Customer satisfaction with many of the largest online retailers declined three percent this year versus last, according to the annual Top 100 Online Retail Satisfaction Index from ForeSee Results and FGI Research. This research utilizes the methodology of the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and is based on surveys of more than 22,000 visitors to the top 100 online retail websites by sales volume, reported in the 2009 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.
The aggregate score of 73 in the most recent study suggests that online merchants may be moving off course. "Revenue will tell you a lot about past performance, and by that measure, things don't look great," said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results, in a statement. "But customer satisfaction will tell us a lot about what's ahead, and more companies are losing ground," Freed continued. "That's a real canary in a coal mine for future sales online and offline, loyalty, retention and return visits."
Satisfied web shoppers are more likely to purchase online than dissatisfied ones, more likely to recommend a website and more likely to make a purchase from the brand offline. This year's survey also found that consumers are more price sensitive than in previous years, when price has had a relatively low impact on overall satisfaction. "Online shoppers are a savvy group, able to compare price and merchandise at the click of a mouse," Freed noted. "In an economy where rising unemployment, plummeting home values and tight credit continue to make headlines, consumers are punishing retailers if they feel prices aren't fair or competitive."
For the fifth consecutive year, two online merchants rose to the top. They are Netflix, with a score of 85, and Amazon, with an 84. The online retailers that posted the biggest improvements in customer satisfaction included Kohls.com, with a six percent gain for a total score of 76, and Costco, with a three percent gain for a 74. However, scores for more than half of the top 100 online merchants declined. Apple.com fell nearly six percent to a score of 75. It now lags behind rivals, Dell.com and HPShopping.com.
CVS.com's score declined eight percent to 71, which put it behind Walgreens and Drugstore.com. NeimanMarcus.com's score fell seven percent to 70, and Williams-Sonoma.com and Talbots.com each lost 6.4 percent to a score of 73. Among others that saw declines in customer satisfaction were ToysRUs.com, Macys.com, Sears.com, Overstock.com, Abercrombie.com, 1800Flowers.com, JCrew.com and RestorationHardware.com.
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