UK etailers = no scratch, lots of itch

Elonex slammed for poor back end

Elonex, the systems builder, operates one of the UK's poorest online shops, a report claims Elonex.co.uk had some of the highest delivery charges on the Web, according to research to be released today by Shelley Taylor & Associates. It charged £15 to post a blank, recordable CD that cost £1.50, whilst failing to respond to cancelled orders and not delivering others. The report, which surveyed 70 US and 30 UK e-commerce sites to see how they treated customers after they had shopped on their sites, dubbed enjoyment.co.uk, jjbsports and Elonex the three poorest online retailers in the UK. It also criticised high street giants Boots and Argos – in one instance, Boots failed to place an order despite sending through an online confirmation, while Argos tried to charge a pick-up fee of £3.90 on returned goods. It found the best performing online retailers in the UK were Belfast-based online video shop Blackstar, HMV and jungle.com. However, overall UK sites fell way behind their US peers – they were less likely to offer shipping service options, email shipment confirmations or provide return policies online. From the US sites examined, Amazon, Sports Authority, pets.com, Outpost and Drugstore fared best, while Sears, wine.com, Martha Steward, gear.com and Hallmark got the worst ratings. "I think it is because it's a newer medium in the UK," said Shelley Taylor, founder of Shelley Taylor & Associates. "Also, there's no back end, and no order fulfilment going on in a lot of these sites." According to Taylor, the retailing experts have handed much of the responsibility for the online service to graphic designers, and the customers are suffering. "Online vendors need to grow up," she added. "They must stop thinking of their virtual stores as playgrounds in which all the other kids are begging to play. The game and the rules belong to the customer, not the retailer," she said. "I was astonished to find that some of the hottest online retailers have yet to adopt the rudimentary customer services practices of their brick-and-mortar counterparts. The success of online stores will depend upon bridging the gap between the purchase and delivery of goods and effectively managing customer expectations through post-transaction communication." ® Some statistics from the report Only 36 per cent of sites showed if products are actually available before the customer had submitted their credit card 38 per cent of sites failed to provide shipping options (81 per cent for US sites, 17 per cent in the UK) Just 57 per cent of sites provided live online order tracking (71 per cent US, 23 per cent UK) Less than half the items ordered by Shelley Taylor & Associates arrived when expected Only 64 per cent included return instructions in the box with the items (75 per cent US, 37 per cent UK) Nearly twice as many UK e-tailers offered free return shipping or free pick-up (27 per cent UK, 13 per cent in the US) Related stories Elonex eyes potential windfall Web regulation called for at Net's birthday party Finance watchdog calls for e-regulator status

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