February 14, 2013, 3:02 PM

Williams-Sonoma scores highest in an online shopping review

The E-tailing Group study ranked office products tops among categories.

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Cookware and home furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. scored 83.50 out of 100 points to take the top spot in a measure of online shopping experiences, according to the 15th Annual Mystery Shopping Study released this week by research and advisory firm The E-tailing Group Inc.

The study, which reviewed 100 e-retailers during the fourth quarter of 2012, scores merchants for the quality of online shopping as experienced through features including merchandising, site search, shopping carts, customer service, order confirmations, and length of time to receive ordered products.

The study lists nine retailers that scored 80 or above. Following is a list of those retailers with their Mystery Shopping score and their ranks in the Internet Retailer Top 500:

• Williams-Sonoma, 83.50, 24

• Nordstrom Inc., 82.50, 31

• Amazon.com Inc., 81.50, 1

• Toys ‘R’ Us Inc., 81.50, 29

• Office Depot Inc., 81.25, 6

• The Orvis Co. Inc., 81.00, 146

• REI, 81.00, 64

• Staples Inc., 80.75, 2

• Barnes & Noble Inc., 80.25, 32

The study also rated the 13 retail categories represented by the reviewed retailers, naming office supplies as the top performing category  with a score of 81.00 out of 100, up 5.5% from its year-earlier score of 76.75.

Following is a list of the 13 categories with their number of reviewed retailers in parentheses, followed by their current score and the year-ago score.

• Office Supplies (2), 81.00, 76.75

• Mass Merchants (8), 76.03, 81.81

• Sporting Goods (10), 73.50, 70.68

• Department Stores (7), 70.39, 70.08

• Drugstore/Health & Beauty (7), 70.32, 72.50

• Pets (2), 69.88, 80.63

• Home/Garden (13), 69.25, 73.42

• Technology (8), 68.53, 72.25

• Baby/Toys/Games (5), 68.30, 74.30

• Food/Gifting (8), 68.19 63.56

• Books/Music/Media (4), 67.50, 68.38

• Accessories/Shoes (11), 66.11, 66.78

• Apparel (15), 64.40, 66.78

The names of all of the retailers in the study were not available, nor were specific details about why individual retailers scored high.

Lauren Freedman, president of the E-tailing Group, said there were several  reasons why some retailers scored better than others. One measure that affected many scores was how comprehensive the information and shopping features were on key pages, such as home pages and category pages. Customer service also played an important role, with several retailers failing to quickly answer questions posed by Mystery Shopping researchers, causing some low scores, Friedman says. In addition, “unsophisticated” site search also caused some low scores that that didn’t let shoppers refine and sort their results also caused some low scores.

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