Monday, December 17, 2007

Retail Firms Ranked High in Area of Communication With Customers in 2007

The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their online customers, released findings from its Fourth Quarter 2007 Online Customer Respect Study of the Retail Industry. The study evaluated the websites of a representative sample of major retail companies. Using a common set of criteria, it is the only study to bring an objective and consistent measure to the analysis of corporate performance from an online customer’s perspective.

The retail industry was rated best in the area of communicating with online visitors in 2007, scoring 7.0 in Responsiveness, compared to 6.5 scored by the next highest-rated industries -- financial services and telecommunications. The variety of contact methods available to retail customers was one positive factor.

Twenty-two percent of retail sites now provide online chat, compared to the all-industry average of just 12%. Also noted was the emergence of pro-active “chat,” where visitors are invited to engage in a context-sensitive dialog based on their online behavior. “click to call” prompting a telephone call directly from the retailer to the user also showed a strong upward trend as retailers look to limit site abandonment.

Other communication channels remain well supported. Sixty-five percent of e-mail inquiries to retail companies were responded to within a day, compared to 57% among all other industries studied during the year.. Eighty-three percent of inquiries received a helpful reply -- again well ahead of the average of 60%.

Moving around a site by “fast track” methods is a focus of retail sites, with 96% of retail sites containing FAQ sections, compared to 61% among all other industries, with those FAQs generally easy to locate (65% were linked from the homepage) and well structured (over 82% contained a search facility and / or anchor links). The percentage of sites containing a site search facility was again above average (96% vs. 73%).

However, the retail industry did not cater particularly well to disabled visitors and its Accessibility rating was below the all-industry average for 2007.

Another online retail trend is the increasing capability for users to make selections (70%) and see prices (72%) before registering on the site.

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