Online retailers have done a good job of merchandising their sites in the past year, but their technology capabilities are lacking, says the Third Annual Retail Web Study conducted by the Retail Solutions Group of Answerthink Inc.
“Early results show significant improvements in product descriptions, advanced searches, gift finders, gift recommendation tools and product and buying tips,” Answerthink’s report says, “but retailers are still missing the opportunity to personalize the site to the shopper and are not using technology such as online chat.”
One major improvement seen so far this year is the introduction of customer service tools such as retention of frequently used shipping addresses and billing information and services such as express checkout and the ability to access product availability and gift registries and wish lists, Answerthink says. The company also noted that online retailers are making great strides in sales rooms for merchandise savings that customers would experience at a bricks-and-mortar store.
Answerthink is evaluating 200 retail web sites in six categories: customer service, ease of shopping, ease of ordering, ease of order processing and tracking, delivery experience and the return experience.
"In the past year, retailers have certainly made content improvements to their Web sites, but the real litmus test will be how they execute rush deliveries and returns," said Ken Goldberg, managing director of retail solutions for Answerthink, a provider of technology solutions. "Our previous studies have shown a significant disconnect between sales channels, especially when consumers try to return merchandise bought online to brick and mortar stores. Retailers need to create a unified brand experience across all sales channels to increase customer satisfaction and reduce brand dissonance and operational redundancies."