Word of mouth shapes online retail in UK

10 August 2010

LONDON: Word of mouth is a crucial driver of traffic for e-commerce sites in the UK, according to a new report.

A survey of 2,000 people by eCommera, the online retail services specialist, found that 42.6% of respondents shopped on the web on at least a weekly basis.

The typical participant spent £71 ($112; €85) on goods through this channel per month, with 36% of consumers having boosted their outlay in the last year, and a further 45% maintaining their spending.

When asked to select which factors were likely to dissuade them from using a specific ecommerce portal, 42% cited poor design or a lack of information and 32% mentioned a complicated interface.

Concerns relating to the security of payment registered a score of 30%, falling to 26% for products being out of stock and 18% if it was not obvious how to contact the company concerned.

Elsewhere, the qualities perceived as the most important for firms in this sector, offering competitive prices led the way on 64.2%, followed by reliable delivery some way back on 31%.

In keeping with this trend, 60.4% of customers said better deals are available in "clicks and mortar" stores, 51% thought the net was highly convenience and 39% believed it provided a wider choice.

In seeking to identify a specific internet property to order items from, 71% of contributors said a personal recommendation from a friend or family member helped them reach a decision.

This fell to 35% for search engines, 21% for advertising on media such as TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, and 13% for web advertising.

Another 46% agreed that they generally visited the online platform of a chain that boasted an established presence on the high-street.

During the actual purchase process, 63% of the sample conducted research on multiple sites before obtaining products via the internet, while 29% looked for information on the net and bought in-store.

Just over a quarter of individuals featured in the analysis took the opposite route, and assessed the available brands in physical outlets before ordering online.

As over 90% of consumers had completed a single transaction worth more than £50 on the internet, the study argued a "strong market for luxury goods" and big-ticket acquisitions was emerging.

However, social media does not yet have a major role, as only 5.1% of netizens opted for an e-commerce site after reading favourable feedback on Facebook and other platforms.

"The recession has been bad news for the high street but online retailers have seen real growth because of the benefits they offer to consumers," said Andrew McGregor, ceo of eCommera.

"Price is an obvious benefit of shopping online as it's far easier to shop around online for a bargain by visiting multiple retailers' websites or using price comparison sites.

"Greater choice, a flexible range of delivery options and the convenience of shopping at any time of day and taking delivery without ever having to queue in-store or seek for a parking space, is also critical."

Data sourced from eCommera; additional content by Warc staff