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In its annual rating of online retailers and web-based shopping experiences, ForeSee Results reports that Netflix.com, QVC.com and Amazon.com do the best job of satisfying their customers. Other high-ranking sites included Apple.com and LLBean.com.

Retailers that were included in ForeSee’s Top 100 included Drugstore.com (27), Walgreens.com (37), Staples.com (39) WalMart.com (40), Peapod.com (52), CVS.com (58), Costco.com (64), and FreshDirect.com (82). Food and drug retailers tended to have scores that were on average better than those of apparel and computer retailers, but not as good as books/music/DVD retailers.

In addition, the survey found that “price is not the hot-button issue that most e-retailers expect. Research shows that for the vast majority of retail websites, investing in site experience improvements or brand will have a bigger positive impact on the bottom line than trying to drive demand by dropping the price.”

And, in looking at how customers related to the highest-ranking websites, ForeSee noted that there seems to be a strong link between satisfaction and loyalty, positive word of mouth, ROI, and future financial performance. Which may seem both logical and self-evident, but if nothing else it should reassure executives concerning on placing dollar bets on the Internet side of the business.

The best-ranked businesses in the survey tended to be those that were in the books/music/DVD business. “This is the highest-scoring category in aggregate,” the survey said. “Internet pure-play Netflix.com leads the overall Index and the category (85), while Barnes & Noble’s site BN.com (82) continues to be a standout among brick and mortar retailers. Amazon (83) has expanded far beyond books and is categorized with mass merchants, but is still clearly a large player in this space as well.”

Free shipping, according to the survey, “is an important way to overcome shoppers’ resistance to purchasing products that they want to try on.” Larry Freed, president/CEO of ForeSee Results, says, “Our research shows that free shipping makes people happy. Thirty percent of shoppers on apparel and accessories sites recalled seeing some type of free shipping offer. Depending on whether the offer was with or without restrictions (e.g., tied to a dollar amount of purchase), customer satisfaction with these sites was either 75 or 76. On the other hand, the 34% of apparel and accessories shoppers who said that free shipping wasn’t offered on the site had a satisfaction score of 71. So people who said free shipping was offered were more likely to have a positive experience overall.”
KC's View:
We think that the free shipping component is extremely important to the success of online retailing…or, at least, the perception of free shipping, which is what membership in the Amazon Prime service provides. (Prime offers “free” two-day shipping on everything you buy for a year after you pay a single annual fee…shipping costs go down the more orders you place. Brilliant.)

We think that food retailers will need to find a way to integrate this kind of strategic thinking into their online plans…and that the ones who are successful at doing so will be the ones that succeed in the long run.

By the way, we’re not surprised by the high ratings given to sites like Netflix.com, Amazon.com and LLBean.com…since those are three sites we use constantly, and that we endorse heartily. In each case, they aren’t just sites that sell stuff, but sites that address specific life problems/needs/desires. We might be able to live without them…but why would we want to?