Online Retailers May Be Alone This Holiday Season

The holidays are all about spending time with those you care about. But this season, many online retailers could be celebrating alone. A new study from commerce solution provider OrderDynamics suggests that some e-tailers are repelling customers instead of reaping the economic benefits that they provide this time of year.

According to the study, almost three quarters of online retailers miss out on sales opportunities by promoting irrelevant products to shoppers. Failing to follow up with customers and ignoring their order tracking preferences are also pain points. These blunders could be costly for online retailers in particular given that consumers are planning on doing 44% of their holiday shopping online this year.

The study—based on surveys of more than 60 retailers and 2,000 customers—compares customer acquisition and retention to a dating game and finds that myriad retailers should get dumped in many areas of the customer relationship. The study analyzes retailers’ effectiveness in securing “first dates,” or purchases, and building long-term relationships that lead to additional purchases.

“Retailers must walk a fine line between romancing customers and over-approaching them to ensure that shopping is a seamless experience,” says Kevin Sterneckert, CMO, OrderDynamics. “If retailers disappoint shoppers, they risk losing not only the initial sale but the customer relationship as well.”

Additional findings include:

  • Seventy-four percent of retailers promote irrelevant items to shoppers. Some of the study’s examples show an apparel retailer sending emails about women’s sweaters to a customer that saved men’s fleecewear in a shopping cart. Also, a pet supplies retailer sent cat and dog food promos to a person who browsed strictly in the aquatics department.
  • One third of retailers never follow up with shoppers, while others pepper shoppers with emails. Thirty-three percent of retailers never follow up with customers, even though they signed up for the mailing list. On the other end of the spectrum, one retailer sent 17 emails in a four-week period—the tell-tale sign of desperation.
  • Poor site search results lead to missed sales opportunities. Forty-six percent of shoppers like to peruse retailers’ websites to search for products, yet many sites give way to customer defection and missed sales. For instance, one retailer’s site returned 65 results for “silver cufflinks,” but only three items were actually cufflinks.
  • Just 15% of retailers offer order tracking through their website despite the lion’s share of consumers expressing a strong interest in receiving tracking information directly from the retailer.

“We call these disappointments and disconnects in data and operations the Ghost Economy,” Sterneckert says, “and it is worth more than $800 billion annually to global retailers to solve these issues and create frictionless experiences for their customers.”

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