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Customer satisfaction improves, but continues to lag behind the US

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A study of the UK’s top 40 online retail websites during December has found that customer satisfaction with the top online retailers is up six percent on last year and every retailer included in the study two years in a row has seen a year-on-year increase — even if only a small one.

Foresee Results‘ Christmas 2009 Online Retail Customer Satisfaction Index measured four high level factors that affect overall customer satisfaction: Functionality, Price, Merchandise and Content. Over 10,000 survey responses were collected from shoppers who visited the top 40 online retail websites in the UK in November and December.

The survey found that aggregate customer satisfaction saw a sharp increase this Christmas, with an overall score of 71 out of 100, up from 67 last year.

Scores for individual retailers spanned an 18 point range, however, from Amazon’s high of 83 to a low of 65, shared by Ticketmaster and B&Q. Amazon was the only website in the UK which scored above an 80 — generally considered the threshold of excellence in studies using this methodology, according to Foresee Results.

In second place was at 79, closely followed by in third place with 78, up eight points on last year.

The most improved websites included Debenhams (up 10 points to 71), M&M Direct (up nine points to 76), John Lewis (up nine points to 77), The Orange Shop (up eight points to 68) and WH Smith (up eight points to 70).

Mass merchants were the highest scoring retail group with an average of 73 points, followed by apparel and/or accessories websites with 72 points. Computer and electronics retailers came last with an aggregate score of 69, up five points since last year.

Internet pure plays outperformed multichannel again, with a score of 74 compared to a score of 70 for multichannel retailers.

Overall, however, the UK still lags behind the US quite considerably, with the US scoring 8 points more than the UK in total. 15 of the 40 UK online retailers registered scores of 69 or lower, the level at which Foresee considers players to be bottom performers who are risking erosion of market share and sales if improvements are not made. Dixons, Currys, Freemans, and Littlewoods all scored 66, only one point ahead of Ticketmaster and B&Q.

ForeSee’s survey also found that consumers who score their satisfaction with a retail website at 80 or over are 93% more likely to purchase online and 54% more likely to purchase offline than those who scored their experience at 69 or lower.

“While these numbers are certainly a huge step in the right direction, companies who saw improvements run the risk of being lulled into a false sense of security,” says Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results. “There is still a long way to go with the UK’s numbers still trailing the US by 10 percent. Additionally there is only one site out of 40 with a satisfaction score over 80, Amazon — essentially an American company with a strong UK presence. It concerns me that there are still 15 companies scoring 60 or lower which means they are risking sales and market share to better performing companies.”

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