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January 03, 2014

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: ForeSee's 2013 Shopping Trends

By Melissa Warten, Contributing Writer

Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year,” or it is until the time to shop for gifts arrives. But if it seems like online shopping has reduced you to an abominable snowman fighting a blizzard of shipping fees and help centers, take solace – the ForeSee end-of-year survey has proven you aren’t alone.

Customer experience analyst company ForeSee has released its Experience Index (FXI): 2013 UK Retail Edition. The survey measures customer experience and satisfaction across the top 40 United Kingdom retailers, comparing 10,000 surveys collected between November 18 and December 5 of 2013. Measurements of customer satisfaction are determined on a 100-point scale according to levels of site functionality, price, merchandise and content.

Hopefully there’s a significant amount of checking going on in the months to come, because based on ForeSee’s results, customer satisfaction was not at its best this Christmas season. The survey showed a slight decrease in overall satisfaction from Christmas 2011 to 2013 – 74 to 73 out of 100. It is the first fall in online customer satisfaction since the ForeSee holiday survey began in 2007.

Larry Freed, CEO at ForeSee, said in a statement, “After witnessing the aggregate customer satisfaction score increasing every year we’ve reported on the top 40 UK retailers’ Christmas performance, it’s disappointing to see a drop this year. It may be a fall of only one point, but this represents significant fallout for many – especially those which have seen larger drops.”

What could have caused this drop, and what could its influence be in the future? Consider this year’s holiday shopping climate: with just over three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the shortest season on record, shoppers knew their days were numbered to land the perfect present. Less time creates less patience, and when online shopping is already expected to be rapid-fire, less patience leads to less satisfaction with flaws in the experience. Past ForeSee surveys have illustrated that a one-point increase in satisfaction can bring companies up to 10.6 percent increases in revenue; a one-point drop, then, could have contrarily negative repercussions in sales and revenue for poor-performing companies.

Luckily, a number of companies did have a measure of success in creating customer satisfaction. Amazon topped the charts with the highest satisfaction rates, 84 out of 100 for both its US and UK sites. Ikea came in second place with a score of 80, improving by three points from its 2012 score and thus meeting the survey’s exact threshold for the title of “excellent.” Netflix also saw a three-point improvement, and other top performers included Apple (News - Alert), Marks & Spencer and ASDA Direct. Unfortunately, in spite of their positions on the overall chart, ForeSee noted that only 21 out of 40 businesses earned satisfaction levels above the average of 73.

The worst-performing business, travel company Ryanair, fell significantly below the satisfaction average with a score of 60 – a one-point drop from its 2012 score and a full eight points behind next-worst performer Ticketmaster. A concerning twenty-four points separated Ryanair from top-spot Amazon. The spread could hold a measure of sense: traveling requires constant precision, with customers seeking to feel safe and secure; any glitch in the online experience can lead to more pronounced frustration, especially where holiday plans are involved.

The Christmas season was full of ups and downs in shopping, but hopefully ForeSee’s results open businesses’ eyes to at least one crucial fact: customer service is paramount, and it is not being delivered with enough reliability. But for now, let’s raise a glass to the New Year and improvements of all kinds in 2014.




Edited by Blaise McNamee
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