Internet-retail giant Amazon remains at the head of the class, according to the annual Holiday E-Retail Satisfaction Index released today by customer experience analytics firm ForeSee. The eighth annual report—based on more than 24,000 customer surveys collected during the prime holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas—expands from measuring satisfaction with 40 top retailers to 100 this year. Aggregate customer satisfaction stagnates, scoring 78 on a 100-point scale. Though satisfaction with top retailers remains the same, a few big-name retailers suffered declines. Apple’s online retail store slides four percent to 80, slipping from a tie for second place and out of the top five entirely, registering its lowest score in four years. PC competitor Dell.com also falls four percent to 77 and below the Index average. But the biggest year-over-year decline goes to JCPenney.com, with a six percent decline to 78.

“This year, we’re seeing that even some of the largest companies in the country are at risk if they lose sight of customer satisfaction,” said Larry Freed, ForeSee president and CEO, in the press release. “Satisfaction with the customer experience, when measured correctly, is the most important predictor of future success, and while Amazon clearly gets it, Apple stumbles from their usual focus on the customer experience. Dell and JC Penney seem to be struggling to find their way, which could make them extremely vulnerable to competitors.”

Foresee  Holiday E-Retail Satisfaction Index

 
Meanwhile, Amazon.com continues to set the standard for customer satisfaction, matching the record high of 88 it set last year in the holiday edition of the Index. Amazon has had the highest scores in the Index for eight years in a row, consistently setting a pace that other retailers don’t seem to be able to touch. Their high score is partially because of the appeal and variety of merchandise they offer, a priority area for some other retailers.

“At this point, Amazon has been dominant for so long and has such a history of focusing on the customer, its hard to imagine anyone else coming close,” added Freed. “Companies should emulate Amazon’s focus on the customer, which is clearly linked to superior revenues over the years.”

The range of scores among the top 100 retailers spans from Amazon’s high of 88 to a score of 72 shared by Gilt.com and Fingerhut.com.

The report includes individual satisfaction scores for 95 of the 100 top e-retailers (see link below). In addition to the previous points about individual company performance, other key findings include:

Merchandise is a top priority for two-thirds of retailers: Customer experience analytics can provide retailers with a clear direction on prioritizing improvements that will have the greatest return on investment. While many retailers are focused on price, only seven of the top 100 companies registered price as a high priority for improvement. However, 65 of the measured sites should improve merchandise (the appeal, variety, and availability of products) in order to increase overall satisfaction, and by extension, sales, loyalty and customer recommendations.

Customer satisfaction matters: Compared to shoppers who report being dissatisfied with a website, highly satisfied shoppers say they are 67% more likely to consider the company the next time they purchase a similar product. Satisfied shoppers also report being far more likely to return to the site, recommend it and stay loyal to the brand. Furthermore, analysis of top e-retailers in the United States has shown that, on average, a one-point change in website satisfaction was found to predict a 14% change in the log of revenues generated on the web.

See the full table of scores here.

Source: ForeSee

MacDailyNews Take: No cause for alarm. Apple Store Online is simply returning to “normal” after a spring 2012 anomaly. See related article below. Also, Apple had an score of 80 last year, so how can this be “its lowest score in four years?”

Related article:
Apple notches biggest jump in customer satisfaction among top 100 online retailers – May 9, 2012