November 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Retailers score higher customer satisfaction and sales at start of holidays

Customer satisfaction in e-retailing on Monday rose 1.3% from a year ago as retailers were better prepared to handle high traffic volume, researcher ForeSee Results reports. Online shopping traffic rose 26% year-to-year on Monday, according to Hitwise.

 

Customer satisfaction in online retailing reached a score of 76.6 on a 100-point scale on Monday, up 1.3% from a year ago, researchers ForeSee Results reports. It says retailers were better prepared this year to handle high traffic volumes that, according to research firm Hitwise, rose 26% year-to-year on Monday. A recent survey conducted by BIGresearch for Shop.org, the online unit of the National Retail Federation, found that 72 million had planned to shop online on Monday.

“The increase in customer satisfaction year-over-year on Cyber Monday bodes well both for sales during the holiday season and during the rest of the year, because satisfaction is a proven predictor of sales, financial performance, and word of mouth recommendations,” says ForeSee Results president and CEO Larry Freed. “Online retailers seem to be figuring out how to maximize the value of the increased traffic they see during the holidays, starting with Cyber Monday.”

Online retailers received customer satisfaction scores for areas such as site functionality and performance that were higher on Monday than on the same day in previous years, Freed says. Also adding to customer satisfaction levels on Monday were an increase in popular promotions like free-shipping and two-day sales and an enhanced ability to shop across multiple retail channels, ForeSee says.

“In past years, we’ve seen a much less integrated multi-channel strategy; shoppers were likely to either buy online or offline, but not both,” Freed says. “This year, we see that retailers have figured out a way to use the online visit to drive sales both online and offline, which really maximizes the value of the web site for a multi-channel retailer.”

The overall improvement in customer satisfaction also resulted in a smaller than usual dip in satisfaction levels on the Monday after Thanksgiving compared to earlier in November. In prior years, customer satisfaction levels in November have routinely declined slightly on “Cyber Monday,” primarily because of the unusual strain from the high volume on e-commerce platforms and a higher than usual percentage of first-time and infrequent customers unaccustomed to shopping online, ForeSee says.

ForeSee based its study on data collected from 38,000 online visitors to more than 40 retail sites between Friday, Nov. 23, and Monday, Nov. 26. Among the retailers were Best Buy, Cabela’s, Helzberg Diamonds, Toys ‘R’ Us and Bed, Bath & Beyond. ForeSee conducts its surveys using the methodology of the University of Michigan’s American Satisfaction Index.

In other news on Monday’s e-commerce sales, comparison shopping site PriceGrabber.com reported that traffic to the site increased 56% on Monday over the same day a year ago and that it referred more than 1 million shoppers to merchants. From Friday through Monday, traffic was up 46% year over year. On Nov. 26, PriceGrabber.com`s peak hour of traffic was at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Traffic was consistently high throughout the work day and continued into the evening hours on the West Coast, PriceGrabber reports.

Bazaarvoice, which hosts ratings and reviews for retailer web sites, says it served up 71 million of those ratings and reviews Monday, up 370% from the Monday after Thanksgiving last year. For the week of Nov. 19-26, the peak came on Thanksgiving evening when Bazaarvoice says it was serving more than 1,400 ratings and reviews per second.

The strong performance on Monday, however, doesn’t mean retailers will necessarily have a strong holiday shopping season, cautions Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org. “The holiday season is off to a strong start, but the challenge for online retailers now becomes finding ways to keep Cyber Monday shoppers coming back all holiday season long.”

 

 

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