NEW YORK — Apparel and accessories e-tailers,, and took four of the top 10 spots in the fifth annual Mystery Shopping Study conducted by Chicago-based researchers, the e-tailing group.The study of 100 online merchants in 15 categories, conducted during holiday 2002, eliminated sites for not having a variety of 10 capabilities. The criteria, in declining order of importance, was: the ability to make a purchase on the first try; the offer of a toll-free number; the provision of an accurate and personalized answer to an e-mail query within 24 hours; the delivery of goods within five days; the ability to complete a purchase in five or fewer minutes on a DSL line; six clicks or fewer to checkout; the provision of inventory stock status in a shopping cart or product page; online shipping status conveyed; order confirmation given in shopping cart, and order confirmation e-mailed, along with order number.While the time to shop an e-tailer averaged just over four minutes, it took three minutes on the sites of Lands’ End, Wal-Mart and CDW, a consumer electronics merchant. Clicks to checkout averaged 4.93, but shoppers at the Lands’ End and CDNow sites made it from product display to checkout in an average of only three clicks. The Web sites of CDW and Office Depot made the speediest deliveries — just one day, on average. In contrast, e-tailers overall saw their delivery window widen by 16 percent to 4.4 business days, on average, versus 3.8 days during holiday 2001.

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