this as a key area for improvement (45% and 49% respectively).

 

UK retailers, on the other hand, are struggling most with size availability (39% versus 27% overall) and facilitating returns (35% versus 26%). And retailers in the Nordics say that their customers would complain most about on-time delivery (32% versus 21%), suggesting that these retailers should re-focus their efforts on ensuring delivery on promise in 2017. Steps could include factoring in peak periods and adjusting the promise window online as necessary, as well as ensuring that KPIs are in place throughout the chain – from order acceptance to the customer’s door – so that problem areas can be quickly identified and addressed.

 

More than a quarter of orders returned in Germany

 

On average, retailers said that 20% of orders are returned, with German retailers suffering from a much higher returns rate at 27%. And the reasons for returns vary significantly by country, reflecting the areas for improvement identified.

 

“Item didn’t fit” is a significant issue in the UK, with a huge 86% of British retailers selecting this as a top-three reason for returns, compared with 57% overall. Nordic retailers, on the other hand, experience most of their returns due to missed delivery dates, with almost half choosing this versus 31% overall.

 

Retailers struggling with peak trading – especially in Benelux

 

On average, 17% of retailers say that their site is reliably fast and stable during peak trading periods such as Black Friday and the run-up to Christmas, but only 4% of Benelux retailers make the same claim.

 

Retailers struggling with peak should have a six-month business plan in place and start their preparations as early as possible, so that new functionalities can be tested in advance, and performance tests carried out. This allows for any potential platform bottlenecks in order flow and other processes to be identified and addressed well in advance. Turning off complex activity such as ship from store that is not sustainable over peak is also better than not being able to deliver on promise during peak periods.

 

UK retailers experience the fewest contact centre queries

 

The number of queries to the contact centre varies drastically by country, with retailers in Benelux and the Nordics experiencing the highest volume of queries.

Call Centres Queries by Country

 

The part of the customer journey resulting in the most queries similarly varies significantly by geography. For instance, 45% of UK retailers said that most queries occur “when placing the order”; whilst 75% of Nordic retailers said “during order fulfilment”.

 

There are several steps that retailers can take towards reducing contact centre queries. Making the ordering process as clear and easy as possible, as well as including delivery and returns information on all product detail pages, is the first step. Providing self-service options throughout the journey is also advisable. Retailers should consider including self-service cancellation or change options available in an order confirmation as well as an account page. This can allow customers to help themselves when they want to make a simple change such as updating the delivery address.

 

Find out more

 

The results of eCommera’s survey show that there is no clear winner among European retailers when it comes to delivering on the fundamentals of retail. Retailers across Europe are still struggling with some of the key aspects of a great customer experience, and should focus on addressing these issues in 2017.

 

View our interactive infographic to uncover more of the results of the survey, which looked at how well retailers are delivering on the fundamentals of retail, as well as the extent to which they are driving innovation in their business.

 

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