Online-only retailers delivered higher levels of customer satisfaction than their brick-and-mortar counterparts during the 2009 holiday season, according to [pdf] a post-holiday survey conducted by advertising agency Allen & Gerritsen.
Online Retailers Lead in Satisfaction
When asked to rate their holiday shopping experience by channel, 82% of shoppers found their experience at online-only stores to be somewhat or very satisfying. Tied with the online-only channel for first place in customer satisfaction were retail stores that redirected shoppers to the phone or online channel. Many retail stores experienced out-of-stocks this past holiday season as retailers attempted to carry lean inventory to reduce supply chain costs. Rather than frustrate customers who could not find a desired item in stock, these retailers redirected them to another channel where they could obtain goods from a much wider inventory selection.
Retail stores that did not redirect shoppers in the event of out-of-stocks paid the price by receiving a customer satisfaction score six percentage points lower, 76%. Online sites of retail stores did worse than online-only retailers or retail stores with a 74% customer satisfaction rating. Customer satisfaction significantly dropped off for catalog retailers, who were rated as providing somewhat or very satisfying experience by only 57% of shoppers.
Stores Give Shoppers Ideas
Despite the increased usage of online retail sites during the holiday season, most people are still visiting actual stores for inspiration and to purchase a gift. 83% of respondents said they went to a retail store followed by 47% who used an online-only site like Amazon.com or Zappos.com, followed by 38% who used a traditional retailer’s online site (like Walmart.com).
One reason may be that people use the real world for gift ideas and inspiration. More than half of respondents say they visited retail stores to get ideas for gifts (51%) and nearly as many reached out to friends and family for ideas (43%). Catalogs were also a source of inspiration for one out of three shoppers this year, though only 13% bought through this channel.
Recent research from comScore also indicates that online retailers were popular this past holiday season, both online-only and online sites of brick-and-mortar retailers. Toy sites attracted 27.4 million Americans in November 2009, representing a 33% increase from the previous month. Consumer electronics sites grew to 52.8 million visitors during the month, a 32% increase versus October 2009. Online department stores also saw a 33% gain, reaching nearly 81 million unique visitors in November.
About the Survey: Allen & Gerritsen conducted an online survey of with 400-plus completes between December 31, 2009 and January 4, 2010. Respondents were 18-65 years old, 50% male and 50% female and had household income of $35,000 or more.