Holiday Purchases Show 27 Percent Failure Rate

According to a new study by Andersen Consulting, a staggering 27 percent of attempted online sales failed because Web sites couldn’t handle the crush of holiday orders.

The study also had another surprise finding: Pure e-tailers like Amazon.com delivered their orders when promised 80 percent of the time, while their brick-and-mortar competitors only delivered when promised about 20 percent of the time.

Anderson conducted the study by ordering 480 gifts online from 100 of the biggest and best-known e-tailers between December 3rd and December 10th. Only 350 of the orders were successfully completed. Anderson said that crashing or the site being inaccessible thwarted more than one quarter of the orders from being filled.

More Investment on Back End

The study found that the pure-play Internet sites have invested more heavily in their back end systems than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, which has resulted in several significant differences in servicing customers.

The average order time on pure-play Internet sites was just 11 minutes, for example, compared with 14 minutes at the Web sites of traditional retailers.

Additionally, 44 percent of the pure-play e-commerce sites could immediately tell customers whether items were in stock compared with only 40 percent of traditional stores and 37 percent of catalogs with Web sites.

In addition, some items took longer to deliver than others. For example, the average time for an electronics gift to reach its destination was 3.9 days, while musical CDs took an average of 7.4 days.

Brick-And-Mortar Companies Deliver Slower

In what might be the report’s most significant finding, traditional retailers are only delivering their orders when promised about 20 percent of the time compared with pure-play e-tailers that are on time about 80 percent of the time.

Andersen attributed this startling difference to the design of the back end delivery systems. While pure-play online e-tailers have designed systems specifically for shipping directly to shoppers, many traditional retailers are still handling their online orders in warehouses that were designed to handle bulk shipments to stores.

Even though some analysts predict that traditional retailers eventually will win the e-battle for shoppers because of their branded merchandise and the advantage of having stores, based on the results of the study, it is not likely to happen any time soon because of this difference in infrastructure.

Customer Service Shows Slight Decline

Meanwhile, as the holiday shopping season reaches its final days, customer service in general seems to be declining slightly.

Overall customer satisfaction with online shopping fell to 8.4 on scale of 1 to 10, during the week ending December 12th from 8.6 the previous week, according to a survey by FleetBoston Robertson Stephens and Bizrate.com.

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