June 25, 2010, 4:26 PM

U.K. retailers are bullish on e-commerce

66% of U.K. retailers expect to launch or grow online sales within three years.

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66% of U.K. retailers expect to launch or grow online sales through their own branded web sites within the next three years, and 32% plan to invest heavily in e-commerce within the next 12 months, according to a study commissioned by DHL Supply Chain, a logistics services unit of global shipping company DHL International GmbH.

The study, “Multi-Channel Matters: A route to next generation retailing,” is based on a recent survey of 500 U.K. retailers by London-based research firm FreshMinds.

The study, which also encompasses analyses by academics and retail industry professionals, notes that U.K. retailers are responding to rising expectations among consumers of an easy and convenient shopping experience across multiple retail channels. Consumers expect to be able to interact with a brand across many channels and to receive consistent service in each channel, while retailers want to invest in e-commerce and mobile commerce to benefit from cross-channel sales, the study finds.

At the same time, however, retailers are falling behind in improving their ability to manage inventory to satisfy customer demand in a multichannel retailing environment, the study notes. Although 45% of retailers in the study identify stock availability as the most serious issue they have faced over the past year, only 24% have emphasized investments in improving their control of stock.

In contrast, 63% of retailers have invested most heavily in the past year in front-end operations, including 28% in store improvements, 19% in web site usability, and 16% in customer support services.

When asked what they think most influences customer opinion, 31% of retailers said product choice, 29% pointed to staff knowledge, 22% cited web site usability and 11% said accurate and on-time delivery.

Other findings include:

  • 10% of retailers intend to start selling via mobile devices and applications over the next three years.
  • Of those planning to enter mobile commerce, 35% say it’s because of consumer demand and 28% say having an m-commerce strategy builds their reputation as a retail innovator.
  • The bricks-and-mortar channel will remain an important component of a successful brand strategy; 48% of retailers who consider their bricks-and-mortar presence as important to their growth say it’s also good for their brand image.
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