Online Christmas a disaster as e-Santa goes missing

More than a month after Christmas, Australian retailers are yet to deliver up to one fifth of presents ordered online, according to a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report.

In a study in which BCG submitted anonymous Christmas gift orders to 44 Australian online retailers, only 60 per cent of orders were delivered before Christmas (taking an average of 4.5 days to deliver), while 20 per cent of orders were cancelled or have simply not been delivered.

According to the report, BCG placed gift orders in "early December", enquiring after all late deliveries by e-mail.

Greg Sutherland, BCG's director of e-commerce, said the poor level of order fulfilment was caused by retailers' lack of online preparedness. "Sometimes the range offered online bears no relationship to the availability of stock. Also, some of the players haven't really set up the whole backend process to handle online sales," he said.

Sutherland said many online retailers who had failed to fulfil orders were well known "traditional" retailers who had "just stuck up a Website", although he wouldn't name which retailers fell into this category.

He said the poor level of order fulfilment would be destructive to Australia's online retail industry. "But I don't think legal implications are the main issue. In this industry, the main concern is that you never see the customer again. That's the real cost.

"People's first transactional experiences on a site can either build loyalty or see them never visit the site again."

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