Best of Europe? Robert Nickerson on European eCommerce Systems

An Assessment of European eCommerce Systems
Robert Nickerson, Professor, San Francisco State University
March 24, 2004
Summary: Report of study of a number of European eCommerce sites, compared to best in class. Good discussion of what is important on web sites. Some comments on three Norwegian sites.

There are lots of differences between the US and Europe, but he wants to focus on eCommerce sites and systems – what are the differences in features and functions?
US Example: Lands’ End. This retail mail order company (Incidentally, the company name is a misspelling (apostrophe wrong), but they didn’t have money to fix it, so the name stuck.) sells basic clothing for men, women and children, conservatively design, with a reputation for good quality at good prices. Acquired by Sears in 2002, some of their products are sold in Sears stores now.
Their web site, started in 1998, in Japan, UK, Germany, France, Ireland and others. $1.5b in online sales (20% of company’s total sales) in 2002. has gotten a number of prizes for good web functionality in the US. Some of their important features:

  • The have a recommendation issue, you view a number of alternative models and tell them what you like, then they will recommend to you based on that (similar functionality to Amazon’s recommendation engine).

  • A “Try it on”, Virtual Model. Customer enters details and then can see how clothing will look on them. If you really want to get serious, they have a truck that they send around, where you can go in and get scanned, with a system that takes a lot of measures (2,000 measures, using a laser).

  • Inventory comes up right away, you don’t have to order and then find out that they are out of stock. For instance, if you look at a garment, and the size it not listed, that is because they don’t have it in stock.

  • Choose shipping options by drop-down menu.

  • Safety and privacy statement easy to find, stress that you assume no risk.

  • Graphical display of estimated delivery time – with or without customization such as hemming or monogramming, different shipping options.

  • Call-back service, online chat.

Nickerson did a study of European eCommerce systems: 52 different systems in 4 industries and 4 countries.

  • Few have multiple language sites, 40% only one language. Relatively few have English as an alternative.

  • Inventory confirmation: From 48% in 2001 to 93% in 2003.

  • Payment: Should be easy and secure, use something like SSL. Results: 64% provide on-line payment with credit or debit card. COD, check. Invoice was very common. Only 73% provide a secure payment system. (Only 43% in Switzerland). Very surprising – and a few sites in Switzerland said they were secure, but weren’t.

  • Order fulfillment: 39% provide world-wide, 17% Europe only, 44% only in home country.