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Shopping Bags

Britain’s best and worst online retailers revealed by Which?

Shopping Bags

Britain’s best and worst online retailers revealed by Which?

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up in the next fortnight, not to mention the seemingly ever-lengthening Christmas shopping season being well underway, a timely piece of research has ranked many of the UK’s e-retail sites from the e-xcellent to the e-mbarrassing.

Which? has conducted a survey that reviewed 117 retail websites, collating feedback from 10,000 members of the consumer-focused organisation. It then gave each one a percentage score based on factors like value for money and the ease of the site’s refunds service, but it also considered factors like website navigation and up-to-date stock listing.

Top of the pile was cosmetics company Liz Earle, which scored 94%. The website itself has a clean and easy-to-navigate design, but it seems that the ranking was mainly achieved thanks to the company’s levels of service and quality of products.

Which? says it’s not surprised that the top five retail websites in the rankings are all specialist stores, with audiovisual technology company Richer Sounds, camera dealer Wex Photo Video, outdoor clothing firm Rohan and women’s apparel shop Seasalt Cornwall all tying for second place with a ranking of 93%. John Lewis was the highest-placed department store, coming sixth with 90%.

At the other end of the table, DIY giant Homebase took the wooden spoon with a rating of 55%, and this is largely down to the website itself. Survey respondents criticised its poor navigation and failure to update stock listings, although value for money was another common complaint.

Rival chain B&Q did not fare much better than Homebase with its DIY.com offering, which finished fourth from bottom with 62%. Other cyber-stinkers included discount retailer Sports Direct, a company with something of a history of negative publicity, which tied with clothing shop Dorothy Perkins on 61%.

In describing what makes a retail website strike a chord with users, Which? concludes:

“Websites that are quick and easy to use, with friendly customer service and a smooth returns process are likely to encourage customers back time and again. Whether it’s at small, independent stores or online behemoths such as Amazon and eBay, a slick, personalised experience is key to getting it right online.”

It seems particularly silly that companies like Homebase and B&Q, whose usual out-of-town locations and often bulky products should be making online shopping and delivery an enticing prospect, are failing to offer customers a satisfying e-retail experience. With research suggesting we will spend an average of £300 online this Christmas, the companies lagging behind may want to look at what the high achievers are getting right if they hope to capitalise on this ever-growing opportunity.

John Murray

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