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Season of goodwill fails to extend to online shopping

Web sites full of bells and whistles, but far from user friendly

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Filling your Christmas stocking online is slower than by Santa’s sleigh, according to a seasonal study of five leading UK retail Web sites. The report by London-based TesCom found the five high-street name sites were too slow and frustrating to use by anyone other than anoraks. Researchers tried to buy socks from Marks & Spencer, wine from Tesco, videos from Argos, Barbie dolls from Toys R Us and Christmas decorations from Great Universal Stores. Sally Drew, TesCom divisional director for e-business, said the sites were well presented and navigable but showed poor quality of service. She felt shoppers not accustomed to Web surfing would be intolerant towards the technical errors and speed of service. For example, buying the socks at M&S was impossible. Locating them proved difficult enough then customers were presented with a JavaScript error. Drew said: "Those new to the Internet would be tearing their hair out at some of the sites. They have generally good presentation and products, but technical problems occur further down the line when customers have already invested time choosing items." According to TesCom, typical customer behaviour meant they would give up and rarely try the site a second time. "Clearly, even for large and successful brands such as those we reviewed, there is still a level of immaturity in the quality of the service being offered," TesCom said.®

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