In this year's E-Retail Satisfaction Index report, a record 36 US based online retailers out of 100 achieved the so-called "threshold for excellence," with scores of 80 or higher on the 100-point scale. That compares with 28 sites achieving this distinction in 2010 and 2011, and six reaching it in 2009. The aggregate score for this year is 78.

"This year's Index is great news for consumers," Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee, told the E-Commerce Times. "The good are getting better, and the strong are getting stronger. Online retailers are now highly attuned to the customer experience and the technology that facilitates that experience."

Amazon is at the top of the list, with a score of 89 – an "amazing" number, according to Freed – especially considering it represents an increase of three percentage points over last year. It is also four points higher than Apple and QVC, next on the list with their scores of 85.

Apple's second place tie with a retailer that has a completely different brand and buyer constituency may be eyebrow-raising, especially among its die-hard fans who believe the company is unassailable in terms of product design, retail experience and customer service.

However, close watchers of the Index note that Apple scored an 80 in the last survey, making it one of the most improved sites.

Apple's success story is handily beaten by Home Depot, though, when the long view is taken into account. Home Depot, which posted a score of 79 this year, has improved by 10 points since the E-Retail Satisfaction Index launched in 2005. Other success stories include Costco and Kohl's, both of which added eight points in the last seven years, to reach scores of 79 and 81, respectively, in 2012.

At the end of the day, however, no one except a retailer and its competitors will pay much attention to the specific numbers in this Index, David Johnson principal of Strategic Times said. "The general consumer doesn't follow these scores — at most, he or she will know that a certain site is highly regarded for its online customer experience."

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