European Dot-Coms Lag in Order Fulfillment

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European businesses are experiencing some of the same online fulfillment difficulties that their American counterparts suffered last year, a research study by Andersen Consulting found.

The study, which was released Friday, found that European companies are failing to provide consumers with adequate tracking information on their online purchases.

"Virtually every number in this study matched, almost to a penny, the results we got during the holiday season last year in the U.S.," said Robert Mann, associate partner at Andersen Consulting, Chicago. "It was uncanny."

According to the study, which monitored 162 dot-com companies on their ability to capture and fulfill orders, less than 25 percent of the businesses offered information about consumers' orders and product availability.

Additionally, most of the European e-retailers in the study did not offer an expected delivery date. Only 28 percent did so, and less than half of those companies delivered purchases early or on time.

In some cases, European retailers are not delivering items at all, according to the study. The companies that did not offer a delivery date failed to deliver 59 percent of the time.

Mann attributed the problems in the United States last year to what he called "demand creation," with not enough focus on the capabilities to fulfill orders. He suspects that European companies are doing the same thing.

The study was conducted at a lower-volume period than last year's holiday season, Mann said, leading him to believe that European businesses may experience more difficulties this holiday season.

"You would expect the performance would be better," Mann said. "That tends to suggest that they're actually a little worse off than we were last year."

The study found, among other things, that Germany was the country most likely to offer delivery dates, but 28 percent of their orders were late or failed to arrive. The United Kingdom had the highest percentage of orders that arrived early or on time, while Sweden was the most efficient in delivery services, with 71 percent of their orders arriving in seven days or less.

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