November 30, 2012, 12:00 AM

Going the extra mile

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Take, for instance, apparel e-retailer Its take on social interactions with customers provides the site feedback on exactly what consumers want. On any given day, consumers can vote "pick it" or "skip it" on 20 dresses the e-retailer is considering selling. They can also add commentary to their vote and share it on social networks or by e-mail with their friends. If picks outweigh skips, ModCloth adds the item to its lineup and voters can buy the product they championed.

Adding personality to the process, a customer can include a picture of herself wearing a dress she bought on the site as part of her product review; she's also encouraged to submit her body measurements so other consumers can understand how it might fit them too. That level of involvement takes the anonymity out of product reviews and tells other customers that she is providing an opinion of a product she's actually tried.

Electronics e-retailer, on the other hand, prominently displays on the top of each site page exactly how many Crutchfield customer service reps are available to immediately help consumers. If a consumer calls the toll-free number—also prominently displayed on each page—or engages in a live chat, the rep asks him for his Connect ID number, which appears at the bottom of each page. Providing that number lets the rep send pages to the customer's computer and add items to his cart. Customer service by phone and live chat isn't new, but the encouragements to engage with customer service reps and their ability to deliver expert advice right to a customer's screen takes service to new levels.

The profiles that follow reveal more ways e-retailers are exceeding e-commerce standards, and how they are coming up with their own innovations that help them deliver the value consumers want—and expect—in their online shopping interactions.


Compuware Gomez performance testing methodology

Web site measurements were taken once per hour from 12 U.S. data centers (12 measurements per hour). IPhone measurements for mobile sites were taken on the following carriers: AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless from three different locations (one measurement from each carrier per hour per location), nine measurements per hour. Compuware conducted the tests from Oct. 7 to Oct. 21. The Hot 100 and Mobile Top 10 listings display the following metrics:

Response time measures the time elapsed while downloading the home page.

Availability measures the percentage of successfully completed tests out of total test attempts for the measurement period.

Satisfaction assumes consumers expect web pages to load in 2 seconds or less, but may tolerate load times as high as 8 seconds. Gomez breaks down all tests of a given site into load times of less than 2 seconds, 2 to 8 seconds and more than 8 seconds. A rating, ranging from unacceptable to excellent, is derived from a score that gives full credit to sub-2 second tests and half credit to tests in the 2 to 8 second range.

Profiles of the Hot 100 e-retailers and Mobile Top 10 were written by Internet Retailer editors Bill Briggs, Mark Brohan, Don Davis, Katie Deatsch, Paul Demery, Sylvia De Oliveira, Amy Dusto, Allison Enright, Jonathan Love, Stefany Moore, Thad Rueter, Bill Siwicki, Zak Stambor, and Kevin Woodward.

To Order the Entire December 2012 Hot 100 Issue: Click Here

To View a Sample Profile Page: Click Here

To View the Entire List: Click Here

Comments | 2 Responses

  • I'm surprised that so many of the so-called Hot 100 have satisfaction ratings of Poor or Unacceptable. Shouldn't that be taken into consideration when evaluating a website? It could be the most fantastic looking site in the world, but if customers aren't satisfied with its performance, I don't think it should be considered as a site to be emulated.

  • Janet, thanks for your insightful comment. There’s no perfect way to ascertain whether consumers will be satisfied with how fast a web page loads. For the Hot 100 issue we chose to highlight a site performance rating based on the Gomez Performance Satisfaction Index. The GPSI is calculated by comparing the ratio of “satisfied tests” (those with a response times of 2 seconds or less) to half the “tolerating tests” (response times of 2 to 8 seconds) divided by the total of all tests. Those standards are based on the Application Performance Index, which is a standardized method to report, benchmark, and track application performance that finds that consumers expect sites to load in 2 seconds or less. However, the dangers of applying that standard is that a site that consistently loads in 2.01 to 2.50 seconds will be deemed “poor” while a site that regularly loads in 1.5 seconds to 1.99 seconds will be categorized as “excellent.” That’s why, to give readers a full gauge of how the sites performed, we also included the site’s availability and response time in the magazine.

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