Ecommerce Winners and Losers of Holiday '10 -- Which Were You?

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Now that e-tailers are sweeping up their virtual floors and wrapping up the holiday season, how did the big guys do? One recent customer service survey shows shoppers really do care about how they're treated online. The study of 10,000 Internet shoppers conducted by ForeSee Results shows who's pulling ahead in the customer-service wars and who is turning customers off. ForeSee's data show that customer-satisfaction ratings are a strong indicator of whether shoppers will return and buy again in future.

One of the things that jumps out is the bottom of the ForeSee poll list, which is dominated by traditional retailers -- Sears got just a 74 percent satisfaction rating, down a point from last year. Similarly, Macy's got a 75 percent rating, down from 79 percent in 2009, and JCPenney sank three points to get a 78 percent ranking. It seems like these old-line department stores -- like many long-established small businesses trying to transition to the Web -- still have a lot to learn about selling online. Who's at the top? and Netflix, both with 86 percent rankings. So there's room for improvement even there.

The study also has some interesting head-to-head comparisons between ratings for competing retailers. For instance, Amazon beats Walmart online by 6 points. ForeSee found Amazon beat Walmart in three areas -- content quality, website functionality, and merchandise. Interestingly, neither got negative feedback about price, indicating the retail giants may have given up too much margin with relentless price-slashing.

For its part, Netflix is trouncing bankruptcy-plagued Blockbuster online -- Blockbuster had a rating of 76 percent. No surprise there, as Blockbuster has been a classic case of a company that was slow to take to new technology.

Apple also gets higher customer service marks than rivals Dell and HP -- Apple got a rating of 82 percent, compared with Dell's 76 percent and HP's 78 percent. Apple overcame negative scores about its high prices with high marks for website functionality, which ForeSee found was a key metric for tech sellers. Possibly an interesting lesson there for small business owners looking for a way to keep prices up.

If you sell online, how did you handle customer service this holiday season? Could customers easily reach you by phone, for instance? Tell us about how you made sure customers were happy.

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