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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shelley Taylor, US: 1-650/473-6514 or shelley@infofarm.com

NEW STUDY IDENTIFIES EPIDEMIC CONSUMER DISEASE:
POST-TRANSACTION ANXIETY DISORDER

PALO ALTO, CA (MAY 2, 2000) Landmark research on the current practices in retail e-commerce order fulfillment will be released tomorrow by Shelley Taylor & Associates at a Breakfast Briefing in Silicon Valley. "Return to Sender," an international study of the success factors in online order fulfillment and post-transaction communication, concludes that symptoms of a new consumer malady can be traced to what Shelley Taylor & Associates have named Post-Transaction Anxiety Disorder. The study has not only catalogued the symptoms shipping charges sticker shock and anxiety about whether items ordered online would actually arrive but has ascertained its cure.

"Return to Sender" analyzes 100 consumer e-commerce sites (70 US and 30 UK) representing a cross-industry sample. Sites were benchmarked against 200 proprietary evaluation criteria used to analyze the content and activities that support online shopping through the check-out process, post-transaction communication, receipt and return of goods. These proprietary metrics are destined to become the defining standard of successful electronic commerce and repeat business the key to elusive online profits. Sites that ranked highest in order fulfillment in the US include Amazon, Sports Authority, Pets.com, Outpost and Drugstore. In the UK Blackstar, HMV and Jungle.com were among the highest. Overall, UK sites fell way behind their US peers.

 "Online vendors need to grow up," said Shelley Taylor, who will launch this research on the 3rd of May at a Silicon Valley Breakfast Briefing. "They must stop thinking of their virtual stores as playgrounds in which all the other kids are begging to play. The game and the rules belong to the customer, not the retailer." She added: "I was astonished to find that some of the hottest online retailers have yet to adopt the rudimentary customer services practices of their brick-and-mortar counterparts. The success of online stores will depend upon bridging the gap between the purchase and delivery of goods and effectively managing customer expectations through post-transaction communication." 

THE CURE IS IN THE DISEASE
The cure to PTAD can only be effected by the very companies that created the dis-ease. Managing customer expectations early in the check-out process will do much to reduce customer frustration later. As an example of how online stores go wrong:

  • only 36% of sites indicate whether products are actually available before the customer has submitted his or her credit card
  • 38% of sites fail to provide shipping options (e.g., next day, 2nd day, standard, etc.)
  • only 16% of sites provide access to return policies on the check-out path


COMMUNICATION 101 TELL THEM WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO TELL THEM, TELL THEM AND THEN TELL THEM WHAT YOU TOLD THEM

There are several points in the post-transaction process where companies have an opportunity to communicate with the customer. These include the sending of online receipts , email  confirmations, shipping confirmations and packing slips. Yet:

  • less than half of online receipts inform the customer of the total charges that will be debited against the credit card
  • only 57% of sites provide live online order tracking; only 7% of companies provide a link to order status on their Home pages
  • only 48% of items ordered by Shelley Taylor & Associates during the study arrived when expected

SHIPPING CHARGES STICKER SHOCK AND BUYER'S REMORSE

  • 30% of online stores provide free shipping; however, of those that don't, the average shipping charge amounted to 37% of the total cost of the order in the US and 20% in the UK (with a 2-3 day shipping option on products that averaged $25 in the US and 20 in the UK).
  • only 64% of stores include return instructions in the box with the items (75%in US but only 37% in the UK)

These and other findings of this were presented at a Breakfast Briefing in Palo Alto on the 3rd of May. The full study includes a company-by-company analysis and specific examples of best and worst. "Return to Sender" is available for purchase from the US office (tel:1-650-473-6514), London office (44-171-243-3438), or web site (www.infofarm.com). Press inquiries should be directed to: shelley@infofarm.com.

Editor's Note: An Executive Summary is available to the press upon request, along with differences between US and UK sites.

Shelley Taylor & Associates is an international management consulting and business publishing firm.

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