Traditional Retailers See Improved Customer Satisfaction, Lag Online

February 24, 2012

asci-customer-satisfaction-with-retail-sector-2009-2011-feb2012.jpgCustomer satisfaction with traditional retailers improved in 2011, but still lags online retailers, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. The index for traditional retailers in 2011 rose 1.5% year-over-year to a score of 76.1 on ACSI’s 100-point scale, with score increases experienced by the gasoline station, specialty retail store, and supermarket categories. At the same time, the customer satisfaction score for online retailers rose 1.25% from 80 to 81, with e-commerce satisfaction overall at 80.1.

Specialty Retailers Top Traditional Sector

Traditional retailers specializing in particular merchandise, such as home improvement, office supplies, or books and music, continued a gradual 4-year climb with a gain of 1.3% to 78 to 79, giving them the top industry score in the retail sector. Membership warehouse clubs performed best in the category: Costco led with a score of 83, up a point from a year earlier, followed by a substantially improved Sam’s Club, which rose 3.8% from 78 to 81. Barnes & Noble, the only traditional bookstore chain, saw the biggest drop, down 3.6% from 82 to 79 and surrendering the industry lead.

Among office suppliers, Staples and Office Depot both slipped from 81 to 79, followed closely by OfficeMax, which rose an impressive 5.4% from 74 to 78. Meanwhile, Home Depot continued to gain steadily, reaching a high of 78, up 4%, while Lowe’s gained 2.6% to a score of 79. TJX also improved to 78, while Gap rose to its highest level, 77, though it remained towards the bottom of the industry.

Amazon Leads All Retailers, Netflix Crashes

Although it slipped a point in 2011, Amazon scored the highest among all retailers, traditional or online, at 86. Newegg followed closely at 85, ahead of Overstock (83) and eBay (81). The group of all other retail websites improved 2.6% from 78 to 80. This places the entire industry in the 80s save for Netflix, which crashed in 2011, down 14% from 86 to 74, one of the largest drops in the history of the index.

According to the ForeSee E-Retail Satisfaction Index released in December 2011, Amazon led all major online retailers in the 2011 holiday season for customer satisfaction, earning a score of 88 on a 100-point scale, the highest ever attained by a retailer studied since 2005.

Supermarkets Inch Up, Walmart Dives

Supermarkets rose 1.3% overall to a score of 76. Publix maintained its lead at 84, unchanged from a year earlier, followed by Whole Foods, which improved to a score of 80, a net gain of 10% over the past 4 years. The supermarket business of Walmart fared less well, dropping from 71 to 69 to trail the aggregate of all other supermarkets, which improved from 77 to 79. In fact, this score placed Walmart last among all retailers.

Other Findings:

  • The department and discount industry overall remained flat at 76. Nordstrom led with a score of 84, up from 82 a year earlier, outpacing JCPenney (82), Kohl’s (81), Dillard’s, and Target (both at 80). Walmart also fell in this category, down from 73 to 70, putting the retailer 6 points below the industry average and the next-lowest chain (Sears).
  • Health and personal care stores retreated for a second year, from 77 to 76, to be the only retail category to lose customer satisfaction. The aggregation of small stores led by a wide margin at 82, up from 81, while Walgreen dropped 2.6% from 77 to 75, placing it in a tie with Rite Aid, which remained unchanged. Customer satisfaction with CVS Caremark fell to a 7-year low of 73.
  • Internet brokerage services dropped 2.6% from a score of 78 to 76. The aggregate of all other online brokers fell to a last-place score of 75, behind the large brokers. Charles Schwab, Fidelity and E*Trade shared the lead at 79, followed closely by Ameritrade, at 78.
  • Internet travel sites remained stable with a score of 78. Travelocity took top billing with a 2.6% improvement from 77 to 79, placing it in a tie with the aggregate of all smaller travel sites. Expedia fell 2.5% to 77, losing the industry lead in the process.
  • Customer satisfaction at the national level inched up 0.1% to 75.8 for the fourth quarter of 2011, bringing the yearly change for 2011 up to 0.7%.

About the Data: The American Customer Satisfaction Index is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. Data from interviews with approximately 70,000 customers annually are used as inputs into an econometric model to measure satisfaction with more than 225 companies in 47 industries and 10 economic sectors, along with over 200 services, programs, and websites of approximately 130 federal government agencies. ACSI results are released on a monthly basis, with all measures reported using a scale of 0 to 100.

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