More shoppers bought online this year, so ecommerce experience is becoming more important for brands. (Photo credit: prateekb)has the answers.
Every year, more shoppers are skipping the mall crowds and grabbing holiday gifts online -- ecommerce analytics firm eMarketer forecast nearly $8 billion more in holiday-season online sales this year compared with 2012.
That means the ecommerce shopping experience is becoming ever more important. Who gave customers the best Web experience this holiday season? A massive survey by research firm ForeSee of more than 67,000 consumers has the answers.
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Only 14 brands -- out of the biggest 100 retail brands -- that ranked substantially higher than the survey's average customer satisfaction score of 79:
- Amazon (88) -- No big shocker that the king of ecommerce tops this list. Archrival Walmart ranked substantially lower at 80, just one point above average.
- Vitacost (86) -- When you're selling merchandise that is essentially a commodity people can get anywhere, you need a wonderful website if you want them to buy from you. Vitacost's site is graphically pleasing, well-organized, and offers discounts galore -- seven different categories of discounts were on offer on a recent visit. Vitacost topped the health and beauty category, besting competitors including Amway and Weight Watchers.
- Keurig (84) -- Take that, Starbucks -- Green Mountain Coffee won raves for the experience on its website for selling its Keurig single-serve coffee and brewing machines (it also sells them on its own site). Some wags counted Keurig a goner when Starbucks introduced its competing machine, but Keurig has retained its cachet as the brand for discerning java snobs. One secret of their site: selling just a few items makes the site simple and uncluttered.
- L.L. Bean (84) -- Old-time brands can adapt to the 21st Century. Bean beat out a raft of department-store brands including Kohl's, Nordstrom, and Macy's with its site. Nothing stodgy or yesteryear here, despite being a 102-year-old brand -- Bean features more than a dozen videos demonstrating some of their most popular products.
- Avon (83) -- They're not just door-to-door anymore. Avon has embraced ecommerce by looping in their sales representatives, who can send customers to their online store and still earn commissions. The process of hooking up with your representatives' site is simple, too.
- Barnes & Noble (83) -- The last bookstore chain standing has been losing customers overall, but apparently keeping them happy online. Of course, they still lag Amazon's customer reviews, so they'll need to keep upping their game to stay competitive.
- Bass Pro Shops (83) -- Upscale fishermen want a pleasant online shopping experience, too -- and Bass delivers. Secret sauce here: It's not just a site to sell their gear, but a news destination for all things hunting and fishing. Bass features popular blogs in the niche on its 1Source news and tips page.
- Publix (83) -- The 84-year-old southern grocery chain bested rivals Kroger, Walgreens, RiteAid and Safeway with its site, which customizes visitors' experience after they choose their nearest store.
- QVC (83) -- When the only ways to shop you are a call center (which many consumers hate calling) and a website, the website better rock. QVC's secret weapon is video engagement - you can watch TV on their site, and submit questions that might snag an on-air answer. Mass-merchant rivals Costco, eBay, Dollar Tree, Target and Walmart can't say that -- and all ranked lower.
- Apple (82) -- Frankly, I was expecting to see Apple even higher on this list. Their site is highly visual, but the growing number of products make the experience a bit boggling. On the plus side, Apple topped all brands except Amazon for mobile experience (natch!), and ranked third beyond Amazon and L.L. Bean for overall customer experience.
- Disney Store (82) -- The dwarves have been hard at work improving Disney's online experience. The brand rose from a below-average score of 78 last year. Useful tab: "Disney Parks Product" allows you to shop from home for all the trinkets you might buy if you visited one of the theme parks.
- Estee Lauder (82) -- Drawing on their glamorous print-ad images gives Lauder's site high glamour. The site also offers simple ways to tunnel through the products by category and brand, including a "more ways to shop" option that leads to discontinued merchandise, gift cards, makeup sets, and more.
- Shutterfly (82) -- A little personal testimony on this one: As it happens, I created a book of my daughter's artwork on Shutterfly to give out as a holiday gift. I can report they have a terrific, easy-to-navigate process. In the survey, they bested other specialty ecommerce sites including VistaPrint, PetSmart and Priceline.
- Victoria's Secret (82) -- This brand has been focused on online experience for years, knowing that many customers are too embarrassed to browse the racks of their stores. Victoria's sleek site was second only to L.L. Bean in the apparel category.
One final notable fact -- the average for overall satisfaction for retailers in the ForeSee study was 83, but online the average was 79. In-store experiences at the top retailers still ranked substantially better than the website experience. Clearly, new ways to give customers better service online are still needed.
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