Survey: Online Holiday Shoppers’ Satisfaction Sinks

2006 was the last year e-commerce vendors introduced new functionality to their Web sites that were visible to consumers, such as better search features and click-once-to-buy shopping carts.

Coincidentally or not, it was also the last time aggregate customer satisfaction with online retailers registered 75 on a 100-point scale in the annual Holiday Top 40 Online Retail Satisfaction Index Report, produced by ForeSee Results and FGI Research.

The report is based on surveys of 11,000 consumers who visited the top 40 revenue-grossing retail Web sites. It uses the University of Michigan’s AmericanCustomer Satisfaction Index’s methodology to measure how well these top retail Web sites deliver the kind of site experience customers want.

A Little More Effort, Please

For the 2007 holiday season, the result was not quite as well as before.

Customer satisfaction dropped 1.3 percent to 74 and the less discernible upgrades to Web sites might well have been one factor, Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results, told CRM Buyer.

“Companies continued to invest in their e-commerce operations. However much of that money was devoted to back-end investments that might not have been as apparent to the consumer,” he said.

There were other reasons for the slight drop, he added, including an uncertain economy that has cast a pall over everything money-related. Online retail sales in general, which have experienced spectacular year-over-year growth for the past few years, slowed from 2006, the report noted, even though they still outpaced traditional offline retail transactions.

Winners and Losers

The winning companies in the survey were Netflix at 86, Amazon (82), L.L. Bean (80) and QVC (80). Customer satisfaction laggards included CompUSA (67) and Office Max (68).

Companies whose e-commerce operations were rated most improved since last holiday season were Avon (up 3.9 percent to 79 as satisfaction improved with site experience, brand and price) and Zappos (up 4 percent to 78, driven in large part by satisfaction with the brand.) Costco was the most improved (up 4.3 percent to 72), but as the report noted its score of 72 places Costco in the bottom half of the Top 40 Index.

Offline Suffers

The survey also highlighted the growing divide between online and offline shoppers.

Compared to last holiday season, online shoppers are 7.5 percent less likely to buy offline from the retailer in the future. This was due to a number of factors, including higher gas prices.

Industry related factors included an increase in competitive online shopping activity as shoppers look to stretch their limited resources further and aggressive discounting by online retailers.

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