Normal shopping rules don’t apply online. Where bricks and mortar stores close at 5pm, the beauty of the internet for consumers is that shops really are open all hours. UK consumers, in particular, have embraced this wholeheartedly.

The European online retail market is dominated by the UK, which saw sales of €60.43bn in 2016 accompanied by a growth rate of 12.6% according to The Centre for Retail Research. And consumers are increasingly choosing online shopping for everything from clothes, to computers, and crisps. Research from Mintel shows that sales in the online grocery market rose by an estimated 15% in 2016, with online grocery sales in the UK forecast to reach £11.1bn this year, up from an estimated £9.9bn in 2016.

The fact that the vast majority of consumers now have smartphones, coupled with the availability of WIFI almost everywhere, means online shopping is easy and efficient. eMarketer predicts that nearly 60% of people shopping online will make purchases via their smartphones in the UK this year, with UK retail m-commerce sales expected to be worth £16.42bn. 

With the market clearly booming, the question is, are online retailers ready to seize the opportunities this brings? It seems not. Research by Yonder Digital Group reveals that just over a quarter of consumers (26%) shop online after 8.30pm, yet while they can do so freely after hours, few retailers are also offering live agent interaction, either online or by phone. In fact, 72% of online retailers provide no live query handling online or over the telephone after this time in the evening, meaning potential customers are unable to ask questions that may be pertinent to whether or not they go on to make a purchase.

Reports suggest that consumers are unlikely to wait until the morning to get an answer with most carts abandoned between 8pm and 9pm, and basket abandonment costing up to £1bn in lost sales each year in Britain alone. It is an issue worldwide: Q2 this year saw 77.3% of online retail orders abandoned globally, so while online retailers may think they are making cost efficiencies through not offering 24/7 live agent support, they are in fact more likely losing out on revenue by failing to meet consumer needs after hours. Conversely, previous research by Yonder Digital Group has shown that having access to the full range of communications channels, both automated and human, to resolve queries, encourages customers to stay loyal and can even increase their spending (84%).

The good news is, combining automated webchat and live customer service at a point when customers are most likely to need it – such as peak shopping times – doesn’t have to be expensive, and has clearly tangible benefits for both parties. Analysis can reveal at exactly which stage of the purchase journey customers are most likely to need assistance through these tools by looking at the touch points used, potential issues, and where carts are typically abandoned. Understanding the role of each tool and its link to revenue generation is critical to ensuring that they are deployed where and when they are most required. Once this is known, it is possible to measure the contribution of each tool to generating revenues and therefore rationalise their use.

The statistics certainly make a compelling case for increasing the usage of these tools and many businesses need to step up in this area. After all, in a multichannel world, consumers expect a multichannel, 24/7 service from retailers, and failing to provide it to the one in four people who prefer to do their shopping in the evenings is surely too big a risk to take.


By Chris Robinson, CEO at Yonder Digital Group

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