In the latest Online Customer Respect Study for the retail sector, many retailers have been improving their web sites significantly, with the vital exception of their consumer data privacy policies, according to The Customer Respect Group.
The Customer Respect Group's Q3 2005 Online Customer Respect Study of Retailers measures and analyses corporate performance from an online customer's perspective, assigning a Customer Respect Index rating for each retailer examined. By interviewing a representative sample of the internet-using population (aged 18+), and by analysing and categorising more than 2,000 corporate websites across a spectrum of industries, the company identifies the attributes that come together to measure online customer experiences. This particular report analysed 53 major retail websites to obtain a good sample of the sector.
The retail sector scored slightly higher than it did six months ago, with a CRI of 7.0 against 6.8 for the last study. Only two retailers reached the level regarded as "excellent": Payless and CVS, both newcomers to the top ten list. Payless did especially well after rebuilding its site with a strong customer focus since the last study, and was by far the most improved site.
The top-scoring retailers and their CRI ratings were:
- Payless Shoe Source (8.1)
- CVS Corporation (8.0)
- L.L. Bean (7.9)
- Liz Claiborne, Inc. (7.9)
- Blockbuster (7.8)
- dvd-empire (7.8)
- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (7.8)
- Nike (7.7)
- Amazon.com (7.6)
- Barnes & Noble (7.6)
Retailer web sites also scored much better than average in terms of "responsiveness", and now represent the best industry sector overall in this category. Only 9% of e-mail enquiries were ignored by retailers (down from 22% in the last survey). Moreover, the percentages for e-mail replies sent within 24 hours (65% vs. 40%) and for the helpfulness of those replies (74% "very helpful" vs. 67% in the last study) were all significantly higher. Nike and Saks were joint leaders for responsiveness.
Unfortunately, there is still room for improvement in some key areas, including the collection and sharing of personal data. Forty-five percent of companies in the report were found to share data with business partners and third parties outside of the organisation without the explicit permission of the customer. Also noted in the study is the difficulty of deleting or removing personal data after it has initially been captured.
According to Terry Golesworthy, president for The Customer Respect Group, "The online retail market was worth US$87.5 billion in 2004, so the stakes are high. With poor privacy policies in place, and those policies becoming more openly discussed, some companies will find it harder to obtain accurate data and get permission to market back to customers. In short, they will lose the customer's trust."