Snow hits Christmas business

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There’s no escaping it, snow is everywhere. Whether faced with drifts of fresh white snow or the last slushy remains, no retailer, bricks or clicks, has been spared the impact of the arctic weather sweeping across the UK for the past few weeks.

The initial cold blast kept shoppers from the high street and saw them turn to online retailers for Christmas gift buying and grocery shopping. The upsurge in traffic were in part responsible for two consecutive weeks of so called “Manic Monday” as shoppers spent more online than ever before.

As the cold snap continued, it wasn’t just the high streets that were affected.

Deliveries struggled to get to stores, and fears that online orders wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas prompted retailers including John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Amazon, to stop taking Christmas orders.

These retailers made the decision that it would be better to stop taking orders, potentially losing out on revenue, if they couldn’t fulfil their customer service obligations, rather than disappointing customers and facing an angry backlash as failed deliveries ruined Christmas.

It’s no surprise then that Amazon, John Lewis and M&S appear in the top five e-tailers in ForeSee’s Christmas 2010 Online Retail Customer Satisfaction Index.

Amazon occupies the top two slots, with its .co.uk and .com sites, while M&S’s transactional site entered the Top Five for the first time. M&S also recorded the biggest improvement.

Hardly surprising when you look at the efforts M&S has made in the digital space. It relaunched its website in late 2009, launched a mobile enabled site this Spring and has developed its branded M&S TV channel to build rich content into its transactional site.

The annual survey rates online retailers based on functionality, price, merchandise and content and reveals that the gap is widening between retailers that really get it, and those that are lagging behind.

Hopefully, in 2011, those that aren’t already will pull their digital socks up and start providing the e-commerce services that shoppers deserve.

And on that note, I’ll wish you all a very merry Christmas. Retail Marketing Focus will be back in the New Year on 12 January.

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