Unreliable delivery dampens public interest

Many global e-commerce sites do not allow potential customers to complete their orders, despite reports of a bumper Christmas for online retailers on both sides of the Atlantic.

A report by Andersen Consulting suggests the poor reliability of e-commerce sites and slow – and uncertain – delivery is hampering consumer take-up of online shopping.

Andersen staff, who tried to purchase 480 gifts at 100 different sites in the US, were only able to complete 350 orders. More than a quarter of the sites explored could not take orders as they crashed, were blocked, under construction, or were inaccessible.

The report concludes that pure-play “e-tailers” – Web retailers without a bricks and mortar presence – are generally providing better customer service than traditional retailers which have gone online, beating them on ordering speed, delivery and the tracking down of goods which are out of stock.

Robert Mann, a consultant at Andersen’s supply chain operation, says: “The fundamental question is whether it is cheaper, faster and more convenient to shop online. The answer is, it may not be better to go to the Web yet. Success depends on fulfilment – operations that can meet high levels of customer service.

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