Executive Briefings

Many Retailers Need Better Online Sales Operations

A study of customer satisfaction with top retail websites during the holiday season is shedding light on which online retailers will thrive in 2009 and which could have an uphill battle ahead.

According to the annual report from ForeSee Results, Amazon and Netflix continue to delight holiday shoppers online while customer satisfaction with websites for Circuit City, Gap, Home Depot, HSN, Neiman Marcus, and Overstock fall below industry standards.

The annual Top 40 Online Retail Satisfaction Index from ForeSee Results and FGI Research uses the patented and predictive methodology of the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to examine how successful the top 40 retail websites are at encouraging loyalty and purchase intent. All 40 websites are rated on a 100-point scale (a full list of scores is included at the end of this release). The study found that a highly satisfied online shopper is 73% more likely to purchase online, 38% more likely to purchase offline, 75% more likely to recommend than is a dissatisfied website shopper.

"In a recession, knowing that improving customer satisfaction with your website can engender that kind of loyalty and purchase intent is like money in the bank," said Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee Results. "But too many e-retailers are ignoring this crucial metric, and it shows in the results of our study. Only two of the 40 measured e-tailers scored above 80, and more than a quarter scored 70 or below. Nearly 40% saw satisfaction drop year-over-year. That's just not playing to win in this economy."

Highlights of the report include:

The only two e-retailers scoring above 80 on the study's 100-point scale (generally considered the threshold for excellence by the ACSI) are Amazon and Netflix, both at 84. QVC was a distant third at 79. Not surprisingly, Amazon just reported its best ever holiday season. "Amazon is setting the bar for online retail satisfaction and sales, and I expect they will have better financial results than the rest," added Freed.

Only 10 websites improved online shopper satisfaction since last holiday shopping season, and the most improved are Wal-Mart.com (+5% to 78) and HP's online store (+7% to 76). Other top gainers include Staples (+6% to 77) and Target.com (+4% to 75).

Forty percent of the measured sites saw satisfaction decline year-over year. The largest declines were for Home Shopping Network (- 9% to 69) and Gap (-7% to 69).

Retailers scoring 69 or lower are less successful at satisfying shoppers, which can erode loyalty while missing out on a tremendous opportunity to leverage the web channel to improve the bottom line. Six e-retailers scored 69 this year, and five of the six had lower scores in 2008 than in 2007.

Prices are a key element of satisfaction for many individual websites, but overall, improvements to merchandise and functionality will have a greater return on investment. "Consumers were expecting big discounts this season, and price was a pretty important factor, but it's not the be-all, end-all for satisfaction, even in a recession" said Freed. "It's much smarter for the long term to improve satisfaction through web experience improvements than erode brand equity through price cuts. The travails of Detroit's Big Three automakers illustrate that point profoundly."

Top 40 Retailer Online Satisfaction Index for 2008 Holiday Season

Website           

Satisfaction 2007

Satisfaction 2008           

Point change

% change

AGGREGATE SATISFACTION

74

74

0

0

Amazon.com

82

84

2

2.4%

Netflix.com

86

84

-2

-2.3%

QVC.com

80

79

-1

-1.3%

Apple.com

79

78

-1

-1.3%

BN.com (Barnes & Noble)

78

78

0

0.0%

LLBean.com

80

78

-2

-2.5%

Newegg.com

77

78

1

1.3%

Wal-Mart.com

74

78

4

5.4%

Avon.com

79

77

-2

-2.5%

Staples.com

73

77

4

5.5%

TigerDirect.com

77

77

0

0.0%

Shopping.hp.com

71

76

5

7.0%

JCPenney.com

75

76

1

1.3%

VictoriasSecret.com

N/A

76

N/A

N/A

Target.com

72

75

3

4.2%

Zappos.com

78

75

-3

-3.8%

Drugstore.com

74

74

0

0.0%

Nordstrom.com

74

74

0

0.0%

Williams-Sonoma.com

75

74

-1

-1.3%

BestBuy.com

74

73

-1

-1.4%

Dell.com

74

73

-1

-1.4%

Chadwicks.com

73

73

0

0.0%

1800Flowers.com

71

72

1

1.4%

Blockbuster.com

N/A

72

N/A

N/A

Costco.com

72

72

0

0.0%

OfficeDepot.com

71

72

1

1.4%

Buy.com

70

70

0

0.0%

Macys.com

71

70

-1

-1.4%

OfficeMax.com

68

70

2

2.9%

Sears.com

70

70

0

0.0%

SonyStyle.com

70

70

0

0.0%

CircuitCity.com

73

69

-4

-5.5%

Gap.com

74

69

-5

-6.8%

HSN.com

76

69

-7

-9.2%

Overstock.com

70

69

-1

-1.4%

HomeDepot.com

N/A

69

N/A

N/A

NeimanMarcus.com

72

69

-3

-4.2%

Amazon.com

82

84

2

2.4%

Netflix.com

86

84

-2

-2.3%

QVC.com

80

79

-1

-1.3%


About the Top 40 Online Retail Satisfaction Index: The fourth annual holiday online satisfaction report is based on a survey of over 9,000 visitors to the top 40 e-retail websites according to sales revenue as reported by Internet Retailer's Top 500 Guide. Survey responses were collected FGI Research's Smart Panel. The study measured satisfaction among shoppers who visited the site, regardless of whether or not they ultimately executed a purchase online, which provides insight into the performance of retail websites as research and purchase channels. ForeSee Results used the methodology of the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to determine the scores. The ACSI is the national standard for customer satisfaction and has been proven to have a direct link with stock prices and other measures of financial performance.
Foresee

A study of customer satisfaction with top retail websites during the holiday season is shedding light on which online retailers will thrive in 2009 and which could have an uphill battle ahead.

