The e-tailing group has published the results of its 6th Annual Mystery Shopping Survey, conducted in the fourth quarter of 2003. Using ten must-have criteria that are weighted by importance, researchers shopped and rated 100 online direct-to-customer merchant Web sites. The most important criterion was the ability for shoppers to complete shopping on their first attempt, followed, in order of importance, by possession of a toll-free phone number, a correct, personalized response to an e-mail question within 24 hours, a duration of five or fewer days to receive a package, and five or fewer minutes to shop.
NO SECRET The secret of success for online merchants is customer service, rather than customer self-service, cautions Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group. The statistics bear out the notion that the top ten online merchants in the Mystery Shopping Survey share a commitment to making the shopping process easier for their customers. Averages for the survey’s best-of-breed criteria generally improved this year: Shopping time sped up to 3.67 minutes from 4.08 in 2002, and average clicks to checkout inched downward to 4.6 from 4.9. The average number of business days it took for shoppers to receive an item was steady at 4.4 days.
Not all the stats are positive, however. The average time for responses to customer service e-mails was 25 hours in 4Q 2003, compared to only 18.73 hours the previous year. The top performer in this category, RedEnvelope, shows that the art of the possible remains mysterious, as the company managed to send e-mail replies to customer queries in an average of eight minutes.
TOP 10 Online Customer Service
|MERCHANT||Hrs./min. to respond to e-mail||Business days to receive item||Time to shop (in minutes)||Clicks to checkout|
|Ann Taylor||3 hrs./40 min.||3||5||5|
|CompUSA||2 hrs./00 min.||2||4||5|
|Crate & Barrel||16 hrs./00 min.||4||4||6|
|Crutchfield||1 hrs./01 min.||5||4||6|
|JC Penney||8 hrs./36 min.||store pickup||3||3|
|J. Crew||23 hrs./14 min.||5||4||5|
|Lands’ End||2 hrs./03 min.||2||3||4|
|Men’s Wearhouse||1 hr./13 min.||store pickup||3||2|
|Orvis||2 hrs./44 min.||5||3||4|
|Petco||4 hrs./15 min.||2||3||5|
|Powell’s||8 hrs./28 min.||5||4||6|
|RedEnvelope||0 hr./08 min.||4||4||3|
|Average of 100 sites shopped||25 hrs./00 min.||4.4||3.67||4.6|
|Source: the e-tailing group inc.|