A new in-depth survey focused on internet retailing has highlighted some of the key service demands of regular online shoppers – and customer communication is clearly viewed as a crucial part of the process.

Some 2,070 UK online shoppers and 1,000 German consumers were questioned for parcel delivery company Hermes' annual International Shopping Survey, and in both countries 89% of people said being able to track their delivery was an important part of transacting with a retailer.

The availability of real-time delivery information was deemed important by 83% and 76% of consumers, in the UK and Germany respectively, highlighting shoppers' desire to avoid surprises when it comes to receiving their packages. Text messages trumped email updates in terms of how customers receive their delivery updates, with the former rated 8% higher on the importance scale in the UK.

Hermes worked with marketing research agency Q-Quiz to compile the survey, which identified trends on multiple aspects of the online retail world. Among the findings were that the number of regular online shoppers in the UK has grown by 39% over the last two years to 18.7 million people, while the growth in Germany is sharper (82%) but from a lower base.

Over three-quarters of respondents said that delivery services are improving, citing new services, communication and changing timescales as reasons for this change. In addition, 55% of UK shoppers and 42% of German shoppers use a mobile device to make some form of retail purchase.

When asked what would improve the online experience, the most popular responses among UK consumers were: clear messaging around price additions, such as delivery costs (36%), better product photos (28%), more online loyalty schemes (28%) and quicker delivery times (26%).

(Image credit: Hermes Annual International Shopping Survey, compiled by Q-Quiz Research

As customer fulfilment continues to develop into a major battlefield for retailers, Hermes and its competitors are investing significant sums as well as bringing in extra resources to deal with peak periods of commerce. Yodel said this summer that it has appointed a peak programme director to oversee operations throughout the busy festive season, while Hermes UK CEO Carole Woodhead said on Thursday that her business has invested £15 million ahead of Christmas 2015 on doubling the capacity of its Warrington warehouse, additional sub depots and various other infrastructure projects such as data processing.

It was announced last month that Hermes is working with single price point retailer Poundland in the early stages of its eCommerce operation. Poundland CEO Jim McCarthy told delegates at an IGD conference on Tuesday that the online retailing trial has had an encouraging start, with plans in place to ramp up marketing around the website later in October.

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