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Amazon and John Lewis lead UK’s best and worst online retailers, as Debenhams, DIY.com, and Asda Direct make gains

The sixth consecutive year of the ForeSee Christmas 2012 Customer Satisfaction Index has named the winners and losers online in terms of customer service levels.

Overall the Index recorded a slight increase in aggregate satisfaction from Christmas 2011 to Christmas 2012: from 73 to 74 on the study’s 100-point scale. This is the fourth year running that the Index has unveiled an increase of just one point per year on aggregate.

Index tracks online success

Covering both multichannel (stores, online and catalogue) and pure play e-retailers, the study measures four high level factors that affect overall customer satisfaction: functionality, price, merchandise and content.

The research is conducted using the methodology of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and the list of retailers is based on site traffic volume data from IMRG sources, the percentage of UK traffic data from Alexa.com and almost 10,000 customer surveys conducted during November and December.

This year saw little change at the top of the leader board. Keeping in mind that scores at or above 80 are generally considered the threshold of excellence, Amazon.co.uk recorded an 86 this year, a one point increase from 2011, to stay ahead of US counterpart, Amazon.com (up two points to 84)—a feat that helps to validate the strategy of having country-specific sites for the e-retailer.

John Lewis (80) has held steady in third this year, rounding out the list of three companies that surpass the excellence threshold of 80. Play.com (79), Apple (77), and Asda Direct (77) also appear at the top of the Index.

Making tangible gains

This year’s largest increases went to Debenhams (up four points to 76) and B&Q’s website DIY.com (up four points to 71), followed by ASDA Direct (up three points to 77). Given that, on average, a one-point satisfaction increase predicts a 14% increase in the log of revenues generated on the web, the Index said these increases could translate to significant business value for these companies.

Perennial low-scorer Ryanair registered the only decline of three points or more (down three points to 61), making it the lowest-scoring company in the Index by a wide margin, it rests a full seven points behind Netflix (68) in the second-to-last spot. 

Larry Freed, ForeSee Results chief executive, commented: “Christmas has always been a critical time of the year for retailers, but the growth in online shopping this year now means that retail websites are more essential than ever.

“For these sites to be effective and competitive, a laser-like focus on the customer experience is paramount. UK retailers are clearly providing customers with positive online experiences in general, or customers would not be moving so decisively to online shopping. However, our findings suggest that efforts to improve the customer experience are sluggish and could be significantly improved.” 

Strong sales indicator

He added: “There is a powerful and quantifiable relationship between a positive customer experience online and increased loyalty, sales, and recommendations – online retailers would do well to sit up and pay attention to this research methodology. By understanding customers’ needs and expectations, they will be able to survive and thrive in 2013 and beyond”.

The composition of the Index has changed over the years. In 2007 and 2008, ForeSee measured only the top 30 retailers; in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, it measured the top 40. As the list of top retailers has also changed over time, in 2010 ForeSee synchronised the list selection with the IMRG Experian Hitwise Hot 100 Retailer list, which ranks UK e-retailers based on site traffic.

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