According to the annual report from ForeSee Results, Amazon and Netflix continue to delight holiday shoppers online while customer satisfaction with websites for Circuit City, Gap, Home Depot, HSN, Neiman Marcus, and Overstock fall below industry standards.

The annual Top 40 Online Retail Satisfaction Index from ForeSee Results and FGI Research uses the patented and predictive methodology of the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to examine how successful the top 40 retail websites are at encouraging loyalty and purchase intent. All 40 websites are rated on a 100-point scale (a full list of scores is included at the end of this release). The study found that a highly satisfied online shopper is 73% more likely to purchase online, 38% more likely to purchase offline, 75% more likely to recommend than is a dissatisfied website shopper.

"In a recession, knowing that improving customer satisfaction with your website can engender that kind of loyalty and purchase intent is like money in the bank," said Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee Results. "But too many e-retailers are ignoring this crucial metric, and it shows in the results of our study. Only two of the 40 measured e-tailers scored above 80, and more than a quarter scored 70 or below. Nearly 40% saw satisfaction drop year-over-year. That's just not playing to win in this economy."

Highlights of the report include:

The only two e-retailers scoring above 80 on the study's 100-point scale (generally considered the threshold for excellence by the ACSI) are Amazon and Netflix, both at 84. QVC was a distant third at 79. Not surprisingly, Amazon just reported its best ever holiday season. "Amazon is setting the bar for online retail satisfaction and sales, and I expect they will have better financial results than the rest," added Freed.

Only 10 websites improved online shopper satisfaction since last holiday shopping season, and the most improved are Wal-Mart.com (+5% to 78) and HP's online store (+7% to 76). Other top gainers include Staples (+6% to 77) and Target.com (+4% to 75).

Forty percent of the measured sites saw satisfaction decline year-over year. The largest declines were for Home Shopping Network (- 9% to 69) and Gap (-7% to 69).

Retailers scoring 69 or lower are less successful at satisfying shoppers, which can erode loyalty while missing out on a tremendous opportunity to leverage the web channel to improve the bottom line. Six e-retailers scored 69 this year, and five of the six had lower scores in 2008 than in 2007.

Prices are a key element of satisfaction for many individual websites, but overall, improvements to merchandise and functionality will have a greater return on investment. "Consumers were expecting big discounts this season, and price was a pretty important factor, but it's not the be-all, end-all for satisfaction, even in a recession" said Freed. "It's much smarter for the long term to improve satisfaction through web experience improvements than erode brand equity through price cuts. The travails of Detroit's Big Three automakers illustrate that point profoundly."

Top 40 Retailer Online Satisfaction Index for 2008 Holiday Season

Website           

Satisfaction 2007

Satisfaction 2008           

Point change

% change

AGGREGATE SATISFACTION

74

74

0

0

Amazon.com

82

84

2

2.4%

Netflix.com

86

84

-2

-2.3%

QVC.com

80

79

-1

-1.3%

Apple.com

79

78

-1

-1.3%

BN.com (Barnes & Noble)

78

78

0

0.0%

LLBean.com

80

78

-2

-2.5%

Newegg.com

77

78

1

1.3%

Wal-Mart.com

74

78

4

5.4%

Avon.com

79

77

-2

-2.5%

Staples.com

73

77

4

5.5%

TigerDirect.com

77

77

0

0.0%

Shopping.hp.com

71

76

5

7.0%

JCPenney.com

75

76

1

1.3%

VictoriasSecret.com

N/A

76

N/A

N/A

Target.com

72

75

3

4.2%

Zappos.com

78

75

-3

-3.8%

Drugstore.com

74

74

0

0.0%

Nordstrom.com

74

74

0

0.0%

Williams-Sonoma.com

75

74

-1

-1.3%

BestBuy.com

74

73

-1

-1.4%

Dell.com

74

73

-1

-1.4%

Chadwicks.com

73

73

0

0.0%

1800Flowers.com

71

72

1

1.4%

Blockbuster.com

N/A

72

N/A

N/A

Costco.com

72

72

0

0.0%

OfficeDepot.com

71

72

1

1.4%

Buy.com

70

70

0

0.0%

Macys.com

71

70

-1

-1.4%

OfficeMax.com

68

70

2

2.9%

Sears.com

70

70

0

0.0%

SonyStyle.com

70

70

0

0.0%

CircuitCity.com

73

69

-4

-5.5%

Gap.com

74

69

-5

-6.8%

HSN.com

76

69

-7

-9.2%

Overstock.com

70

69

-1

-1.4%

HomeDepot.com

N/A

69

N/A

N/A

NeimanMarcus.com

72

69

-3

-4.2%

Amazon.com

82

84

2

2.4%

Netflix.com

86

84

-2

-2.3%

QVC.com

80

79

-1

-1.3%


About the Top 40 Online Retail Satisfaction Index: The fourth annual holiday online satisfaction report is based on a survey of over 9,000 visitors to the top 40 e-retail websites according to sales revenue as reported by Internet Retailer's Top 500 Guide. Survey responses were collected FGI Research's Smart Panel. The study measured satisfaction among shoppers who visited the site, regardless of whether or not they ultimately executed a purchase online, which provides insight into the performance of retail websites as research and purchase channels. ForeSee Results used the methodology of the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to determine the scores. The ACSI is the national standard for customer satisfaction and has been proven to have a direct link with stock prices and other measures of financial performance.
Foresee