Retailers, Clean Up Your Online Stores

Online shopping experiences vary, even among the high-revenue earners on the Internet Retailer’s Top 400 Retail Web Sites list. Customer experience innovation firm Blast Radius teamed with Informa Research to rate the 90 of the top 100 retail Web sites on that list on customer experience and performance.

The first stop on each site was the “about us” page. The researchers find many sites don’t measure up to the promises made in the description. Drugstore CVS stood out for its unfulfilled promise to make the “overall shopping experience as easy as possible.” Evaluation of that site returned below-average ranks for navigation and product presentation., the e-tailer with the highest overall rank, got high marks for “customer involvement,” such as allowing user-generated product reviews and content. Few other retail Web sites permit customer involvement. Others limit the level of user access. The report single out customer dissatisfaction with for “vetting each customer submission and rejecting many negative reviews.”

While scores highest for user-generated product reviews and content, it lost points for a complex return procedure. Mystery shoppers said instructions were unclear and the Web retailer failed to include return merchandise authorization (RMA) labels. Major complaints for return handling include unclear instructions; no RMA labels included with delivery; and lack of cross-channel returns.

The Ten Best Online Retail Shopping Experiences The Ten Worst Online Retail Shopping Experiences
Rank Retailer Rank Retailer
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Source: Blast Radius Inc., November 2005


Cross-channel inconsistency occurs in more areas than returns. The report highlights a disconnect between the in-store experience and offerings on a store’s Web site. Wal-Mart is praised for listing stock availability at local stores.

A cross-channel theme is how the look of the bricks-and-mortar store is reflected on the Web site. The site should cater to the store’s shoppers and show “a deep accord with customers and a knack for following through and keeping promises,” says the report. Sears carries its straightforward theme to online shoppers, understanding its demographic isn’t yet comfortable with online shopping. In addition to a simple-to-use site, a “worry-free shopping” message is prominently displayed site wide.

“The Internet has changed the way people shop. It’s a multi-channel world, and in order to survive retailers need to break the habit of seeing each channel as a separate business,” Blast Radius marketing strategist John Ounpuu told ClickZ Stats. “They need to focus their energies on syncing up every aspect of their online and offline operations–sales, service, returns, everything. And they need to do it fast. Anything less than a truly integrated shopping experience is simply not going to cut it much longer.”

The report was based subjective and objective evaluations of 90 of the top 100 retailer Web sites on the Internet Retailer’s Top 400 Retail Web Sites list. Researchers considered each site for design; ease-of-use; language and overall experience. Researchers then purchased from each site to evaluate delivery and return practices of each retailer.


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