High Streets Initiative · 2 August 2017

Overlooking these six online “must-haves” costs high street independents £6.1bn a year

Leek, UK - December 31, 2015: A row of small, independent shops occupies the ground floor of historic red brick terraced houses along Fountain Street in Leek, a historic market town in the Staffordshire Moorlands, England.
Two-thirds of shoppers would never return if they had wasted a journey travelling to a closed independent store

With two-thirds of UK consumers looking up a shop online before visiting, inaccurate information could be costing high street independents up to £6.1bn a year in lost sales.

According to new research from URL provider UK Domain, over six in ten high street owners, from hairdressers to grocers, have either incorrect information listed online or missing opening hours altogether.

For the consumer, the impact of inconvenience was severe. Almost two-thirds of shoppers vowed never to return to an independent business if they wasted a journey travelling to a closed store, despite online information stating it was open.

Meanwhile, 71 per cent of polled customers said the loss of trust from misleading online information would turn them to an established high street chain.

Many businesses could be online without even realising, leaving space for incorrect crowdsourced data to be spread by third-party sources.

With most high street stores listed online, Helen Tomes, director of marketing and service delivery at Nominet, which runs the UK Domain, warned there was “no guarantee” basic information, such as address and opening hours, would be correct.

“Most independent businesses are online – whether they realise it or not – but unfortunately there’s no guarantee that basic information like the address and opening hours displayed about them is correct,” she said.

“Inaccuracies can directly impact sales, and so just as you’d never ignore a customer who visited your shop, in a world where time-poor shoppers research online, causing them a wasted trip is tantamount to poor customer service and could alienate them in the future.”

To help protect independent stores, Nominet has offered independent high street business owners six online “must-haves” that could be the difference in maintaining the trust of customers.

The six most important things consumers want to find online

  1. Opening hours (87 per cent)
  2. Product information (86 per cent)
  3. Opening days (85 per cent)
  4. Address (81 per cent)
  5. Contact information (78 per cent)
  6. Business background (36 per cent)

Tomes added: “We’d strongly encourage businesses to review the information that exists about them on the web and to correct any errors.

“Creating a simple website outlining what you sell, when you’re open and where you’re based is an easy step to save yourself and your customers time and to improve opportunities for your business.”

We want to hear your views on the challenges facing UK high street retailers, so please take two minutes to complete our High Streets Initiative survey and make a difference.

Read more from the Business Advice High Streets Initiative

  • Every offline retailer should know these five things about their business
  • Free Wi-Fi would encourage over 80 per cent of shoppers to visit local retailers
  • Cash free shopping in sight as retailers back increase to contactless payment limit

This article is part of a wider campaign called the High Streets Initiative, a new section of Business Advice championing independent and small retailers by identifying the issues that put Britain’s high streets under pressure. Visit our High Streets Initiative section to find out more.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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