Online customer satisfaction has deteriorated sharply in homewares in 2018, according to a GlobalData survey, going from above average to second bottom among the sectors. Click & collect and lowering the threshold for free delivery would help homewares specialists get back on track.

Online is becoming a more important channel in homewares and will take a greater share of the market every year to 2023, with younger customers increasingly expecting to be able to buy at a time and in a way that suits them. This channel also provides a key advantage for multichannel retailers against the discounters, which either have non-transactional websites or offer a relatively primitive online offer, enabling them to offer greater convenience and drive footfall into store.

Despite homewares growth online, GlobalData’s e-retail survey data found that only 82.2% of shoppers were satisfied with the overall experience, 6.8% lower than the non-food average and 9.1% down on a year ago, the sharpest decline of any sector. Shoppers are bringing expectations from more developed online sectors, specifically clothing and footwear which has a similar online customer base in terms of age and gender, to a relatively immature online market and are decidedly less impressed by what they are experiencing.

Delivery was homewares main weakness, down 7.9% on last October as more constrained shoppers baulked at paying extra for delivery when their budgets were already under pressure. Dunelm and Argos do offer free check and reserve in their stores, but many retailers only provide free delivery on orders over £40. Clothing specialists have also raised consumers’ expectations of the speed of order fulfilment which has also impacted satisfaction, with Next offering next-day instore collection on orders made before midnight, while the cut-off at Dunelm and John Lewis is 8pm. When broken down by age, delivery’s decline was especially sharp among 16 to 34 year old shoppers, falling by 9.5% on October 2017. This lower level of satisfaction will be concerning for homewares specialists as this age group bought homewares online more frequently, being more likely to buy into a new look and remain on trend.

While such schemes are difficult to operate profitably, introducing click & collect and lowering the threshold on free delivery would encourage more frequent purchases. Pushing back the cut-off for next day delivery would also improve satisfaction, though this would require investment within its supply chain. As more fashion retailers enter the homewares market, extending their high clothing online standards to the sector, the more homewares specialists need to invest in improving their offers.

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