Forrester recently released our 2008 Customer Experience Index, a ranking of 114 companies by consumers who responded to an online survey asking how useful, easy to work with and enjoyable the various companies were. Get this, six of the top eight were retailers. The top retailer on the list? Barnes & Noble. So, what does this mean for retailers?
1. A great customer experience is a must-have in brutally-competitive, margin-thin industries that comprise most of the retail landscape. It is not an option. Not surprisingly, the ten worst performers in the index were TV, wireless and web service providers and health insurance companies--regulated industries that give consumers no choice but to interact with them.
Can we please put a moratorium on all the gloomy news? Duke just released a study of CFOs where the key finding is that we're in for at least another 12 months of stagnation. Will someone acknowledge that there is a glimmer of hope in, of all places, at least one part of the retail world which according to conventional wisdom, should just be getting pummeled? I've been maintaining that eCommerce is insulated from the worst of it because there continues to be channel shift because it's just easier to shop online and perhaps most compelling, it's a channel where consumers can easily find the best price for anything they want to buy. I have two sets of datapoints to support this. The first is the Chase Paymentech Pulse Index which captures actual transactions from 25 of the top web merchants. Through Tuesday, December 9, the last 33 days of online shopping have actually been great. In fact, consumers have, when measured on a YOY calendar basis, spent 15% more this year than last year. This is remarkable given that Thanksgiving fell later in November this year and we've had fewer days to build upon the momentum that Black Friday always creates.