Can't Get No Satisfaction?

It seems ironic to me to be looking at consumer satisfaction here in the States. With gas prices over $4 per gallon and rising, the housing market at an all-time low and a recession looming (if not here already) can consumers be confident?

Well, according to a recent Spring 2008 Top 100 Online Retail Satisfaction Index report by ForSee Results, consumer confidence is up 1.4% from last year.

"Using the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index, ForeSee measured customer satisfaction levels among the top 100 Internet retailers, as determined by Internet Retailer magazine, and found that even as the economy is in an overall pinch, e-commerce retailers delivered an aggregate score of 75," according to the report.

"In a tough economy, people are going to be generally a bit more discriminating in their purchases and more focused on making a good buying decision," said Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results, in a recent Reuters article. This translates to customer satisfaction playing an even bigger role than usual, he continued.



So if you were to guess which online retailers increased their levels of consumer satifaction, which would you guess?, QVC and led the pack, with scores of 86, 84 and 83 respectively.

Other leaders were Talbots, with a 6.8% increase; CVS, up 6.9%; Crate and Barrel, up 5.5%; Neiman Marcus, up 8.7%; Toys 'R' Us, up 5.6%; SonyStyle, up 5.7%; and Macy's, up 5.8%.

I was surprised to see that Target had a 3.9% decline.

What was also a bit of a surprise was that Americans often prefer e-tailers versus brick-and-mortar retailers.

So how do we satisfy the increasingly demanding online consumer today?

Earlier this year IBM and the National Retail Federation released a survey on how retailers can improve customer loyalty.

It was based on responses of 418 executives from 137 companies across the retail industry.

The survey reinforced the fact that today's consumer is more demanding than generations before. Just take a look at how technology has affected the way younger generations get their news, information and entertainment. It's most likely on the Internet and on mobile phones versus the good ole television we were dependent on.

In years past, the top retailer priority was expanding the number of stores. But that is now tied for second place with cutting costs -- a concern after the worst holiday shopping season in five years, which continues with this year's consumer retail slowdown.

When it comes to search engines, what brand do you think has the most improved customer satisfaction? You probably guessed wrong, it's Yahoo. The latest Keynote Systems Customer Experience Rankings for search confirms that Yahoo achieved "noticeable improvements in user experience and beginning to close the gap with Google in several key search experience drivers."

Do you think consumer confidence will increase, decrease or flatten due to the economy this year? My guess is that we will continue to stay loyal to the brands we deem necessities as money tightens.

It also seems to me that all brands need to take consumer's mindsets into consideration when trying to market and advertise nowadays. The most critical element is to never assume a piece of their wallets.

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