Amazon.com is the top performing retail website in terms of customer satisfaction in the UK, according to a new study from ForeSee Results.

The site got a score of 84 in the fourth annual Christmas Customer Satisfaction Index across the UK’s top 40 online retail websites during December. Measured as a separate entity for the first time, it edged out Amazon.co.uk (83), which was the top performing UK online retailer in 2008 and 2009.

Play.com increased two points to round out the top three companies scoring over 80 (last year, just one website scored over 80, generally considered the threshold for excellence whilst using this methodology).

John Lewis increased one point to 78, and Marks and Spencer entered the top five for the first time with a five point year-on-year increase.

ForeSee Results said that after a huge year-on-year increase in online customer satisfaction from 2008 to 2009 (from 67 to 71 on a 100-point scale), customer satisfaction increased only slightly in 2010 (from 71 to 72).

According to the measurement company: “This is significant because highly satisfied visitors to retail websites in the UK say they are 57pc more committed to the brand overall, 59pc more likely to purchase online, 33pc more likely to purchase offline, and 69pc more likely to recommend the retailer. There is a powerful and quantifiable impact when customers have a good experience, with demonstrable return on investment.”

The index measured four high-level factors that affect overall customer satisfaction: functionality, price, merchandise and content. Over 10,000 survey responses were collected from shoppers who had visited the top 40 online retail websites in the UK in November and December.

It found that 14 of the measured retailers saw year-on-year increases of at least a point or more. The most notable increases were as follows:

  • Marks and Spencer (78): up five points since last year; up eight points since 2008
  • Argos(77): up four points since last year; up 10 points since 2007
  • ASDA (76): up three points since last year; up 12 points since 2007
  • Next (74): up three points since last year; up seven points since 2007
  • RiverIsland(72): up three points since last year; up 11 points since 2007
  • Littlewoods (71): up five points since last year; up seven points since 2007
  • Curry’s (69): up three points since last year; up nine points since 2007

It also found that with an aggregate score of 78, American websites are outperforming UK websites by six points, but the gap is closing.  Last year, the gap was eight points.

Individual retailers at the top of their game in various categories include Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Play.com, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Apple, Next, Cineworld, Easyjet, Expedia, Screwfix, HMV, and ASDA.

The survey also looked at how people ended up at the retailers’ websites. Fewer than 4pc said they were primarily influenced by social media channels to visit a website. Ten percent said they visited websites as a result of a promotional email and 13pc as a result of search engine trawls. A huge 46pc were primarily influenced by their familiarity with a brand.

Ten percent of shoppers said they accessed the website for the company they rated via their mobile phone.  Those who did were primarily using their mobile or smartphone to look up prices, compare product specifications, or do product research.  Only 1.3pc of all online shoppers actually made a purchase on their mobile phone.

Nearly half of site visitors (49pc) came to a website just to research; not to buy.  Roughly one-fifth of shoppers planned to research online and then buy in the store. ForeSee Results said this multichannel impact and value is probably not captured or quantified by the retailer in question.

“To the general public a small point increase may seem insignificant, however for the Top 100 American retailers a one-point change in website satisfaction was found to predict a 14pc change in the log of revenues generated on the web,” said Larry Freed, president and CEO at ForeSee Results. “We’ve found similar relationships between customer satisfaction and revenue in previous years so for Marks & Spencer to see a five point year-on-year increase is good news for them and could predict a huge increase in online revenue.”

“The findings around how shoppers are interacting with retailers also threw up a few surprises – that just 4 percent reported they were primarily influenced by social media to visit the site and only 1.3 percent are making purchases using their mobile phones – both marketing channels that retailers appear to be heavily investing in, with apparently little return or interest from their customers,” said Kevin Ertell, vice president of retail strategy at ForeSee Results.

“While social and mobile may play a significant role in the future of online commerce, it’s important to recognise they play a relatively small role today and getting basic web experience right is still hugely important.  Retailers need to tune into and fully understand what their customers want from them and focus their attention on converting browsers into customers. Satisfied customers will return, recommend and stay loyal – worth their weight in gold.”