Online stores scored record sales this holiday season, but it's not just low prices and a tentatively improving economy that may have brought in the buyers.
Though customer satisfaction with the top 40 online retailers dipped 1 percent this year, scoring 78 out of 100, that number still proved much higher than in prior years, according to survey results released yesterday by ForeSee Results.
Among the online businesses tracked in ForeSee's E-Retail Satisfaction Index (U.S. Holiday Edition), Amazon, Netflix, QVC.com, Avon.com, LLBean.com, Newegg.com, and Apple.com were highest in customer satisfaction, each scoring 82 or more. Some computer and electronics retailers and mass merchants saw lower scores from 2009, contributing to the 1 percent overall drop. But a dozen sites altogether took home scores of 80 or higher.
What creates customer satisifaction with a retailer's Web site? ForeSee based its analysis on four factors: price (the fairness and competitiveness of overall prices); merchandise (the variety and availability of items on the site); Web site functionality (the ease of use of the site itself); and content (the quality and accuracy of the information on the site).
Customer satisfaction has a big influence on the success of a Web site, according to ForeSee. Visitors who said they were highly satifisfied with a site were found to be 60 percent more committed to the company's brand, 61 percent more likely to buy from the company online, 35 percent more likely to buy from it offline, and 64 percent more likely to recommend that retailer.
"In a recovering economy, a lot of us assume that declining satisfaction is a result of frustration with prices. Our research shows that is not always the case, and that it varies drastically from company to company," ForeSee President and CEO Larry Freed said in a statement. "Retailers are slashing prices this time of year to attract customers, and not all of them need to be doing that."
ForeSee's report was based on a survey conducted from November 29 through December 15 of almost 10,000 visitors to the top 40 online retail Web sites based on sales revenue. The study tracked overall satisfaction with a site regardless of whether those surveyed actually bought an item online.
Christmas week spending: $2.45 billion
Overall, online retailers have enjoyed much happier holidays this year, according to new stats out yesterday from ComScore.
For the first 56 days of the November-December season, cybershoppers spent $30.81 billion, a 13 percent jump over the corresponding period in 2009. The week ending December 26 alone saw $2.45 billion in spending, a gain of 17 percent from last year. Driven by demand for iPads, e-readers, and laptops, computer hardware was the hottest holiday item, with a 23 percent rise in sales from last year, reported ComScore.
"Online holiday spending has remained strong through Christmas and we've already seen the season totals easily surpass the levels of the past few years to set a new record for spending at almost $31 billion," ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement. "For at least this holiday season, the American consumer has been able to shrug off the continuing economic challenges of high unemployment rates and depressed housing prices and spend at a rate that has been slightly stronger than we had expected."