E-retailers beat stores in customer satisfaction study

February 19, 2015 11:59 AM

Consumers are more satisfied with online retailers than with stores, thanks in part to gains made by smaller web merchants in the latest edition of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, commonly referred to as ACSI.

Its Retail Report 2014 finds that that on a scale of 0 to 100, overall satisfaction with retail achieves a score of 78.6, down 1.4% from 2013 and marking the end of three consecutive years of growth. “Higher prices contribute to the downturn, with the strongest impact on retailers that sell nondiscretionary products,” the report explains. “Rising cost of food and staples creates challenges for supermarkets and drug stores, while department stores and specialty retailers are less affected.”

Satisfaction with e-retailers, by contrast, increased 5.1% year over year to 82. The report says “Internet retailers rebound from 2013 when winter storms and a surge in online shopping caused widespread delivery delays. As online sales reached record levels this holiday season, retailers and shippers were better prepared and there were far fewer incidents with delivery. Promotions that began well before Thanksgiving also helped, as consumers did more of their online shopping early.”

ACSI, which is located at and affiliated with the University of Michigan, bases its findings on interviews with 8,738 customers, chosen at random and contacted via telephone and email between Oct. 7 and Nov. 7, 2014. “Customers are asked to evaluate their recent experiences with the largest brick-and-mortar and Internet retail sector companies in terms of market share, plus an aggregate category consisting of ‘all other’—and thus smaller—retailers,” the group says.

For online retail, the report again finds that Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500 Guide, leads the pack, with a score of 86 compared with a score of 88 in 2013. There was no immediate explanation for this decline.

Trailing Amazon are:

• Computers and electronics retailer Newegg Inc., which is No. 17 in the Top 500 and achieved a score of 81, down from 83 in 2013.

• Entertainment content provider Netflix Inc., No. 7, with a score of 81, up from 79. “The gain for Netflix represents a third straight year of improvement following the company’s customer satisfaction nosedive in 2011, which was caused by an increase in price,” the report says.

• “All others”—that is, those smaller retailers—had a score of 81, up from 75 in 2013.

• Online marketplace operator eBay Inc. with a score of 79, down from 80.

• Web-only mass merchant Inc., No. 31 in the Top 500, with a score of 77, down from 79 in 2013.

“According to online shoppers, Internet retailers provide an efficient process for checkout and payment,” the report says. “In general, sites are easy to navigate, pages load quickly, and retailers offer a strong variety of merchandise with useful product images.”

The report also notes that surveyed consumers give good ratings to such e-commerce features as product descriptions, shipping options and merchandise availability, including desired models, colors, and sizes (80). “Product reviews by other customers are helpful, as is customer support via live chat, help pages, and call centers,” the report adds. “Online shoppers are least satisfied with site-generated recommendations of other products to buy, apparently because such recommendations are less trusted.”




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