The newly released American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) provides fresh data illustrating consumers’ growing love affair with e-commerce. The e-commerce industry registered a score of 80 on ACSI’s 100-point scale — less than a percentage point away from its all-time high score of 80.8 in 2003, according to the index, which was released by the University of Michigan and ForeSee Results.
Customer satisfaction in the e-commerce sector continues to outpace most other sectors; it exceeds the national ACSI aggregate score of 74.9 by 7 percent.
Still on Top
The consumer favorites of the last five or so years — BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com, for example, or certain categories such as finance — still remain at the top of most online shoppers’ destination sites, the survey showed.
Online retailers have all but closed the gap between the offline and online shopping experiences for customers — a key goal of retailers over the past decade, noted Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results.
“Now you can get better information about a product, about its availability online than you can get in a store,” he told CRM Buyer. Last year, for instance, retailers embraced the use of customer-generated reviews to provide shopping guidance, Freed noted.
The customer reviews, in fact, are indicative of a larger trend behind ACSI’s latest figures: Even as perennial favorite sites and categories remain on the top of the list, they are constantly fine-tuning strategies.
Otherwise, it would be very surprising that Amazon and others remained so popular, given that so many other entrants have developed similar services and portals, Freed commented.
The Need to Evolve
“The Internet is a hyper-competitive environment and companies need to evolve and adapt quickly to customer needs and expectations or risk losing them,” he continued.
The one e-commerce category that did slip was online travel, Freed noted. In aggregate, the category is down 1.3 percent to 76. Expedia (78) and Travelocity (74) both dropped 1.3 percent, while Orbitz registers the only gain (plus 1.4 to 75). These “big three” major travel sites are still tightly grouped as they continue to struggle to differentiate themselves.
The main problem of the “big three” is that they failed to differentiate themselves as competition from hotels, airlines and travel search engines began to poach on their early market share.
“The travel aggregator business model will have to adapt, or these companies will be eclipsed by the providers — companies that are ultimately accountable for service delivery,” Freed said.
Satisfaction Is Up
There was an increase in satisfaction with the e-retail industry, which climbed 2.5 percent to 83, led by BarnesandNoble.com’s score of 88, a one percentage point increase, according to the study. Amazon.com remained at 87, continuing as one of the most satisfying companies in the ACSI. Aggregate satisfaction for the e-retail industry (83) outshone the offline retail sector (74.4) by 11.6 percent.
The aggregate customer satisfaction score for online auction remains at 78 for a second year with industry juggernaut eBay maintaining its leadership position despite a 1 percent drop to 80.
eBay should worry that is behind Amazon, Freed warned.
“The lines between auction sites and retail sites get more blurred every year, and eBay will need to innovate if it wants to keep satisfying customers,” he stated.
Customer satisfaction with online financial services rose to a new high, jumping 2.6 percent to 78. CharlesSchwab.com reaped the biggest gain in that category, rising 8 percent to 80.