In its 13th Annual Mystery Shopping Study, the etailing group has named nine retailers as the best performing among 100 merchants evaluated during Q4 2010. The entire list of top winners includes:
- Drs. Foster & Smith
- Foot Locker
- King Arthur Flour
- Lands’ End
- Saks Fifth Avenue
“These merchants understand that efficiency and convenience are essential to deliver a best-in-class online shopping experience,” said Lauren Freedman, President, the etailing group, inc. “Notably Lands’ End is the only merchant to meet our criteria for three consecutive years while Coach and Saks Fifth Avenue are repeat achievers for two years running.”
Each of the 100 merchants was ranked based on pre-determined benchmarking criteria. The top 9 each possessed the following must-haves:
1. Keyword search
2. Four or fewer days to receive package
3. Adequately and correctly answer e-mail question within 24 hours; providing a specific answer
4. On-site home page accessibility of toll-free phone number (2.5 or higher on a scale of 3.0)
5. CSR product knowledge when calling toll-free# (2.0 or higher on a scale of 3.0)
6. Five or fewer clicks to checkout
7. Email shipping confirmation sent
8. Email order confirmation sent with order number and customer service information included
9. Real-time inventory in shopping cart or on product page
Six of the top retailers responded to email questions from customers in less than 3 hours, and 6 also delivered products ordered in 3 days or less. Additionally, all 9 winners allowed shoppers to use 5 or fewer clicks to complete a product order, from selection to checkout.
“The differentiation comes with the ability to quickly deliver product coupled with support excellence particularly for those retailers that must distinguish their brands beyond price,” Freedman explained. The winners “have chosen to make their contact information more accessible while giving customers the convenience tools that save them time in the checkout process. Greater flexibility in being able to return products at retail provides cross-channel options and an ability to extend payment choices is welcome as well.”
3 Other Key Elements of Successful e-Commerce
Freedman and her team cite 3 other areas that successful ecommerce retailers are focusing on, and areas that many other retailers must improve upon:
1. Product Checkout and Delivery
The good news overall is that for product purchase and checkout, the number of clicks in the process decreased to an average of 5.13 this year versus 5.42 last year. So retailers are learning that shoppers are impatient and the simpler it is to get to check out, the better chance the purchase will be completed.
The not-so-good news is that while many merchants say they offer timely delivery, the mystery shoppers found the average number of business days to receive an item increased, from 4.05 last year to 4.26 this year. Also, as many as 38% took 5 or more days to deliver items.
2. Focus on Access to Customer Service Information
Shoppers want to know that if they have questions they will be answered quickly by knowledgeable representatives. Retailers are getting that message, as 78% surveyed list customer service hours on the web site. But only one-third provide customer support 24/7.
There also is room for improvement in providing educated, knowledgable customer service representatives (CSRs). In 2010 CSRs are a bit less knowledgeable, based on survey results. On a three-point scale CSRs ranked an average of 2.13 (99 sites) for product knowledge in 2010 versus 2.24 in 2009. The overall customer experience ranked 2.24 (99 sites) versus. 2.37.
3. Payment Options
Offering different payment options allows shoppers to choose their favorite method. To that end, more retailers are offering services such as PayPal (40% vs. 34% last year) and deferred payment plans like BillMeLater (48% in 2010 vs. 47% in 2009).
More merchants also are allowing shoppers to pre-populate customer information (96% in 2010 vs. 89% in 2009), which fosters repeat business. Another way to retain business or encourage future business is to give customers more control over their shopping carts. Many retailers allow shoppers to move items or an entire cart to a wish list (41% 2010 vs. 32% 2009) or to save a cart (7% in 2010 vs. 12% in 2009).
For more background about this research study, including a list of merchants surveyed or for additional information on the e-tailing group, inc. please contact Lauren Freedman at LF@e-tailing.com or visit the e-tailing group web site.