Wal-Marts website leaves much to be desired, says customer satisfaction survey

Dell and Wal-Mart may be acknowledged masters of their supply chain domains, but when it comes to treating their online customers right, they’re strictly middle-of-the-pack. At least, that’s the conclusion of a current survey, conducted by ForeSee Results, based on a ranking of the top 40 retailers by sales volume that was published by Internet Retailer.

In general, high satisfaction scores – how happy people are with all aspects of the online experience when they visit an online retailer’s website – correlate directly and tightly to likelihood to return, recommend and buy.

While computer maker Dell ranked # 2 in online sales (behind only category killer Amazon) and retail giant Wal-Mart # 12, neither company displayed the kind of dominance one normally associates with these supply chain leaders. Dell, for instance, ranked # 20 in the ForeSee study of “browser satisfaction,” while Wal-Mart finished at # 28. Other brick-and-mortar retail giants, such as Target, Costco and Kmart, finished even lower.

Conversely, online film rental service Netflix had the highest satisfaction ranking, while finishing only # 17 in online sales. Amazon and home shopping network QVC’s website finished second and third, respectively, for satisfaction.

The report quantifies how good websites are at turning visitors into buyers-and finds that the notion that a below 10% conversion rate isn't a fact of nature, as many have come to believe, but a sign of doing a bad job for your customers and being an under-achiever.

According to Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results and author of the study, key findings of the report include:

* There is significant untapped opportunity to improve conversion rates by making changes to customer-identified aspects of the online shopping experience. Of the top five-scoring online retailers in satisfaction, the conversion rate is 36% higher than those at the bottom of the list. What defines customer satisfaction varies depending on type of company, site, previous experience with the brand, and other things.

* Among online shoppers, the Internet has not become as price-sensitive a channel as expected, and is not being driven primarily by price competition.

* Traditional retailers, in general, have dramatically under-utilized the opportunity to increase their sales both online and off using the web channel. Only Barnes & Noble, the report finds, is doing an equally good job maximizing the value of the web to its offline customers.

The ForeSee Results report uses the methodology of the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to assess how satisfied browsers of the top e-retail sites are.


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