The Gap-owned apparel chain had the industry’s highest index score in Forrester’s Q4 2013 Customer Experience Online Survey. Kohl’s, Amazon, Costco and Macy’s followed close behind. Aveda took the top spot in a separate report on online customer service.
Amy Dusto , Associate Editor
Online consumers rate Gap Inc. Direct’s Old Navy apparel brand the highest in customer satisfaction, based on how enjoyable it is to shop at the merchant, how easy it is to shop and how well it meets shoppers’ needs, according to Forrester Research Inc.’s Q4 2013 Customer Experience Index. Weighing each of those factors, Old Navy came out with a final index score of 90 out of 100. Retailers on average scored 83.
In a separate study, Aveda, a cosmetics brand of The Estee Lauder Cos. Inc., claimed top marks with five other retailers for online customer service.
Forrester surveyed online 7,538 U.S. consumers about their interactions with brands across 14 industries in the fourth quarter of 2013. The index includes 27 retailers.
Closely behind Old Navy were Kohl’s Corp., with a score of 89; Amazon.com Inc., 88; Costco Wholesale Corp., 87; Macy’s Inc., 87; J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 86; Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Sam’s Club, 86; Target Corp., 86; and TJ Maxx, 86. Forrester considers any score above 85 to be “excellent.” Megan Burns, the study’s lead author and vice principal and analyst at Forrester, adds that the statistical differences between the excellent-ranked retailers are small.
In the breakdown of traits by which consumers scored retailers in the index, merchants ranking excellent overall tend to score highest, by several points, in the ease-of-shopping category, Burns says. For most companies in the index, she says the overall pattern is to rank highest on meeting customers’ needs—for instance, by offering the products they seek—than ease-of-shopping—or the ease of browsing and going through checkout. Shoppers typically give the lowest marks on enjoyment—a customer’s own subjective measure of how much she liked shopping with a retailer.
Burns notes that Amazon, Kohl’s and Costco have been included in the excellent category for the last three years. Amazon has long been known for its prowess in meeting customers’ needs and making shopping easy, she says. Costco, meanwhile, came in No. 1 among all retailers in the index’s inaugural edition in 2007. “At the time, Costco scored higher than many would have expected,” she says. “But it’s a measure of the customer’s perception of the experience—if it matches what they’re looking for and is consistent, they probably like it.”
The biggest year-over-year gains in the index went to Macy’s Inc., which added 11 points since the 2012 survey, Burns says. While she has yet to do a full analysis on why that may be, she speculates based on retail trends that Macy’s has stepped up its use of digital and web technologies to make shopping easier. According to data from Top500Guide.com, Macy’s offers express checkout, live chat, in-store returns and shipment tracking on its e-commerce site.
Meanwhile, a separate online customer service benchmark, the 16th Annual Mystery Shopping Study by e-commerce consultancy The E-tailing Group Inc., reports the following six retailers and brands as the best at providing customer service in Q4 2013: The Estee Lauder Cos. Inc.’s Aveda, Golfsmith International Holdings Inc., L.L. Bean Inc., Recreational Equipment Inc., Luxottica Group S.p.A.’s Sunglass Hut and Amazon.com Inc.’s Zappos.
The E-tailing Group’s Mystery Shopping Study analyzes 100 retailers’ web sites and ranks them on eight criteria including the quality and response times of their customer service phone calls and e-mails, the number of clicks required to complete checkout and delivery times.
The top six retailers scored well in all categories, with L.L. Bean and Zappos notably tracking e-mail response times in less than one hour (16 minutes and 48 minutes, respectively).
“Retailers must make accessible every means of connecting with their customers, curating comprehensive information and simultaneously providing a streamlined cart that is efficient and effortless for shoppers, giving them confidence to buy,” says Lauren Freedman, president of The E-tailing Group. “Communication should be timely and thorough in order to foster purchasing and meet shopper needs, ensuring that both those who seek self-service and others who prefer assistance are served well.”
Among all retailers in the study, the firm reveals:
Gap is No. 19 in the 2013 Top 500 Guide; Kohl’s is No. 26; Amazon, No. 1; Costco, No. 16; Macy’s, No. 12; J.C. Penney, No. 34; Walmart.com, parent company of Sam’s Club, No. 4; Target, No. 18; Estee Lauder, No. 59; Golfsmith, No. 222; L.L. Bean, No. 29; REI, No. 67; and Luxottica, No. 136.