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Cyber Monday Be Damned: The Virtual High Street is Letting Shoppers Down

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With over half of all shoppers reported to be using smartphones as an aid to so-called Robo (Research offline, buy online) shopping, you would expect Britain's major retail chains to be walking the walk when it comes to digital retail services. But how much of the alleged £222,222 of customer spending that takes place every minute during the UK's Cyber Monday are the traditional retailers actually getting a share of?

Figures already emerging paint a mixed picture. Internet Retailing reports that just three sites - Amazon, eBay and Argos - accounted for 30% of the day's site visits. Amazon took 12.9% of all that day's retail traffic, whilst the mobile sites as well as the desktop ones of eBay and Argos also hit the top 40.

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There may indeed be a spike in spending on Cyber Monday with department stores such as John Lewis, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer, but Adventures in Retail: The Other Line's Moving Faster, Brand Perfect's recent research report into online spending, shows that 62% of UK consumers don't rate the top high street brands when they're shopping online.

If these companies were willing to put the same level of thought and investment into how their sales points operate across all digital avenues, as do the web-first giants like Amazon and eBay and their boutique brethren such as NET-A-PORTER and notonthehighstreet.com, then the Cyber Monday and seasonal gains they make could dwarf those that they currently enjoy.

Why? Because there are very specific reasons the majority of British shoppers aren't happy with the services they're getting online from them, be it on the desktop, tablet or smartphone. Of those surveyed for Brand Perfect's research, 29% said that poor design was a major reason for them to abandon their shopping, with user experience design even more of a problem: Over half the respondents said not being able to find items on a site was one of their top bugbears, with the second being slow loading, at 64%.

Worryingly for retailers who aren't providing the type of service customers expect, most of us in the UK will tell people we know about shopping experiences. The research shows that nine out of 10 of us share news of online experiences, good or bad, with friends and family, and this extends into social media.

Ofcom's report shows that Cyber Monday spending this year is expected to have increased by 21% on 2011 and that 6.8 million Visa transactions will have been made.

This week most news media have put out rosy pieces on how the traditional retailers are basking in its glow. For an overview, see this aggregated article in The Guardian, on how positive everything is. But take a step back and you'll see that the opportunity for big British brands - and a welcome economical boost to the UK - is far greater than is currently being reaped.

Perhaps the real story here, that's highlighted in the first round of spending stats from Experian Hitwise, is of all of the potential sales that are being lost entirely, or lost to Amazon et al. The Guardian piece quotes Neil Brooks, a spokesman for Argos, reporting that some of the biggest sellers already this year are iPad, Kindle and Samsung Galaxy tablets. These tablets are potentially the ideal shoppers' companions, yet it's precisely where modern retailers are really falling down. Consumers want sites that work seamlessly, regardless of what device they're using to access them with. More investment needs to be made in design and development, right at the beginning of the planning process.

If retail brands give considered attention to the findings of our report and other similar calls for more cohesive digital experiences, maybe this time next year the High Street might be ready for me and thousands more like me when we take to it on tablets. It's been more than trying attempting to shop with my Nexus 7 for this Christmas. And although it wasn't my first port of call, in the end I confess I bought most of my stuff through Amazon.