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Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 02:47 GMT
Online service disappoints




Shoppers who switch to the web this Christmas may be surprised by the poor level of service, a survey suggests.

Four of the companies surveyed didn't even respond to a simple e-mail query sent three times, the survey, commissioned by Dial Internet, found.

These were book retailer, Waterstones, Toys R Us, Toycity.com and on-line music retailer CDzone.



As an internet business, one of the biggest crimes is to fail to respond to a simple e-mail
Mike Hawkey
Other websites, such on-line bookseller Bol.com and music store HMV, just sent automatic replies.

"The companies who failed a simple e-mail test really need to rethink their customer service as this will only put consumers off. As an internet business, one of the biggest crimes is to fail to respond to a simple e-mail," Mike Hawkey, marketing director of Dial Internet, who commissioned the research, said.

High Street service

The companies were awarded points for payment security, ease of use, competitive pricing, the variety of products offered and delivery speed.

Top of the survey's league table were eToys and Debenhams. Online video store Blackstar was in third place while Waterstones was bottom of the 20-strong list.


Top five websites
eToys.co.uk
Debenhams.com
Blackstar.co.uk
Whsmith.co.uk
Yalplay.com

"A striking feature of the survey was the revelation that companies such as Debenhams and WH Smith - both traditional retailers with huge High Street pedigrees - are giving the pure internet-only companes a run for the money in the e-commerce stakes," Mr Hawkey said.

Online shopping set to boom

Consumer spending on the web is widely expected to boom, but pundits are mixed as to when this will happen.

Consumer spending on the internet will grow 10-fold in the next five years, according to a recent report from retail consultants Verdict Research.

By 2004, Verdict expects consumers to be spending 7.3bn on e-commerce, compared with an estimated 581m this year.

This explains the moves by many of the High Street retailers to the web, as they fear their profits will be eroded.

According to Verdict, 61 of the top 100 retailers now have their own websites, compared with 47 at the same time last year. However, only 29 are transactional, allowing customers to make purchases online.

Despite Verdict's optimistic forecast, another survey from CIA Sensor suggests that e-commerce will not take off in the UK this Christmas.

The figures suggest that only 2% of consumers will use the internet to shop for presents.

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See also:
24 Aug 99 |  The Economy
UK logs on to e-commerce
17 May 99 |  The Company File
Home shopping war hots up
11 Jan 99 |  The Economy
Positive verdict for Internet shopping
09 May 99 |  Your Money
Fighting online fraud

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