January 4, 2002, 12:00 AM

Holiday fulfillment was good but not perfect, Keynote reports

On average, delivery of items bought online took 1.5 days longer this year than last—6 days vs. 4.5, Keynote Systems reports. And five of the 20 sites tracked by Keynote missed at least one guaranteed-by-Christmas delivery.

Online retailers still have some obstacles to overcome in delivering in time for Christmas, says the latest Holiday 2001 E-Commerce Fulfillment & Performance Report from Keynote Systems. On average, delivery took 1.5 days longer this year than last-6 days vs. 4.5 days, Keynote reports. And five of the 20 sites tracked by Keynote and for which Keynote has final data missed at least one guaranteed-by-Christmas delivery--with one retailer failing to deliver all six of the last-minute gifts ordered by Keynote researchers.

Retailers have learned one lesson from past delivery problems-under promise on delivery and over fulfill. “Meeting customer expectations is easier when the expectations are conservative,” Keynote reports. Even including last-minute delivery problems, retailers delivered 49% faster than promised. “The overall Delivery Performance results, although representing the retailer`s ability to deliver the majority of orders placed during the holiday season, do not reflect the ability to deliver on time for Christmas,” Keynote says.

On the site performance front, Keynote reports that web sites became more responsive as Christmas approached. The week before Christmas, sites averaged 8.4 seconds. Keynote says transaction performance measures the time it takes for an online customer to move through the number of pages required by the site to complete an interactive transaction such as making a purchase (in this case, to search for an item on the site). Site availability averaged 98.6%.

Keynote tested delivery performance by having its panel of 3,000 shoppers place last-minute orders, following the guidelines posted at each site and typically within an hour of the deadline. Of the 20 sites for which delivery data are available, Keynote says the following met their guarantees:
Barnes and Noble.com
Gap (gap.com, bananarepublic.com, oldnavy.com)
Home Depot
J. Jill

Keynote says five missed their Christmas delivery guarantees by various degrees:
Best Buy - missed 1 out of 7 orders placed
Smarter Kids - missed 1 out of 6
Buy.com - missed 3 out of 6
Tower Records - missed 2 out of 5
CDNow - missed 6 out of 6

Keynote reports that in some cases, an item was listed as being "In Stock" at the time the purchase was made, but a back-order e-mail later was sent too late for the shopper to make alternative arrangements in time for Christmas. This happened to the missed order at Best Buy and one of the missed orders at Tower Records, Keynote says.

Even though transaction performance improved the week before Christmas, it still didn’t match performance at the start of the holiday shopping season. Keynote reports the following average transaction times:
- Week of Dec.16-22: 8.40 seconds
- Week of Dec. 9-15: 8.83
- Week of Dec. 2-8: 8.81
- Week of Nov. 25- Dec. 1: 8.82
- Week of Nov. 18-24: 8.29

J.C.Penney continues in the #1 position with the fastest transaction performance five weeks in a row, with the week before Christmas averaging 3.32 seconds. From Dec. 23-25, the average got even faster, to 2.99 seconds.


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