By  on May 29, 2008

The top apparel, accessories and footwear e-tailers ranked by customer satisfaction.

Online apparel, accessories and footwear sales are expected to hit $3.9 billion in 2008. ForeSee Results, an online customer satisfaction research firm, has released its spring 2008 Top Online Retail Satisfaction Index. "It's a tough buying morale out there," said Larry Freed, president and chief executive officer of ForeSee Results. "Though the [apparel] category as a whole doesn't do as well as electronics retailers, for example, this group did improve a bit year-over-year." He attributed the change to consumers being more knowledgeable about their purchases. As for retailers making improvements to their sites? "They should focus on online branding and site experience in order to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and purchase intent," noted the study.

LLBEAN.COM
Customer satisfaction index score (100 being the highest):
79

This company's Web site has been the highest scoring apparel and accessories retailer since the study began in 2005. The 95-year-old privately held retailer, which sells apparel, footwear and outdoor gear for men, women and children, has a long-standing reputation for its quality service. President and ceo Christopher McCormick stated, "Superior customer service has always been and always will be the cornerstone of our brand and heritage and an attribute that differentiates us from the rest of the pack. It goes back to L.L.'s Golden Rule of treating customers like human beings." Customer service options on the Web site include order tracking, shipping information, easy returns, a help desk, international help and live help for shoppers.


TALBOTS.COM
Score:
78

Talbots Inc. may be suffering with declining earnings and sales, but its Web site has jumped into the top three for the first time, with an increase in its satisfaction score of almost 7 percent. "The changes that Talbots has made to its online brand presentation have had one of the biggest impacts" in the rankings, stated the study. Perks for online shoppers include free gift packaging, e-gift certificates and various sweepstakes-contests. In addition, Talbots.com has a program called Style Search that allows shoppers to search and reserve store inventory right from the site. Style Search is available for full-price merchandise and displays items in U.S. store inventory.
ZAPPOS.COM
Score:
78

There are roughly 1,175 brands and 2.8 million products being offered at Zappos.com. The online apparel, footwear and accessories e-tailer was launched in 1999 by founder Nick Swinmurn. A number of perks, like free shipping on every order, along with free returns within 365 days, help the site stand out. The home page contains a section that focuses heavily on customer reviews — images of the products also accompany the comments. For example, currently being reviewed are the Nine West Jerrie shoes, Jessica Simpson Pacha Small Tote and the Nike Air Max Healthwalker VI L sneaker, to name a few. The site also features a blog on latest trends within footwear and accessories markets.


COLDWATERCREEK.COM
Score:
77

This Sandpoint, Idaho-based women's apparel and accessories retailer originally began as a catalogue in 1984. It's now a multichannel retailer whose customer service has been recognized repeatedly. Coldwatercreek.com launched in July 1999, and today, the site represents approximately 25 percent of total company sales (net sales were $1.15 billion for the fiscal year ended Feb. 2). Regarding its customer service initiatives, the company's associates all enroll in an intensive, two-week customer service, computer and product-training program.


EDDIEBAUER.COM
Score:
76

"Though the company has struggled over the past year, the site still delivered a solid performance with our respondents," said Larry Freed of ForeSee Results. Perhaps it has something to do with the new-and-improved EddieBauer.com: The Bellevue, Wash.-based retailer said earlier this year that it had redesigned its Web site "to create an online experience that delivers the ease and interactivity of shopping at one of its stores." For more than two years, Eddie Bauer has been collecting feedback from hundreds of customers in order to rebuild the site. The revamped site enables customers to choose items without losing their place, zoom in for details and check product availability in real time. Additional enhancements to the pages: 25 percent larger images, easy-to-see product categories and readily available product previews.
VICTORIASSECRET.COM
Score:
76

The site, done up in classic Victoria's Secret pink, offers customers a selection of women's innerwear, apparel, cosmetics, swimwear, sleepwear and even footwear. To make things easier for shoppers, Victoriassecret.com breaks down sizes on most of its products for not only U.S. shoppers, but also for those located in the U.K., France, Australia and other regions. The site, which is holding a sale on bras ($12.99 and up) and panties ($3.99 and up), also provides its customers free shipping on orders of $100 or more.


NIKE.COM
Score:
75

Nike.com reaches more than 2.2 million U.S. unique visitors monthly. The site itself appeals to a slightly female-slanted, more African-American, more affluent audience, according to Quantcast, a media measurement service. On the site, customers can shop by sport or gender — an added feature allows shoppers to download musical selections chosen by the company through iTunes for their own workouts. At Nike's iD section (which stands for "individually designed"), customers can design shoes, clothing and equipment to match their style or improve performance. The site also features an extensive Ratings and Reviews section, which allows browsers to do their homework and learn more about Nike products before making a purchase.


NORDSTROM.COM
Score:
75

To further enhance its Internet site, Nordstrom Inc. is rolling out a buy online/pick-up in-store program, Internet Retailer reported earlier this week. The Seattle-based retailer is testing the service with goods from its women's and men's apparel, women's shoes and cosmetics departments. The company plans to expand the program to all of its categories by September. After making a purchase, customers receive a confirmation e-mail within one hour (during business hours). Customers can then pick up their merchandise at a nearby store. In addition, the site's Special Shopping Features section for its online customer base includes "My Wish List," a "Gift Finder," "Express Checkout" and "Multiple Shipping Destinations."


NEIMANMARCUS.COM
Score:
75Though the Dallas-based retailer just eked into the top 10, its satisfaction score improved the most dramatically (by 8.7 percent) in the entire category. The study found the score improved because of enhancements to the company's online presence and the variety of merchandise. "This is really a step forward for Neiman Marcus," said Freed. "Consumers have a certain expectation of a brand's online presence: It needs to mirror the stores, and any other channels. This tells us that consumers are happier with the variety and availability of offerings, but they're also saying the site now fits much better to the image they have of Neiman Marcus, the brand."


POLO.COM (now operating as RALPHLAUREN.COM)
Score:
74

Last year, in a move to strengthen its commitment to the Internet, Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. paid $175 million for the 50 percent ownership interest of Ralph Lauren Media held by NBC-Lauren Media Holdings, a subsidiary wholly owned by NBC Universal and ValueVision Media, giving Polo full ownership of the polo.com operation. "This comes back to what consumers expect," noted Freed. "This retailer's shoppers know what they want, and the company is continuing to reinforce that relationship." In December, WWD reported, "The Ralph Lauren Web site is the largest single place to buy Ralph Lauren in the world. The site has had a five-year compounded growth rate of 38 percent a year."


SOURCE: FORESEE RESULTS' SPRING 2008 TOP 100 ONLINE RETAIL SATISFACTION INDEX REPORT (APPAREL, ACCESSORIES AND FOOTWEAR CATEGORY); *, † AND ‡ INDICATE TIES

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