August 7, 2002, 12:00 AM

E-retailing fails to live up to insiders’ expectations, says a new survey

Online retailers rank their satisfaction with e-retailing sites significantly lower than consumers do, says the E-Retailing Insiders survey by ForeSee Results and Internet Retailer. The low rankings lay the groundwork for big improvements.

Online retailers don’t have a very high opinion of e-retailing sites--and that’s a good thing, say the results of a survey of online retailers sponsored by ForeSee Results Inc. and Internet Retailer. Online retailers gave e-retail sites a ranking of only 58 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index, well below consumers’ ranking of their online experiences at 77. “The scores were incredibly low compared to what we see elsewhere in retail,” Larry Freed, president of ForeSee Results, said in an interview before reporting the results of the survey today at the eTail conference in Boston. “Very few e-retailing insiders felt there were world-class retail sites out there.”

The average satisfaction rating using the American Customer Satisfaction Index for all customer experiences is 73. The average for offline retail experiences is 75.

Only 25% of survey respondents say that e-retail sites are meeting their own expectations and a meager 13.6% say that e-retail sites compare favorably to their ideal of a web site. 84% believe that less than 25% of sites are world class.

The results are based on the American Customer Satisfaction Index, developed in 1994 as a uniform, national, cross-industry measure of satisfaction with the quality of goods and services available in the United States. It seeks to link customer satisfaction to future consumer behavior and economic returns.

The fact that so many e-retailing insiders believe that most sites fall short is a good sign because it acknowledges that the industry must improve before online retailing will become an integral part of the shopping experience, Freed says. “Retailers know that as an industry they are doing terribly, so they’re looking in the mirror, realizing how important customer satisfaction is and asking how they can manage customer satisfaction at their own sites,” Freed says.

The areas of online shopping that e-retailers think are performing the best are security, which rated a score of 70, the order process, with a score of 68, site functionality, with a 65, and content, 64. At the bottom of e-retailing insiders’ satisfaction lists were returns, which earned a score of 51, site navigation, 54, and account set-up, 55.

In spite of their low levels of satisfaction, e-retail managers and executives are much more likely to shop online than consumers in general. Nearly 60% of respondents report that they do more than 10% of their shopping online and 12% of those report they do more than 50% of their shopping online.

Participants in the survey will receive detailed results. Others may request an executive summary through

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