Customers Give Big E-tail Big Love in Holiday Satisfaction Survey

More shoppers went online to retailers’ Web sites this holiday season, and overall they were happier with their visits than they were in 2008, a survey by ForeSee Results found.

For the second straight year, Amazon.com led ForeSee’s pack of top 40 U.S. e-retailers in terms of customer satisfaction. Netflix and QVC took second and third places, respectively, and Apple tied with Cabela’s for fourth.

The report is based on a survey of more than 10,000 visitors to the top 40 e-tail Web sites in terms of sales revenue, as reported by Internet Retailer‘s June issue. Surveys were conducted in November and December.

Feeling the Online Love

Amazon.com scored 87 points out of a possible 100 this year; last year, it scored 84. In all, 11 retailers scored more than 80 points, which is ForeSee’s threshold for excellence; none of the top 40 scored below 70.

Several companies made huge improvements over their 2008 results. The most improved include Macys.com, which scored 13 more points to hit 79; Gap.com, which scored 10 more points to hit 76; and Overstock.com, which also scored 10 more points to hit 76.

However, there is no one solution to the question of how to improve customer satisfaction, Larry Freed, ForeSee’s president and CEO, told the E-Commerce Times. “You have to take actions depending on your size and customer base and positioning to get more customers and improve customer satisfaction,” he explained.

For example, Macy’s improved its site, worked through customer data to proactively find and solve customer problems, and did community work. It added the “Come Together” page for hunger relief work, the “Believe” page to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish charitable foundation, and the “Shop for a Better World” page, which offers products made by women whose husbands were murdered in the genocide in Rwanda.

Sears.com, which improved its standing by five points, has increased consumer choice in terms of its channels. This included adding a mobile shopping site, adding inventory to the Web site, and adding express checkout with PayPal and eBillme.

“Listening to customers and applying solid methodology as to where to focus your improvements is the key,” Freed pointed out.

Only the Fittest Survive

Here’s the problem, though: The biggest e-tailers generally have a distinct advantage over smaller operations in being able afford to go on making customers happy, invest in the Web channel, and keep prices at a point customers will accept.

“In the economic environment we live in today, where prices continue to be important, the larger retailers have more people and financial resources to focus on continuing improvement,” Freed explained. “Midsize retailers will find it harder, especially in this tough economy, where they’re focusing on survival first.”

Further, consumers are now visiting more sites to do research. “They’re going to various sites to find the right merchandise, the right price, and ensure there’s a trust factor,” Freed said. That puts more pressure on midsize retailers, which often can’t afford to offer the best pricing.

ForeSee’s results reflect the tendency for consumers to hit various Web sites to research their prospective purchases. “Our figures show the number of visitors to a site, but these are not necessarily customers,” Freed pointed out. “Our only qualification is that someone visited an e-tailer’s Web site.”

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