Online Retailers Feeling the Winter Blues

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Winter blues for online retailers
Winter blues for online retailers

Consumers may be purchasing more online, but they're not necessarily thrilled with the online purchase experience. For example, increased demand caused huge spikes in online retail during the crunch of last year's holiday season. However, the service challenges posed by that crunch resulted in a 5% drop in customer satisfaction ratings, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

Using data from interviews with roughly 70,000 customers, ACSI compiles annual reports on international customer satisfaction with hundreds of companies in dozens of industries. 

Customer satisfaction with online retail overall fell to 78 out of a possible 100 in the ACSI customer satisfaction index, the lowest ACSI benchmark for the sector since 2001. This decline stems more from dissatisfaction with smaller sites, including those of brick-and-mortar retailers, than pure players such as Amazon.

In fact, Amazon topped the category with a score of 88, a 4% increase over 2012. Computer and electronics e-tailer Newegg came second at 83, while eBay dropped 4% to 80. Overstock took up the rear of the large e-commerce pure plays at 79, a 2% drop.

 “Historically, the online experience remains significantly more satisfying for those that use it,” says David VanAmburg, Managing Director for ACSI. “We don't anticipate a downward trend here.”

Certainly, much of the recent dissatisfaction with online retailers stems from delivery issues around the 2013 holiday season. “A spate of last-minute holiday purchases online, combined with inclement weather, left some buyers disgruntled by delayed shipments,” Claes Fornell, ACSI Chairman and founder, said in a statement.

Despite consumer misgivings about online this season, shoppers still found the online checkout and payment process vastly superior to that experiences offline. The online payment process scored 90 of 100 compared to 72 for department and discount stores such as Macy's or Walmart, and 77 for specialty retailers such as Nordstrom.

Overall, satisfaction with retail reached an ACSI benchmark of 77.9 out of 100, a 1.7% gain over 2012. This marks the third consecutive year of consumer satisfaction gains, driven mostly by drug stores, gasoline service stations, physical retail stores, and supermarkets. In particular, specialty retail jumped nearly 3% to 80, three points more than department and discount stores, which remained flat at 77.

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