How E-Commerce Customer Satisfaction Presents an Opportunity Right Now
There’s a small bright spot for the retail trade sector, even if it might be short-lived.
After two straight years of decline, the industry improved its customer satisfaction, edging up 0.1 percent to a score of 77.3 (on a 100-point scale), per the 2019-2020 American Customer Satisfaction Index Retail and Consuming Shipping Report.
Now everything has changed. Many retailers have dramatically shifted their operations to stay in business during the pandemic, and even as some areas of the country start to reopen, retail won’t look the same for the foreseeable future.
However, there is an opportunity for more retailers to improve customer satisfaction despite these circumstances. The report illustrates what we all know to be true: the preference for e-commerce is very real.
As more retailers push into e-commerce for survival, this shift in business might end up being a good thing for latecomers when the dust settles — so long as they know what it takes to satisfy customers in this space.
E-Commerce Remains the Big Winner
Historically speaking, internet retail is usually the highest-rated industry in this sector. That didn’t change in 2019.
Unlike other industries, internet retail improved in customer satisfaction, climbing 1.3 percent to an Index score of 81. More than anything, consumers appreciate how easy the checkout and payment process is with internet retailers, as well as the quality of their mobile apps (both 86). Customers also give internet retailers high marks for mobile app reliability (85) and the variety and selection of merchandise (84).
The success of internet retail proves, once again, that consumers crave an expedient and seamless shopping experience. And while this industry clearly distinguishes itself, there are no clear winners pulling away from the pack. Therefore, there’s still plenty of opportunity for retailers to build and fine-tune their online presence.
Competition Brewing Among Internet Retailers
The race for online supremacy — at least in terms of customer satisfaction — is far from over. The shift at the top of the leaderboard is proof there’s room for improvement, and opportunity for newcomers to step in and raise the bar.
Amazon.com is currently the new leader in the clubhouse, climbing 1 percent to an Index score of 83. It scores high marks among all the customer experience benchmarks, with customers especially impressed by Amazon's mobile quality, speed, inventory, and product variety.
Etsy and Nordstrom tie for second place with a score of 82. The latter is the only traditional retailer that experienced an increase (up 1 percent) in customer satisfaction.
Costco held the top spot in the category a year ago. However, a lot can happen in a year, as the membership club falls 2 percent into a five-way tie — with HP Store, Kohl’s, Newegg, and Nike — for third place, at 81.
Despite holding steady year-over-year, Walmart and Sears inhabit the lowest rung of internet retail, scoring 74 and 73, respectively. And while these two retailers also receive the lowest marks among department and discount stores, when you compare the scores between the online retailer and its brick-and-mortar counterpart, it reveals a growing trend that’s unlikely to go away anytime soon.
Online Retailers Have Brick-and-Mortar’s Number
Sears.com has an Index score of 73. Its brick-and-mortar counterpart, despite inching up 1 percent year-over-year, scores 71. Walmart.com has an Index score of 74. Its brick-and-mortar counterpart scores 71.
And they’re not alone. Across the industry, customers are more satisfied with retailers' e-commerce sites than they are with the same brands’ brick-and-mortar operations.
Consumers are relying on internet retailers more than ever before for everyday items like groceries, toilet paper, and paper towels. For retailers, that means an opportunity to strengthen their relationships with consumers and better position themselves for whatever the future brings. Despite all the hardship and disruption, the retailers that take the right steps now might not only weather the storm, but also strengthen their customer satisfaction.
David VanAmburg is the managing director of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, where he has spent over 20 years researching customer satisfaction and helping companies improve their customer experience.
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