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Gulf widens between UK etail's 'best and the rest'

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The gulf between the UK’s best retail websites and ‘the rest’ is widening, according to research into customer satisfaction.

An annual Christmas survey from ForeSee Results suggests that while customers are increasingly happy with a small number of market leaders, others were lagging. “The best and biggest online retailers are typically providing a much better online experience and smaller retailers are falling further behind,” it said.

ForeSee Results Online Retail Satisfaction Index (UK Christmas Edition) is now in its fourth year and measures four factors that feed into overall levels of customer satisfaction: functionality, price, merchandise and content. It collected feedback from more than 10,000 shoppers visiting the UK’s top 40 online retail websites in prime Christmas shopping season, through November and December.

The sites ranked in the top five were Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, which took the top two places with 84 and 83 points respectively, followed by Play.com with 80 points. John Lewis came in with 78 points to tie with Marks & Spencer, which appeared in the top five for the first time after gaining five points since last year. The top ten online retailers with the best satisfaction enjoyed an average increase of two points each, while the other 30 saw, on average, no change since last year.

The research, said ForeSee, showed that traders with the highest revenues were those with the highest customer satisfaction levels. Pure play retailers as a group outperformed multichannel retailers by four points, averaging 76 points compared to 72 for their multichannel rivals.

Seventy-two was also the overall aggregate level for UK online retailers, and, said ForeSee, any retailer scoring at this level or lower was risking loyalty, sales and market share. By that measure, 24 of the top 40 UK online traders were underperforming, said ForeSee, and while individual retailers were making big gains, smaller competitors were falling further behind.

Larry Freed, chief executive at ForeSee Results, said: “To the general public a small point increase may seem insignificant, however for the Top 100 American retailers a one-point change in website satisfaction was found to predict a 14 percent change in the log of revenues generated on the web. We’ve found similar relationships between customer satisfaction and revenue in previous years so for Marks & Spencer to see a five point year-on-year increase is good news for them and could predict a huge increase in online revenue.”

Kevin Ertell, vice president of retail strategy at ForeSee Results, said it was surprising that the research found only 4% reported being influenced to visit a site by social media, while only 1.3% were making purchases by mobile phone. He said: “While social and mobile may play a significant role in the future of online commerce, it's important to recognise they play a relatively small role today and getting basic web experience right is still hugely important.

“Retailers need to tune into and fully understand what their customers want from them and focus their attention on converting browsers into customers. Satisfied customers will return, recommend and stay loyal – worth their weight in gold.”

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