The latest in-depth online customer survey for March and April 2009 has seen Marks & Spencer (M&S) achieve the top spot across a range of measures, beating its pure-play and multi-channel rivals.
M&S appeared in the top three ranked positions more often than any other online retailer during the first quarter of 2009, demonstrating how traditional store-based retailers have matured to rival the purely online firms.
Entertainment e-retailer Play.com came second in terms of its average scores throughout the customer journey, closely followed by another long-term pureplay leader, Amazon. John Lewis and online clothing retailer ASOS rounded out the top five.
These latest results build on over eight years of analysis by eDigitalResearch. The online market research firm surveys over 10,000 profiled 'eMysteryShopper' participants, who undertake the survey in their own homes using their own equipment and internet connections.
Chris Russell, founding director of eDigitalResearch, said the latest index suggests that the key issue online sellers face is consistency throughout the customer journey. This covers first impressions through to search, payment and delivery across multiple channels such as the store, online and in the call centre.
"It is interesting to look at a site like Amazon, which pioneered many of the features we take for granted on many e-commerce sites today," he said. "But, as we see customer behaviour evolving, multichannel retailers are closing the gap. "
The index showed that, while Play.com has improved, Amazon has remained consistent. Amazon does not match its rival's Shopping Basket survey rating, and has been overtaken for product presentation, both key areas that affect sales conversion rates.
Average scores for email contact had improved to 68 per cent since 2008, but this was still an area where the industry as a whole did not perform well in terms of consistency.
The research tracked customer expectations about email response times over the years, and found that customers are more demanding than ever. Over two-thirds (69 per cent) of internet users now expect to receive a response to an email query within 24 hours.
"The consumer expectation does not stand still. Nor do they see the bricks and mortar store as any different to the online one," said Russell. "Those retailers that do not keep up with the pace of change, and perform in a consumer-friendly way, will fail."
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