More than half of all of online shoppers in the UK (57%) say they prefer to shop from a handful of favourite websites rather than shopping around for the best price, according to research from e-commerce and digital marketing solutions provider EPiServer. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

The study, which surveyed 1,000 consumers nationwide, also found that during 2012 more than one third have increased the amount of shopping they do online, and almost half (44%) had made purchases using a mobile device during the past six months, compared to 94% of consumers that had shopped in the high street during the same time.

It is therefore essential, the company warned, for retailers to offer the best possible customer experience on every device, and to capitalise on their hard-earned customer loyalty. The study found that clothes and shoes are the most frequent online purchases (46%), closely followed by CDs/DVDs/video games (45%), and books/stationery (37%).

According to David Bowen, product manager for EPiServer, "The digital high street continues to boom, but our research shows that the ease of online shopping has not killed brand loyalty, and that a positive customer experience is still more important to shoppers than price alone. But our report also showed that many online retailers are still letting customers down in many areas, and those will be missing out on market share as a result."

Consumers are also becoming increasingly vocal online, with one third (33%) of online shoppers saying they had contacted a retailer through social media at least once in the past six months with a problem, query or complaint. Similarly, 35% had published or commented on a recent online purchase via social media.

"The rise of social media brings both challenges and opportunities for retailers. Many businesses remain hesitant to engage with social media but, the fact is, consumers are using it regardless. A great customer experience is championed widely whilst poor service can spread like wildfire," warned Bowen.

With retail competition being as fierce as ever, it is therefore vital for online retailers to differentiate themselves and offer the best possible experience in order to keep customers spending. When the company studied the country's leading online retailers, the sector scored a slightly disappointing average score of 58%, compared to the 2011 benchmark of 63%. The top performing retailers in 2012 were:

  1. Amazon (72.5%);
  2. Marks & Spencer (70%);
  3. House of Fraser (66%);
  4. ASOS (65%);
  5. Argos (65%).

The full survey report, entitled 'Benchmarking the Digital High Street', has been made available for free download from EPiServer's web site - click here (free registration required).