Published on August 1st, 20120
Shoppers now prefer online retailers to physical stores – thanks to IT
Effective IT is allowing ‘faceless’ online retailers to replace the high street brands as the leading providers of customer service, says James West.
Research from Institute of Customer Service (ICS) shows that the personalised, face-to-face service underpinning brands such as John Lewis – thought impossible to replicate online – is being superseded by the convenience, smart recommendations and seamless interface offered by the leading online retailers.
While John Lewis still scores highly – holding fourth place in the ICS customer satisfaction table – ASOS, Amazon and First Direct are exceeding even these high standards, taking the top three positions respectively.
The findings should be massively encouraging for IT professionals hoping to prove the value of what they do. For many years it was assumed that despite their growing sophistication, online retailers would never replace customer preference for the browsing and face-to-face advice experience offered by high street retailers. However this report shows that while the human element in shopping is still important (John Lewis’ grocery brand Waitrose holds the eighth slot), customers are more interested in factors such as speed, price, range and convenience.
While the IT usability standards set by the likes of Amazon clearly exceed the capabilities of most organisations today, it should be noted that online providers have overtaken the high street incumbents in a remarkably short space of time. Physical retail has been in place for hundreds of years, while serious uptake of ecommerce only began in earnest ten years ago. If startups can refine an entire industry sector in this time span, even if it takes the rest of the IT industry longer, focus and collaboration will inevitably lead to some remarkable innovation in the coming years.