Retailers move High Street battle online

Shoppers with trollies on computer keyboard

The retail battle previously seen in the high street has moved online, according to research.

The latest e-retail index results for the first quarter of 2009 from web intelligence firm eDigitalResearch found famous high street names competing strongly against each other and their purely e-commerce rivals.

Marks & Spencer (M&S) topped the quarterly index for the first time, leaping from 10th spot at the end of 2008. Fashion retailers Next (ranked seventh), House of Fraser (in eighth place) and BHS (in 12th) all also showed improvements, while grocers also continued to climb the table with top performing websites, from purchase through to delivery of goods.

"These results clearly show that people are changing their opinions about the ability of traditional retailers to compete online with their pureplay rivals," Derek Eccleston, eDigitalResearch's head of research," said in a statement.

But the usual e-commerce suspects still made a strong showing among the top five of every category the researcher questioned some 10,000 eMysteryShoppers on.

Overall, e-commerce entertainment retailer, came in second behind M&S, while Amazon was third and clothing e-tailer, ASOS was fifth behind John Lewis.

Eccleston said this quarter's index results also showed retailers operating across multiple channels, with a strong high street presence, were learning from their pureplay rivals.

"Recognition of the entire journey that each customer goes through is the key to success," he said. "It is not just about the homepage through to shopping basket, but how purchase, delivery, email and telephone contact is handled, if there are any problems, that make the difference."

He added that M&S had made a significant investment in the entire customer journey, improving in all areas of its e-commerce website, which gave it particularly strong supporting communications.

Telephone and email contact has continued to rise in importance every quarter, according to Eccleston. "However, there is still lots of room for continued improvement," he observed, referring to the fact that 68 per cent of survey respondents said email contact was still an area where the industry as a whole does not perform well.

The index, which is entering its 10th year, rates the top 43 performing UK websites according to the feedback of paid surveyors, who use their own equipment and internet connections to undertake typical online shopping tasks.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.