The servers have been humming at IR Towers in the last few weeks as you’ve been kind enough to share with us those retailers who’re bringing tears (of envy as much as delight) to your professional eyes.
Internet Retailing’s Inspiration Index
Internet Retailing’s Inspiration Index, launched last issue, along with our research partners eDigitalResearch, aims to look behind the size and PR of an etailer and consider instead at the aspects of their activity that provide inspiration to their competitors, suppliers and knowledgeable customers.
The dimensions of inspiration are:
- Moments of brilliance and delight (March issue – Amazon led the field)
- Customer experience (covered in this issue)
- Operations and IT
From the results and comments it’s clear that there were two main interpretations of the customer experience:
- Services whose customer interface and ‘buying online’ were inspiring (enter, for the second month, MyDeco leading this particular charge)
- Retailers where the very smoothness and efficiency of the purchasing operation, especially for demanding products or when resolving issues, drew appreciative comments – “it just works” is a compliment not to be taken for granted! The key lesson for this month is the weight accorded to the contact centre team’s role in overall customer experience: they were mentioned time after time in responses.
This month we also saw a more active battle outside the top 5 (who remain strong from the first dimension and clearly are a source of inspiration to our readers).
The results of this survey, along with the position from March are as follows:
The Top 5 have maintained their standing, albeit with MyDeco taking the lead, but of most interest is the slew of new retailers coming to prominence. Ocado deserves praise here since it wasn’t on our initial suggestion list (although it will be from next month!).
We’re pleased to see this level of volatility in the index since it bears out our view that (with the few exceptions of the ‘power etailers’ who excel at most things) there’s a broad range of retailers to inspire professionals ecommerce.
Just outside the ‘cut’ were good performances from House of Fraser and Clarks, beating off some strong competition in Tesco.com, Next, Expedia and Lastminute.com.
Since we now have two results we can reveal with a drumroll our Standings Table. This is based upon the ‘cumulative inspiration’ rather than being a simple summation of each dimension’s table: as we can see this month “not all first places are equal” and so over time we want to capture the highest amount of inspiration for the greatest number of etailers.
Our standings table therefore sums the ‘total preference’ across all dimensions – the ‘quantum of inspiration’, if you like. So, with no further ado, the standings are:
Two basis points separate the top two, and there are only three basis points between John Lewis and ASOS – clear leading and second clusters, therefore. 10 basis points is about the difference between the 6th t0 15th positions.
The opportunity in future surveys is for new players, and those in the standings outside the top group, to excel or achieve universal acclaim from respondents and upset the table!
We were not surprised by MyDeco’s strong showing (and indeed, having featured them on last month’s cover, it’s clear that they have a place in our stoney hearts at IR Towers). We were surprised however at the strength of their lead: some 40% of respondents chose them as inspirational in terms of Customer Experience.
The 3D planning tools garnered a great deal of praise – it’s clear that respondents think this is something of a distinctive offering from MyDeco.
MyDeco also has a clear element of fun running throughout their offering. While the site’s clearly focused on selling (or enabling purchasing), from a customer’s perspective there’s also a great deal of fun, experimentation and idea exchange.
So, having come to prominence in the first dimension then bagged a cover interview, our loving attention towards MyDeco now passes to the IR Review Team. We’ve warmed up the site review Rottweilers with the smell of fresh intern’s blood and set them on to MyDeco’s site. You can see their expert opinion, performance review and eyetracking results in this issue (and later online at www.internetretailing.net/features ).
Another strong performance from the anecdotal leaders in eCommerce – now with plenty of commentary to prove the depth and range of that expertise.
Amazon’s performance this month was interesting in that – while MyDeco pipped them to the top spot – the sheer quantity of comments contributed about Amazon was impressive. There were more, and longer, comments made, waxing lyrical about Amazon’s smooth purchasing experience and exemplary issue resolution, than those for all other retailers combined. I wonder whether the Amazon ‘customer training’, habituating us to contributing reviews, has spilled over into a Pavlovian mindset whenever Amazon is mentioned? “I must review…”?
Importantly, the comments tell of “the returns policy – it’s so easy and completely painless”, or of the dedicated team that works with customers who’ve been carded to get the products to the customer. One respondent commented (in conclusion to a list of points) “They got the whole notion of customer service right early on, when they were one of very few online brands (let alone trusted online brands); and continued to evolve and deliver, despite the changing landscape”.
Apple and John Lewis
Although not quite making the front line of the grid, these two make up in passion what they slightly lacked in overall votes. Both retailers attracted praise for the way their customer service teams turned problems into opportunities for delight. In the case of Apple we have the story of how one Mac-using retailer was unhappy with his laptop battery and a complaint call turned into a customer service triumph: “After googling my problem I realised I had no claim. I phoned Apple just to complain but the person on the phone found a reason to refund me; completed the form online while I was on the phone and the battery arrived the next day – and the courier waited to take my old battery away to be recycled. Win”. This from a seasoned retailer who complimented their combination of planning, logistical systems design, employee empowerment and the final ‘green’ touch.
John Lewis also won praise for their delivery and service from respondents, showing that ecommerce professionals notice when others do it well – not to mention that a lot of “us” seem to shop ourselves at John Lewis, Amazon and Apple!
The new entrants
This month we’ve seen a new batch of retailers showing strongly in the 6-15th positions. Ocado’s showing is particularly impressive since they did not feature on our “first suggestion” list of 50. Rest assured that they have earned a place for next month, with the quality of the doorstep experience and the upsell, basket completion suggestions garnering consistent praise.
Boden has made a sprint into the leading group, being singled out for their use of language and tone in address the customer – carried through all channels, with the voice of the contact centre staff getting equal praise.
While invidious to point this out, there are a handful of retailers that we’d initially selected who have so far not attracted a single vote: Currys, Debenhams, First Choice, GAME, Thomson Holidays, Topshop. We’re slightly incredulous of this at IR Towers, given that these are well-performing retailers so we’ll be looking to see whether in the future dimensions we see their strengths being appreciated.
We’re also noting that, while the percentage of the IR community outside the UK is growing steadily there’s no etailer other than Zappos featuring in your responses. Do let us know why you think this is the case, or suggest some European exemplars to us to seed for the next dimension – thoughts to email@example.com please!
The next survey will be on Operations and IT, so we’re expecting further comments on contact centres, logistics and technological prowess.
We’ll also be simplifying the survey to make it faster and to drop the ‘quantum of inspiration’ options – yes, it’ll now either be inspiring or not.
With Operations will be moving from the customer-oriented aspects to how the business physically delivers on its promises , and we look forward to learning whether the top 5 will pull further ahead of the following group, or will we see some newer fascias pushing their way to prominence?
Note that review appeared in the May 2009 Edition of Internet Retailing Magazine.