January 26, 2011, 3:15 PM

Orvis reels in the top spot in an annual e-commerce shopping survey

The retailer increases its E-tailing Group score 18.5% from a year ago.

Lead Photo

Lauren Freedman

The Orvis Co. Inc. had the highest score in the e-Tailing Group’s new Mystery Shopping study from The E-tailing Group. The report is due to be released next month. The research and consulting firm shopped 100 e-retail sites and assigned performance scores on a 100-point scale based on several criteria.

Orvis, a retailer of fishing and outdoor gear and apparel, raised the bar for consumers’ shopping experience by posting the highest score, 88.0, an 18.5% jump from its score a year earlier. That’s 14.1% more than the 77.1 point average for Orvis’ category, sporting goods.

Orvis moved up by bolstering its search functionality, adding recently viewed items and offering Internet-only specials, says Lauren Freedman, e-Tailing Group president.

Orvis, No. 124 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, wasn’t the only sporting goods merchant improving its performance, as the average for the category rose 15.7%. The department store category also posted gains, increasing 14.2%.

The consultancy bases its scores on criteria that include keyword search capabilities on site, delivery times, customer service responsiveness to e-mail inquiries and how easy it is for consumers to find toll-free customer service numbers on home pages. The research group also evaluated the product knowledge of customer service agents, the number of clicks it takes to get to checkout, shipping and order confirmation e-mails and real-time inventory availability.

The scoring system changed this year from previous surveys because the e-Tailing Group eliminated a number of “gimmes,” or things that every site should have—such as descriptive phrase search—and replacing them with capabilities in mobile and social media, says Freedman.

The average score across the sites in the fourth quarter was 68.7, up slightly from 68.1 a year earlier. The consultancy considers sites that score between 50 and 59 as needing improvement, 60-69 as average, 70-75 as good, 76-80 as very good and above 80 as excellent.

“The guys who are good are good across the board and stay consistent,” says Freedman. “Retailers have to stay on top of what is new while also adhering to the standards the customer expects.”

Here are the top 10 sites, with the scores from this year’s survey and the 2009 report:

• Orvis, 88.0, 74.25

• Sears, 84.8, 86.3

•Golfsmith, 83.0, 73.5

•HSN, 82.8, 81.0

• L.L. Bean, 82.0, 79.3

• Abt, 81.8, NA

• Crutchfield, 81.0, 79.8

• Target, 80.8, 80.0

• REI, 80.5, 76.3

• Best Buy, 80.3, 79.3

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