Online retail: Performance is everything

There is no such thing as “brand loyalty” in the online retail space. If applications and websites offer subpar performance or a poor customer experience, consumers will “drop the shopping basket” and opt for a different store or brand.

CREATING VALUE: Karl Campbell, regional vice-president of Riverbed, UK and South Africa says that online retailers often underestimate the value of creating good customer experience. Photo: Provided

CREATING VALUE: Karl Campbell, regional vice-president of Riverbed, UK and South Africa says that online retailers often underestimate the value of creating good customer experience. Photo: Provided

It is necessary for an enterprise to ensure its applications run optimally, and to simplify operations as these factors contribute to a customer’s experience. Application performance company, Riverbed Technology offers these solutions. The company was founded in the US in 2002. It now has a 50% international market share in the optimisation space. It offers solutions to large retailers, financial services and government to improve services delivered by these entities, says Karl Campbell, regional vice-president of Riverbed, UK and South Africa.

Riverbed evaluates the retailer’s existing applications, or e-commerce and banking sites, to determine if they make a difference to the service delivered to the consumer. Problems that may arise during the transaction are detected by Riverbed. These could be related to slow speed and limited data availability that may contribute to a poor customer experience, explains Campbell.

Most retailers underestimate the importance of customer experience.

Most retailers underestimate the importance of customer experience. Consumers often choose online shopping for the convenience, they switch between retailers easily. One of Riverbed’s clients in Europe, loses up to €30m daily if applications run slow, says Campbell. When websites fall over because of increased traffic or demand, which often happens with online ticket sales, people become “frustrated”, he says. Physically, retailers can control the traffic through a door, but they need to make sure their e-commerce site can scale up to perform irrespective of the volume of business.

Retailers should also ensure they have a good returns policy to drive growth. If consumers can return goods they are unhappy with within seven days, it drives a “tremendous” amount of traffic to the website, says Campbell. More consumers are choosing online shopping because of the convenience of delivery. “But [retailers] need to have the whole supply chain to deliver [goods] quickly and be prepared to take it back if the client is not happy, for online to work.”

Regarding the adoption of e-commerce in Africa, Campbell says there is a fair amount of online retail in South Africa, but less than it is in Europe. In Africa there is often no infrastructure to get the goods to the individual, postal services are not reliable and they often can’t return goods. People browse goods online but still choose to process the transaction at a point of sale. The resistance is not with the consumer, but rather the lack of infrastructure. Where infrastructure is in place, people consume online because it is much easier, he says.

This article was featured in Finweek magazine.

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