When it comes to fulfilling online orders, Internet retailers in Europe currently offer roughly the same level of performance as US sites did in 1999, according to researchers at IT services company Accenture. In the run-up to the 2001 holiday season, the researchers placed a total of 922 orders at 166 web sites worldwide. Their findings? European companies continue to seriously lag US organisations in ecommerce. "Online purchasing continues to improve for consumers in the US, and remains far ahead of key European markets," they claim.
For example, only 32% of European online merchants display in-stock information, ranging from a low of 8% to a high of 38% in France. This compares to the 44% rate seen in the US in 1999.
However, customers are able to place orders more quickly on European sites than on their US counterparts. In Europe, it takes 11 minutes on average to place an order. French sites perform best, with an average of 7 minutes per order, and Spanish sites are the slowest, notching up an average of 14 minutes. "The longer time for Spanish sites is at least partially due to their greater emphasis on security – they often requested passport or bank information before an order would be accepted," say Accenture's researchers. By contrast, orders took an average of 13 minutes to place on US sites. According to the Accenture study, this is because European sites are less complex – and easier to navigate as a result.