January 26, 2010, 12:00 AM

Online shoppers had the most fun at Toys ‘R’ Us, study says

Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. provided the best experience for online shoppers, according to an analysis of 100 online merchants’ merchandising, customer service and web page operations conducted by consultants The E-Tailing Group Inc.

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Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. provided the best customer experience among top e-retailers in the fourth quarter of last year, according to an annual analysis of 100 online merchants conducted by consultants The E-Tailing Group Inc.

Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. jumped over Sears Holding Corp. to claim the top spot in the study, in which The E-tailing Group researchers shop 100 retail web sites and score merchants on more than 100 metrics split into three categories: execution of key pages, merchandising and customer service tactics.

Toys ‘R’ Us earned 86.5 points out of 100, up 17% from 74 points last year. Sears earned 86.25 points, the same as last year. The consulting firm conducts the mystery shopper survey in the fourth quarter of each year.

Last year Toys ‘R’ Us redesigned its web site, adding features such as online wish lists and information on store inventory. And, in November, the toy retailer launched a mobile commerce site and apps for the BlackBerry and iPhone.

“Toys ‘R’ Us was very diligent in its efforts to evolve its customer experience and it has been rewarded for its efforts,” says Lauren Freedman, president of the E-Tailing Group.

On average, the analysis showed retailers’ average score dropped to 68.07 points from 68.44 points last year.

By category, mass merchants maintained the highest scores in the index, 79.5 points, up from 78 points last year. Drugstores remain the lowest-scoring category, earning 60.33 points, up from 59.56 points last year.

The accessories and shoes category showed the most significant improvement over last year, up 7%, driven largely by online shoe retailer Zappos.com Inc., which earned 79.5 points in this year’s index, up 29% from 61.75 points last year.

Department stores experienced the largest percentage decline, 5%, to 65.45 points from 69.05 points last year. That comes on top of a 7% decline in last year’s index. “Merchandising multiple categories and the challenges being faced on the bricks-and-mortar side are certainly contributing,” Freedman says.

Though each category might face specific challenges, many online merchants can improve in at least one area, Freedman says. “Customer service still holds many opportunities to improve, particularly relative to product knowledge,” she says.

Aside from Toys ‘R’ Us and Sears, the other retailers in the top five in the study are:

  • Amazon.com, which earned 85.5 points, up 6% from 80.5 points last year.
  • HSN Inc., 81 points, up 5% from 77.5 points.
  • Target Corp., 80 points, up 2% from 78.75 points.

 

Freedman will be speaking at the Internet Retailer Web Design and Usability Conference, Feb. 15-17 in Orlando, FL, in a session entitled Lessons from Holiday 2009.

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