Study: Online Retailers Need More than Technology

A recent study by Canada-based researchers Bristol Group found that encouraging
customers to go online can lead to a decline in customer loyalty, referrals
to friends and, over the long term, a decline in profits.

The study concluded that retailers must develop online strategies that focus
on more than just price, access to inventory, speed of shipping, and
other seemingly important distribution issues.

“Taking relationships online requires more than technical capability,” said
Dr Jim Barnes, Executive Vice President of Bristol Group and author of
E-Business at the Speed of “Like”: A Report From The Future.

He said that it’s still about how retailers make customers feel. The basic
online strategy must reflect a commitment to genuine relationships, not just
technology-driven transactional encounters.

The study examined Internet business relationships in the United States,
Canada, Ireland, and the U.K. The North American component of the
study, which surveyed almost 1600 adult residents of Canada and the United
States, concluded that over 60 percent of offline customers say that they are very
likely to continue to buy from the retailer, compared to only 43 percent of online

Rather than focusing on the technology that makes e-commerce possible,
retailers need to focus on the customer relationships that are at the heart
of their business.

Barnes said that, in the short term, many retailers are generating a lot of
additional revenue because of their online customers; but if their customers
don’t feel any loyalty, they are just as likely to shop elsewhere the next

The report is available on the Bristol Group Web site and at

Bristol Group is a marketing communications and information consultancy with
a speciality in customer relationships.

In addition to its broad practice in
customer relationships, Bristol specializes in Internet and brand
relationships, as well as in the area of the impact of sponsorships on
customer relationships.

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