April 4, 2012, 11:50 AM

Delivery headaches irritate French online shoppers

More than half of those consumers encounter issues with delivery.

Lead Photo

Lured by convenience and speed, 91% of French consumers shopped online over the past year, according to a February survey by French polling organization Institut français d’opinion publique, or IFOP. The 1,000 respondents made an average of 13 online purchases in that period, the study finds.

However, despite the French enthusiasm for e-commerce, the survey reveals major shortfalls in delivery and customer service, with 27% of shoppers asking for a refund at least once in the past year because of delivery hassles.

“Over the last twelve months, half of online shoppers were confronted with delivery problems,” says Frédéric Micheau, IFOP deputy director.

More specifically, 13% of shoppers quizzed say they never received at least one online purchase in the past year; 15% received broken or damaged goods; 18% an incorrect item and 7% items they had not ordered. 

Online sellers still fall short in meeting consumers’ expectations for quality service and delivery efficiency, Micheau says.

For example, 14% of respondents say retailers do not meet the delivery times promised and 18% say e-commerce sites do not inform them of changes in delivery—such as delayed deliveries. Another 9% say they have received goods that had been mishandled as evidenced by such signs as damaged packaging. 

Another problem the study reveals is inaccurate inventory. 28% of consumers report ordering an item that was not in stock and having the retailer cancel their orders.  Additionally, 32% of consumers are disappointed that the retailer makes no effort to compensate them for their frustrations, by offering, for example, a discount on their next order.

Frustration with delivery also extends into delivery cost. 55% of French consumers say the cost of delivery is a deterrent to shopping online (with 54% saying in response to a separate question that they are generally unhappy about delivery costs) and 13% note some sort of inconvenience with delivery—including delays in receiving goods and retailers not making clear that goods ordered are out of stock. Another 21% feel they are not clearly informed of delivery charges.

“These difficulties, added to the fact that cost savings is one of the main incentives for online shoppers, explain why consumers are starting to show their irritation with the delivery charges, which they consider too high,” Micheau says.

However, it’s important to note that shipping costs have long frustrated online consumers, no matter the country. For example, shipping fees are a common complaint among U.S. online consumers as well.

Despite such growing pains with e-commerce, online retail is still growing in France—thanks in part to the economic downturn. 44% of shoppers say they are buying more online because of the economy, motivated by the ease and efficiency of online purchasing and the ability to compare prices easily and find the best deal. And 11% say they are purchasing “much more” via the web.

“Though the (upward) trend is particularly noticeable in the 25-34 year old age group, it affects the whole of French society, regardless of income level,” the survey notes.

In fact, French strongly associate online purchases with “smart buys,” Micheau says. “Online shopping has become an integral part of consumption habits, (in France) because it is speedy, and consumers don’t have to leave home,” he says. 

E-retailers that want to build a loyal customer base would do well to tackle the kinks in delivery, Micheau says. E-retailers also might want to focus on providing great customer service, the study suggests. 20% of French consumers polled say they are dissatisfied with the customer service they receive when they call about delivery issues—a further 20% are dissatisfied with the lack of information about the date of delivery or delivery tracking and 21% complain that web retailers are not flexible with delivery times. This inflexibility often means consumers must wait at home the day their order is slated to be delivered because they cannot choose a delivery window.

Roger Hardy, CEO of Canada-based e-retailer Coastal Contacts, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in Chicago in June in a session titled “Border crossings: How to get orders to customers across borders.”

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