February 26, 2013, 8:27 AM

E-retailers beat stores in customer satisfaction

Amazon satisfies the most, according to a new survey.

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Online retailers provide a higher level of customer satisfaction to U.S. consumers than do bricks-and-mortar merchants, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s annual e-commerce report, produced with customer satisfaction measurement firm ForeSee. In the report, e-retailers, in total, scored 82 out of 100 in customer satisfaction surveys conducted in 2012, up slightly from 81 out of 100 in 2011—and above the 76.6 achieved in 2012 by physical stores.

The index measures satisfaction for five major e-commerce operators—Amazon.com Inc., Newegg Inc., eBay Inc., Overstock.com Inc. and Netflix Inc.—via via 1,500 consumer surveys done online or by phone, says the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which often goes by the acronym ACSI. When respondents report that they’ve shopped on the e-commerce site of any retailer not among those five, ACSI combines their responses into an “other retailers” category, in order to give a representation of the broader industry. ACSI began releasing the annual reports in 2000.

“Consumers enjoy the convenience and power of e-commerce and online transactions,” says Claes Fornell, ACSI’s founder. “E-commerce is maturing, and even the smaller companies are improving, keeping up with or sometimes surpassing larger, more established companies.”

Amazon.com Inc. took the top satisfaction score among e-retailers, a lead it has held since 2010. The e-retailer, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, scored 85 out of 100 in 2012, down a point from 86 out of 100 last year, the report says. However, Amazon’s competitors have improved. That includes eBay Inc., which moved up two points this year to 83 from 81 last year. The “other retailers” group, which includes multichannel retailers  Best Buy Co., Macy’s Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., was also up two points from 80 to 82, ForeSee says.

“Major brick-and-mortar retailers are not conceding the Internet to online natives such as Amazon,” says Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee. “They are investing heavy resources in providing a better experience for their customers, providing more evidence that competition is good for the consumer.” For example, Best Buy has begun to match web  prices in stores, Macy’s has hired a new executive in charge of coordinating initiatives across selling channels and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. now allows shoppers check themselves out in many stores using its iPhone app.

The other e-retailers in the index, with their scores out of 100 in 2012 and 2011:

  • Newegg Inc., 84, 85
  • Overstock.com Inc., 81, 83
  • Netflix Inc., 75, 74

Netflix last year dropped sharply in the index, to 74 from 86, making its gains this year modest in comparison with its former position. The plunge came after Netflix briefly changed its pricing scheme and attempted to separate its DVD borrowing service from that of its streaming content business, Freed says. Competition for the same customers from larger companies offering streaming media, like Amazon, plus up-and-comers, like Hulu, is driving Netflix to invest in producing its own original content, he says. But “it remains to be seen if these moves will be enough to return Netflix to the top of the online retail world,” he says.

Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; Netflix, No. 9; Best Buy, No. 11; Macy’s, No. 14; Walmart.com, No. 4; Newegg, No. 13, and Overstock.com, No. 27.

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