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Report Finds Amazon Falling Back to the Pack in Customer Satisfaction

December 30, 2014

For over a decade Ann Arbor, MI-based Answers Corporation, a provider of cloud-based voice of customer solutions and owner of, has published an annual study of the state of the retail customer experience.  This year’s The AnswersTM Experience Index (AXI): 2014 U.S. Retail Edition (formerly called the ForeSee Experience Index) is out and some of the findings are fascinating. 

First a little background on the study. It is evaluates multichannel retail touch points based on 40,000 consumer surveys gathered for the top 100 retail websites, top 30 retail chain stores and top 30 mobile experiences over the course of this year’s holiday shopping season. In short, it is a comprehensive look at the current state of retail customer experience.  And, as an FYI, customer satisfaction is scored on a 100-point scale; 80 is generally considered the threshold for excellence at which an organization meets and exceeds customer expectations.

As author Jim Yang, Senior Vice President of Products, Marketing and Services for Answers Cloud Services, notes, and as the headline says:  “It’s a watershed year for U.S. holiday retail, starting with Amazon’s dramatic drop in customer satisfaction…This year’s AXI data demonstrates the difficulty of staying ahead in an increasingly complex multichannel shopping world. It’s not that Amazon is no longer exceptional, because it clearly is. Rather, Amazon’s inability to deliver adequately against its customers’ expectations, particularly when it comes to product pricing, has opened the door for other retail brands this year. In the face of savvier consumers, retailers have to take a more disciplined approach to monitoring and improving customer satisfaction or else find themselves struggling to remain relevant.”

In fact, at a high level one of the more interesting findings from the study was that customer satisfaction across all channels is relatively even.

Source: The AnswersTM Experience Index (AXI): 2014 U.S. Retail Edition

Highlights of a watershed year in omnichannel interactions

The study is more than worth a download, and as an incentive below are a few of the insights to be gleaned.

Amazon slippage: The average customer satisfaction score for retail websites fell two points from 79 to 77. Amazon, the undisputed king of online customer satisfaction since the first report in 2005, slipped to a score of 83, tying with QVC for the highest score among the top 100 e-commerce sites measured. Their 83 score marks a five-point decline for Amazon compared to their high score of 88 posted in 2011-2013. Amazon’s drop can be partly attributed to scoring much lower on customers’ assessments of Amazon’s price competitiveness. QVC held steady year over year to gain a share of the top ranking. They were closely followed by a cluster of strong retail brands that scored 82: Avon, L.L. Bean and Netflix. Absent from the leaderboard is Apple, which dipped two points to 80 in this year’s customer satisfaction rating.

The Amazon mobile experience also suffered. Last year Amazon was five points ahead of any other mobile website or application. In 2014, Amazon scored 83, a mere one point above Fanatics and L.L. Bean in mobile website and application satisfaction, followed by Newegg, QVC and Sony Store Online at 82.

Shoppers are going mobile: Customer satisfaction with mobile shopping experiences held steady at 79 in 2014. The report says this should be a “red flag” for retailers. Mobile shoppers are getting far more comfortable using smartphones for research and transactions. Mobile shoppers were far more likely to use their phones to research products this holiday shopping season (74 percent) compared to 2013 (55 percent), and more likely to make a purchase through their phone this year (44 percent) than last (25 percent).

Two cautionary notes were cited. The first is the obvious that retailers who don’t have satisfactory mobile experiences will be in trouble.  The second was that mobile payments are “not quite ready for takeoff.” The study found that more than 60 percent of shoppers said they will not use a mobile payment service to purchase items in a store. The 40 percent who said they might were twice as likely to choose Google over Apple.

Multichannel shoppers rule:  The data validates that multichannel shopping and showrooming (i.e., using a mobile phone to research or purchase while in the store) is where shoppers’ heads are now and going forward based on trends. For example, this year, 68 percent of store purchasers said they visited the store’s website on their phone while in the store, compared to just 55 percent last year. The message here is clear, i.e., having great content on mobile-friendly sites is critical, since the study found that 46 percent of showroomers are buying in-store anyway. It also found that store purchasers were far more likely to begin their research online (50 percent) compared to last year (35 percent), including visiting that store’s website and competitors’ websites.

The other interesting trend, and again a message to retailers is that multichannel shoppers are not just more active shoppers; they’re generally more satisfied (81) than their single-channel (77) shoppers.

Retail chains still are popular for in-store experiences: Trends may be that more and more use is being made of on-line capabilities, but as the authors explain this does not foretell the end of people looking for in-store experience which still represent a large majority of retails sales and are likely to continue to do so for a long time.  As they point out, “Physical storefronts are, in fact, enabling omnichannel consumption in a big way, thanks to innovations like “buy online/pick-up in store” and in-store mobile checkouts.”

This is a “however” that large retailers must take note of and this is that the in-store experience needs to be exceptional as well. This translates into being well-stocked and having knowledgeable sales associates, including being digitally adept, to properly service an increasingly fickle customer base.  In fact, while Apple may not have made the top of the online list, it is at the top of the in-store one having lost the No. 1 spot to Barnes & Noble by a nose but still with a high satisfaction score.

Yes this was a watershed year on the customer experience front. Amazon has been caught, Cyber Monday beat out Black Friday as the top retailing day and the multichannel shopper rose to the top of the most desirable customer list.  And, as the graphic illustrates, for retailers the message is you need to invest equally in all channels to keep the cash registers ringing in 2015. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle



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