May 31, 2011, 5:46 PM

Need to Please

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Category Findings

  • Apparel and Accessories: The aggregate satisfaction score for the apparel and accessories sites was 76, down one point from last year. Scores ranged from 70 to 81, and the only two retailers to score 80 or above were L.L. Bean (81) and Coldwater Creek (80). This is the largest category, with 22 sites.
  • Books/Music/Video: The five e-retailers in this category had an aggregate score of 79, with individual scores of 70 to 85. Three of the five retailers scored 80 or higher: Amazon (85), Scholastic (81) and (80).
  • Computers and Electronics: The 11 computers and electronics retailers had an average score of 78, with a range of 75 to 83. Four web sites scored at least 80, including Newegg (83), TigerDirect (81), Apple (80) and Best Buy (80).
  • Food and Drug: 11 food and drug e-retailers averaged a score of 78. Swiss Colony, Keurig and Weight Watchers all tied at the top with 81.
  • Hardware/Home Improvement: There are only four e-retailers in this category and none scored more than 80. Individual scores ranged from 76 to 79.
  • Health & Beauty: The four health and beauty sites ranged in scores from 78 to 84, with two more than 80: Avon (84) and Vitacost (81).
  • Housewares/Home Furnishings: There are only three e-retailers in this category and their scores ranged from 77 to 80.
  • Mass Merchants: Another large and well-performing category: 16 sites had average satisfaction of 79, up one point to its highest level ever. Six scored 80 or more: Amazon (86), QVC (84), HSN (82), Costco (80), J.C. Penney (80) and Kohl's (80).
  • Specialty/Non-Apparel: This category had the highest average score (80), and four of six sites scored 80 or more: Shutterfly (82), Vistaprint (81), Musician's Friend (81) and Oriental Trading (80).
  • Sporting Goods: The four retailers in this category all had high scores, ranging from 79 to 82. Two scored more than 80: BassPro (82) and Cabela's (81).

Purchase Intent

The ACSI methodology helps us calculate a purchase intent score that quantifies the likelihood of site visitors buying from a retailer through any channel, including web, store, catalog and call center.

Based on likelihood scores, when compared with less satisfied web site visitors (those with satisfaction scores 69 and under), highly satisfied web site visitors (those with satisfaction scores of 80 and higher) say they are 68% more likely to purchase online, 46% more likely to purchase offline and 61% more likely to purchase from that retailer the next time they're in the market for a similar product.

Purchase intent is calculated based on a site visitor's likelihood to purchase online or offline and shows which web sites have a greater impact on a visitor's likelihood to purchase from any channel.

  • Amazon has a purchase intent score of 93 (the highest recorded this year); Barnes & Noble scored 87 and 80.
  • Nike has a purchase intent score of 83; Foot Locker scored 78.
  • Netflix has a score of 85; Blockbuster's is only 78.
  • Weight Watchers has a higher score than Nutrisystem (75 vs. 70).
  • Apple (86) has a higher purchase intent score than either Dell or HP (both 82).

Multichannel Value

The web site plays a large role in the multichannel sales process. Consumers use the web to price shop, research products, compare products from one retailer to another and more, all in preparation for either an online or offline purchase.

The Multichannel Value Index, or MCVI, shows whether a retailer is getting the maximum value from its web site to support the multichannel sales process, or whether money is being left on the table. By comparing its Multichannel Value score to other high-volume online retailers, a multichannel retailer can determine how effectively its web site will help to drive overall sales compared with the competition. In this way, the MCVI is a valuable benchmark.

A variety of factors go into calculating the Multichannel Value Index, which, like satisfaction and purchase intent, is shown on a 100-point scale. The MCVI is a correlation between two key metrics: visitors' online customer satisfaction and purchase intent.

Since customer satisfaction drives and predicts purchase intent, looking at both scores in relation to each other reveals how a web site is supporting a company's overall goals.

  • If both the online satisfaction score and the purchase intent score are above average, it means the company is doing a good job leveraging the web site to increase sales across channels. All of the multichannel web sites with the highest satisfaction (Avon, Apple, L.L.Bean, QVC, etc.) also have very high purchase intent scores.
  • High online satisfaction with low or average purchase intent is an indication that an e-retailer is not quite meeting customers' needs in a way that translates to purchases, whether it's because of weak competitive positioning or not enough of a call to action on the site. E-retailers in this position (including Weight Watchers for the second year in row) need to determine which changes to which specific web site elements will increase purchase intent, a statistical process than can be accomplished through voice-of-customer feedback.
  • E-retailers with low or average satisfaction but high purchase intent are leaving money on the table in terms of growth. E-retailers in this position (such as AAFES, J. Crew and Lowe's) often have a strong multichannel presence and brand, and those factors drive sales more than the web site itself. Since satisfaction drives future purchase intent, loyalty and a host of other behaviors with a direct impact on the bottom line, e-retailers in this category would be well served to evaluate how to make the web site contribute more tangibly to sales, both offline and online.
  • E-retailers with lower than average online satisfaction and lower than average purchase intent should sit up and take notice. In this kind of competitive environment, no one can afford to be in this position for very long. Retailers in this position include Rue La La, Spiegel, Nutrisystem, and PC Mall.

The top 100 retailers, in general, are doing very well. And while this is great news for the Top 100 (or at least for those who do well), it does pose a challenge for all the other retailers in America. The biggest retailers already have the advantage of bigger marketing and advertising budgets. If their customers are also more satisfied, then it means they are creating loyalty, retention and great word of mouth—and ensuring future sales.

But customer satisfaction is the most important competitive advantage, and it is one that retailers of any size can harness—especially online—to become or remain successful. Satisfy your customers and shoppers, and they will buy more from you across all channels.

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