Olympians of Online Retail Announced
So this week the news has been full of stories about the Olympics ticket debacle! Despite the whole purchasing process being a customer service nightmare, officially about 1.8m of us have given into Olympic fever and placed 20m orders for approximately 6.6m tickets.
On Tuesday people discovered whether or not they had been successful in purchasing tickets in what seems to be more of a lottery than a sales process. This did not happen in the traditional manner of the lucky hopefuls receiving their tickets or even anything as simple as a confirmation letter or email. Oh no those lucky few have had funds withdrawn from their bank accounts with no indication of how many tickets they have secured, or which event they were for.
Despite this scenario being one of the worst examples of online customer service probably in the history of e-commerce, you probably won’t be too surprised to discover that the IMRG-Hitwise Hot 100 Shops List, May 2011 showed that LOCOG’s London 2012 ticket site was the most popular new e-commerce site so far this year. It is perhaps fortunate for LOCOG that this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us Brits and we didn’t have a lot of choice. It just goes to show that if you have the right product people will put up with an awful lot to get it.
However, defying every rule in the ‘Ladybird book of E-Commerce’ the tickets site rocketed into 35th position on the Hot 100 – not bad for a newcomer. The Olympics is still over a year away, but sports fans were seemingly desperate to get their hands on these tickets with an eight fold increase in traffic to the website in the last week of April as the registration deadline approached.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the IMRG-Experian Hitwise Hot Shops List of the top 100 UK e-retailers, it is the key indicator of online merchant performance in the UK. Published annually the Hot 100 List tracks popularity of websites according to the number of visits sites within the IMRG Capgemini Index receive. This List below is based on April 2011 data and shows the top 50 listings.
On the Winner’s Podium…
Although the Olympics took the newcomers Gold there were some other significant winners. The quickest off the blocks year-on-year were National Express (up 23 places), Republic (+22), Bhs (+22), House of Fraser (+20), Boots (+18) and Sainsbury’s (+17). These retailers are the new champions of department stores, fashion, food and health and beauty and these sectors are representative of the last 12 months fastest growing online industries.
There were however, 3 clear top performers.
In first place, Department stores are this year’s true online retail race leaders. These multi-channel retailers now account for 18% of all UK Internet visits. That’s pretty impressive! This has largely been attributed to the growth of House of Fraser, but steady bets John Lewis and Debenhams are up there in the top 20. The triumph of the department store also indicates that a multi-channel approach is really punching its weight in the online arena – converting customers in store to online and vice versa.
In second place are those retailers of Olympic proportions – the good old supermarkets – who had an excellent year. The popularity of online grocery shopping pushed the industry up to amongst the best performing sectors overall, with three of the Big Four in the top 25 and Morrisons looking set to join them if they enter the transactional online market. Tesco secured third place overall, overtaking Play.com and Sainsbury’s moved up 17 places to number 22.
Taking the bronze are DIY stores. B&Q and Homebase saw strong season gains this quarter thanks to the fantastic weather we had in April. The sun had people getting out in their gardens and prompted a rise in sales of BBQs, lawnmowers and garden furniture as they took advantage of the fabulous and unexpected conditions.
Training for 2012
All in all its been a pretty amazing year and looking at the variety of websites in the HOT 100 list you can see how competitive online retail has become. There has been some significant movement within the Top 10 itself – Tesco shooting up to third place and B&Q breaking into the top 10 for the first time ever. Getting yourself up there in the Top 100 is no mean feat. Robin Goad, Director of Research at Experian summarised it concisely: ‘Some companies are choosing to increase their online presence in order to increase the reach of their brand, whilst others are using online as a customer service tool, but ultimately more visits to a website means more sales and it is this reason that is driving the thriving competition between our HOT 100 retailers.’
Whatever, your approach to online one thing’s for sure you need to be ready on the line for when the gun goes off to get Gold in the online race. The competition is only going to get tougher and it will take an Olympian performance to get onto the podium.