Almost one in ten people have been put off online shopping this year because of previous problems with delivery, according to research.

The survey, which polled 1,000 UK consumers, found that 9% had been put off any festive purchases this year because of past difficulties. At 27%, more than a quarter of all those polled had encountered a problem with online Christmas deliveries in the past.

Conversely, over half of respondents had never experienced a problem, which 30% of respondents attributed to placing orders early.

Too many orders putting strain on the network

When asked to identify their two top reasons for delivery problems, 54% of consumers named “too many orders putting a strain on the network”. This was closely followed by adverse weather (52%), not allowing enough time for delivery (36%), low stock levels (26%) and typing in incorrect address details (8%).

The Christmas rush is a double-edge sword for any online business. For many it’s the most important time of the year – get it right and you can significantly improve sales. Get it wrong, and your reputation can end up going down the toilet. It’s easy to focus on driving website traffic and forget that it’s still paramount to deliver the products quickly, economically and accurately.

People may be more comfortable now than they have ever been with the idea of ordering online. But what this study shows is that retailers can’t take anything for granted – bad experiences can cause opinions and behaviours to change.

Unfortunately, many online businesses still have relatively poor website technology and inadequate delivery capabilities. This doesn’t just hold back potential profit margins for individual businesses – it damages the ecommerce industry as a whole.

Capture address details correctly in the first place

It’s important for ecommerce owners this year to promise only what they can realistically deliver. That means keeping right on top of stock levels, and ensuring the customer-facing website reflects what’s happening in the warehouse or stock room.

It also demands some knowledge of what’s going on at the end of the fulfilment chain. If you know you’re not going to be able to make 100 deliveries in a day then don’t advertise that you can.

As well as limiting expectations, online businesses need to work harder. Providing consumers with timed delivery slots, for instance, is just one of many ways retailers can help avoid these hassles. News earlier this year showed that nearly two-thirds of consumers see delivery windows as important, so it’s clearly going to be a concern at Christmas.

What this survey reflects is that while the logistical damage of last December’s weather may have been repaired, the emotional wounds it caused to those affected are yet to fully heal. This year, the industry needs to come good, whatever the circumstances.