TECHNOLOGY

Retailers with the best performing digital channels are…

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Three brands lead the pack when it comes to offering high performing online experiences, but many retailers continue to struggle.

Adidas AG, Men’s Wearhouse and Ulta Beauty are raising the bar when it comes to website performance, according to Retail Systems Research’s new study, “2018 eCommerce Website Performance: The Stakes Are Increasing, But Are Retailers Falling Behind?” The study ranked 80 of the top retail desktop and mobile sites based on load speed, ease of navigation, and available ancillary tools (product reviews, recommendations, personalization, chat features, etc.).

Adidas AG jumped 21 places, from number 22 in last year’s study to become the retailer featuring the best online performance overall (48 out of 77 points). Men’s Wearhouse came in second (47 out of 77), followed by Ulta Beauty (46 out of 77).

When broken down further, the list changes a bit. Men’s Wearhouse had the best desktop performance (19 out 30 points), followed by Adidas (18 out of 30) and Ulta (14 out of 30). Ulta topped mobile performance with 15 points out of 24 (Adidas and Men’s Wearhouse both earned 11 points). When it came to shopper performance, Adidas lead the pack with 19 out of 23 points. Men’s Wearhouse and Ulta both had 17 points, respectively.

Results were not all good news, however. In fact, several retailers fell eight or more spots in the overall performance ranking, including Eddie Bauer (from fourth place in 2017 to 12th this year), Pier One (from 11th to 20th), and DSW (from 19th to 30th).

In addition to these declines, the average score for all ranked retailers’ website performance was a mere 45%. This was down from 63% — or a D+ — last year, according to the study.

This year’s score continued to slide due to retailers adding third party functionality to their sites. Worse, companies fail to test the effect those features on the performance across users’ devices. Oftentimes, these features are slowing down the online shopping experience rather than making it more efficient.

This is especially true for mobile experiences. While many retailers received high marks for “beautiful, intuitive, and shoppable” mobile experiences, almost all retailers were penalized for very slow mobile performance. With an average grade of 37, most retailers’ mobile performance is nothing short of embarrassingly slow, the study reported.

One factor taking on toll on speed is third party technologies. Retailers have a growing desire to build more functionality into their shopping experience, however most of these features are coming from third parties, which are causing slow page loads. The average number of third party requests for the retailers in the report was 139, representing a 50% growth over last year. In terms of actual third-party technologies implemented, most of the sites tested had between 30 and 40 third party solutions. Chico’s lead the pack with 47 third parties on its site, data revealed.

“Today, the stakes in online retail have increased as consumers’ appetites for shopping on e-commerce websites only continue to grow,” said Steve Rowen, managing partner, Retail Systems Research. “Yet based on the findings in our report last year, the signs were already in place that retailers were barely keeping up in terms of website performance – let alone staged to handle such a massive e-commerce increase. The findings in this year’s report further validate that retailers need to find ways to improve site performance.”

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Gen Y: Retailers need to modernize e-commerce fulfillment

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Millennials want retailers to raise the bar on e-commerce delivery efforts, especially when it comes to cost, location and communications.

Over a third of global online shoppers (39.7%) reported challenges when receiving their online orders, with cost and speed being the biggest factors impacting satisfaction, according to “The Everyday Essentials of Successful E-Commerce Fulfillment,” a report from Radial.

According to the study, there is a 12% disparity in satisfaction between millennials (18-24 year olds) and individuals older than 55. For U.S. millennials, for example, 33.5% were frustrated that it took too long to receive their online orders, and 20.6% complained that high costs for priority delivery were not worth the convenience.

Nearly half of all respondents said they choose to pick up some goods ordered online in the store. The numbers were especially high in the U.K. (54%), followed by Canada (40.7%) and the U.S. (37.7%). Among those who did opt for in-store pick-up, the biggest driver for in-store pickup was to avoid expensive shipping costs (36.7%), followed by convenience/delivery time (29.8%).

Respondents across all ages and regions (74.9% for the U.S., 58.1% in U.K., and 62.3% in Canada) prefer that their packages are delivered to their doorstep rather than options like providing access to their home, using a locker with a private access code, or having a nearby proxy signer. While convenience is a priority, only a small percentage of Americans (8.7%) would consider automated delivery if it was based on IoT tracking devices. However, millennials are most willing to consider using emerging technology (35.2%) to order their packages based on need.

Overall, retailers need to find ways to remove friction from the experience and meet customer expectations, which is order status communications are becoming more important. Most respondents even want proactive updates on the status of their order throughout the entire shipping process (44.1% for the U.S., 45.6% in the U.K., and 41.6% in Canada).

“Fulfillment is one of the biggest elements impacting customer experience today but unfortunately many businesses still approach it as an afterthought,” said Sean McCartney, executive VP of operations services, Radial.

“To execute a successful door-to-door strategy, companies must shift their mindset to be channel agnostic, offer seamless execution and real-time communication across any commerce medium,” McCartney added. “It is essential to create a solid foundation through an integrated e-commerce framework that taps resources like artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize delivery processes and deliver savings straight to the consumer.”

 

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Amazon rolls out last-stop solution for package deliveries

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon wants to help apartment dwellers across the United States secure their package deliveries—even if the package isn’t from Amazon.

The company is rolling out Hub by Amazon, a delivery locker designed to be placed in the common area of apartment buildings and other housing complexes. The customizable unit can feature between 42 and 55 lockers. There are indoor and outdoor models, which stand 6 ft. high and 7 ft. high, respectively.

The new locker system was introduced last summer and is already being used by 500,000 residents across the nation, with “thousands more” gaining access each month as more buildings install the system, according to the online giant.

Unlike traditional Amazon Lockers, which only accept the e-retailer’s packages, Hub lockers store shipments from any sender 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While Amazon has been expanding its delivery options, this is the first time the company has added deliveries from other companies into the mix.

To retrieve a package with Amazon Hub, customers enter a pickup code into the system. Upon authorizing the code, a corresponding door will open, revealing the stored items.

The lockers eliminate the need for apartment residents to wait for property staff to deliver a package, or pick up shipments. The lockers also declutter lobbies, and allow onsite staff to focus on other priorities, Amazon said.

“Building on Amazon’s expertise in locker solutions, the Hub addresses frustrations from property owners, carriers and residents concerning package delivery,” said Patrick Supanc, director, Amazon worldwide lockers and pickup.

Many of the nation’s largest residential property owners and managers have signed up to use the Hub by Amazon, including AvalonBay, Fairfield Residential, Pinnacle, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, WinnResidential, and Equity Residential, among others.

Amazon has been upping the ante on package deliveries. In October, the online retailer introduced Amazon Key, a lock-and-camera service that enables Prime members to receive packages directly inside of their homes — even if they aren’t there. The service coincides with Prime’s same-day, one-way and two-day shopping options, and it is free for Prime members.

In April, the online retailer expanded on this program and launched Amazon Key-in-Car. The service enables Prime members with compatible vehicles to have packages delivered to the trunks and back seats of their cars when parked at home or a publicly accessed area.

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