Top online retailers for customer service - Amazon and John Lewis lead as Ryanair hits bottom


Amazon and John Lewsis have scored the highest in an online customer service study, while Ryanair saw the biggest drop and lowest score. Analytics form ForeSee looks at the customer satisfaction Index across the UK’s top 40 online retail websites.

The findings in the ForeSee Online Retail Satisfaction Index: UK Christmas Edition indicate 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. However, a one-point change still means a great deal in terms of revenue when it represents a change for a large group of retailers.

See an infographic explaining the results below:


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This is the sixth year that ForeSee has conducted an analysis of the Christmas shopping experience that customers are having with the UK’s top 40 online retailers. This revealing data, the result of almost 10,000 customer surveys collected during the prime Christmas shopping time (in November and December), affords year-on-year comparisons of not only aggregate e-retail satisfaction, but also of satisfaction with individual retailers. The Index measures four high-level factors that affect overall customer satisfaction: site functionality, price, merchandise, and content.

Key findings:

The Leaders: Not much has changed at the top of the leader board. Keeping in mind that scores at or above 80 are generally considered the threshold of excellence, recorded an 86 this year, a one point increase from 2011, to stay ahead of U.S. counterpart, (up two points to 84)—a feat that helps to validate the strategy of having country-specific sites (at least for Amazon). John Lewis (80) holds steady in third this year, rounding out the list of three companies that surpass the excellence threshold of 80. (79), Apple (77), and ASDA Direct (77) also appear at the top of the Index.

The Fallers: Perennial low-scorer ryanair registers 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.

The Most Improved: This year’s largest increases went to Debenhams (up four points to 76) and B&Q’s website (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, these increases could translate to significant business value for these companies.

Mind the ‘Satisfaction’ Gap: Currently, there is a notable 25-point gap between the highest-scoring e-retailer (, 86) and the lowest (, 61), a broad range for a sophisticated industry. Moreover, average satisfaction for the top 40 e-retailers is 74, but just 11 of the measured companies surpass that average. It’s going to be much easier for companies that provide a superior customer experience to capitalize on UK customers’ increasing preference for online retail.

• Customer satisfaction matters. A highly satisfied online shopper in the UK reports being 62% more likely than a dissatisfied shopper to buy from that retailer online in the future, 58% more likely to buy from the retailer the next time they need similar merchandise (a proxy for customer loyalty), as well as being far more likely to return to the site, recommend it, and show commitment to the brand.

Comparison to Direct Competitors: All retailers in the Index are classified according to product category, which allows individual companies to check their own performance against those of companies selling the same products or services.

o Mass Merchants – For the 14 online retailers in this classification, the aggregate score was 77 this year—the same as it was in 2010 and 2011. In general, any mass merchant scoring under 77 is in danger of losing business to competitors scoring 77 or higher, though those with average scores should also be concerned. Top-scoring mass merchants include (86), (84), (80), and (79) lead this group as they do the entire index. and bottom out this group with scores of 72 apiece.

o Travel and Tourism – The nine websites included in this category recorded an average score of 71, up two points from 2011. (74) and Travel Republic (74) topped the list whilst perennial low scorer ryanair (with 61) came in last. Even the top scorers in this category underperform the average for mass merchants, which shows how much satisfaction can vary from category to category.
o Apparel and Accessories – With just four online retailers in this category, no category score was calculated (a minimum of five sites is required). However, three of the four sites scored comparably, with only slightly behind the pack.

• Satisfaction Across Channels:

o Both “pure play” and multichannel retailers have experienced growth in customer satisfaction, but only marginally. For “pure play” web retailers who by definition only sell online, customer satisfaction has risen slightly from 73 on a 100-point scale in 2011 to 74 this year. Retailers whose main sales channel is brick and mortar stores have also increased satisfaction by one point—from 72 in 2011 to 73 this year.

Larry Freed, CEO at ForeSee, 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.

“Overall customer satisfaction has increased every year we’ve reported on the top 40 UK retailers at Christmas time, but the last four years have seen increases of just one point per year on aggregate. It’s just not good enough. Any retailer registering an average or lower score is risking loyalty, recommendations, sales, and market share. By this measure, 29 of these leading UK retailers are underperforming. Whilst falling below average is definitely dangerous, it is hard to imagine that a consistently average performance is safe either, especially in an extremely competitive economy.

“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”.


About the Research

The ForeSee Online Retail Satisfaction Index (UK Christmas Edition) is based upon a customer satisfaction methodology developed at the University of Michigan. It is the only cross-industry methodology able to consistently demonstrate that organisations who more effectively satisfy customers do achieve higher financial returns. With origins in Sweden, where it was originally developed as the Swedish Barometer, this methodology has been adopted as a national measure of customer satisfaction by the United States (American Customer Satisfaction Index), the United Kingdom (National Customer Satisfaction Index UK), as well as by governments in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Mexico, Sweden, South Africa, Turkey, and elsewhere. For the past 10 years, ForeSee has been measuring online customer satisfaction for leading retail sites including Best Buy, Sears, and Target using this scientific approach. Additionally, the firm produces the annual U.S.-based Top 40 Online Retail Satisfaction Index which provides an interesting point of comparison to customer satisfaction with UK online retail.

The list of retailers was selected based on the IMRG Experian Hitwise Hot 100 Retailer list, and the survey represents nearly 10,000 customer surveys. Responses were collected via an online panel with more than 700,000 online consumers provided by Research Now from the 16th of November through the 11th of December from shoppers who had visited the top 40 retail websites this Christmas season.

The respondent group is defined as “browsers”, meaning that some respondents completed an online purchase during their site visits, whilst others did not. Browsers include existing customers, first-time visitors, infrequent visitors, competitors’ customers who may be cross-shopping, and others spending time researching purchases on a retail website, perhaps with the intent to purchase through offline channels.


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