Amazon, Netflix Top E-tailers for Holiday Season

Survey finds that despite volume gains this year, overall, online satisfaction dipped slightly.

Keep the customer satisfied. Not all e-tailers do it, but in this high-flying holiday season, the best of the best were Amazon.com, Netflix, QVC.com, avon.com, llbean.com, Newegg.com and apple.com.

This story first appeared in the December 29, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Those sites scored highest in customer satisfaction during the 2010 holiday season among the nation’s 40 largest brands online, according to the E-Retail Satisfaction Index survey by ForeSee Results.

Falling not far behind were eBay.com, then MusiciansFriend.com, VistaPrint.com, walmart.com and williams-sonoma.com.

ForeSee surveyed 10,000 Americans from Nov. 29 to Dec. 15, centering its queries around a Web site’s content, including visuals, product descriptions and reviews; the quality and availability of the merchandise, and the functionality of the site, meaning how easy it is to navigate and make a purchase.

From all the consumer responses, ForeSee ranked the brands on a scale of 1 to 100. The top 12 sites, cited above, all scored 80 or higher, meaning they provided a superior online experience.

Victoriassecret.com, gap.com, hpshopping.com, jcpcom (Penney’s) and nordstrom.com all registered in the high 70s, meaning they provided a good experience.

However, those needing some work to catch up to the competition were target.com, toysrus.com, blockbuster.com, macy’s.com and sears.com. They all scored lower on the list of 40.

“The biggest surprise is that price is not really the major driver in the aggregate, even though retailers are so focused on discounting,” Kevin Ertell, ForeSee’s vice president of retail strategy, told WWD. “To me that says creating a greater experience for customers may be better for the top and bottom lines, and even more important than price.”

“In a recovering economy, a lot of us assume that declining satisfaction is a result of frustration with prices. Our research shows that is not always the case, and that it varies drastically from company to company,” said Larry Freed, president and chief executive officer of ForeSee Results. “Retailers are slashing prices this time of year to attract customers, and not all of them need to be doing that.”

The survey revealed another surprise: Despite the huge volume gains seen online this year, overall, online satisfaction dipped slightly to 78 from last year’s all-time high score of 79. However, the 2010 aggregate score still far exceeds the aggregate score of five years ago, which registered a low 74, ForeSee reported. “This dip is statistically significant, but it’s definitely being driven down by a few retailers” that dropped in their customer satisfaction ratings at a greater rate than those than improved in their ratings. TigerDirect, Dell, Penney’s and Macy’s were among the companies showing significant declines, Ertell said.

Among the top performers, Amazon tied with Netflix for the top spot with a score of 86. TigerDirect, with a score of 73, bottoms out the industry along with Sears, with a score of 74.

The most improved Web sites were L.L. Bean, gaining three points to 83, and HSN, also gaining three points, reaching 79.

Highly satisfied visitors to retail Web sites said they are 60 percent more committed to the brand overall, 61 percent more likely to purchase from the retailer online, 35 percent more likely to purchase from the retailer offline and 64 percent more likely to recommend the retailer than are dissatisfied visitors, ForeSee reported.

According to ForeSee, Amazon and Wal-Mart both have superior online satisfaction scores, but Amazon beats walmart.com in content, functionality and merchandise, and they are tied on consumers’ perceptions of their prices.

While Blockbuster, with a score of 76, has the advantage of being multichannel, Netflix beats Blockbuster on price and Web site functionality.

In the battle among computer giants, Apple (rated 82) continues to dominate Dell (76) and HP (78). “Apple defies conventional wisdom because it achieves the highest customer satisfaction despite scoring below its rivals on perceptions of prices. However, Apple scores much higher than the others in Web site functionality,” ForeSee reported.

For its annual Top 40 E-Retail Satisfaction Index, ForeSee teams with FGI Research and uses the methodology of the American Customer Satisfaction Index developed by the University of Michigan.



Top E-tailers Based On Customer Satisfaction


L.L. Bean
Musician’s Friend