From Amazon to Etsy: Why No Retailer Is Winning the Customer Satisfaction Trophy Right Now

There are no blue ribbons here — even for e-tail juggernauts.

Unlike many of its retail peers, Amazon’s e-commerce dominance has only been heightened by the pandemic. But, there is one area where even the e-tail behemoth isn’t firing on all cylinders: Customer satisfaction.

And it’s not alone.

According to a special COVID-19 study released today by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, four out of five retail sectors ACSI measures — department and discount stores, specialty retail stores, supermarkets, and “internet retailers” — have seen customer satisfaction wane during the pandemic.

And while no so-called “internet retailer” saw customer satisfaction rise during the past six months, Amazon experienced the greatest decline among such firms, with a dip of 7% as shoppers docked points for site performance, merchandise variety, inventory, customer support and shipping. Other “internet retailers” logging declines in customer satisfaction include Target, down 1%, and Macy’s, which shed 4%. All three companies had an ACSI customer satisfaction score of 77.

Meanwhile, Nordstrom, Etsy and Costco managed to eke out higher scores on the index — all tying for first place in the online retail category with a score of 80 — but they, too, experienced decelerating customer satisfaction. Costco slipped 1% while Nordstrom and Etsy receded 2%.

The ACSI report, based on surveys collected from April 1 to Sept. 30, saw the overall “internet retail” category decline 5% with a score of 77. Still, e-commerce remains ahead of the other retail categories ACSI follows: Specialty retail stores (down 2.6%) and drug stores (unchanged) tied for second at 76, while department stores (down 1.3%) and supermarkets (down 3.8%) both scored 75.

Among specialty retailers, six specialty retail stores — Sephora, Ulta Beauty, AutoZone, Michaels, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Office Depot —  held steady since the onset of COVID-19 while all others measured by ACSI experienced shrinking customer satisfaction. Foot Locker saw its score decline 3% to 77; Cabela’s gave up 1% to earn a score of 79; and Burlington fell 1% to 75.

When it comes to department stores, there was a five-way tie for second place with a score of 79: Kohl’s (unchanged), Nordstrom (unchanged), Dillard’s (up 1%), Belk (up 1%) and Walmart’s Sam’s Club (down 2%).

Macy’s, which appears in two categories for the ACSI index, comes in third, unchanged at 78, followed by JCPenney, which slid 1% to 77. Meijer and Ross Stores each slipped 1% to 75.

“From the onset of COVID-19, consumer expectations of retailers took a massive hit,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at the ACSI. “Customers braced for delayed packages, empty grocery store shelves, and hard-to-find name brands. Of course, just because they expected this, doesn’t mean they were thrilled about it. As customer satisfaction slips, retailers must adapt to the new market. It’s clear they have their work cut out for them.”

Indeed, with a holiday season unlike any other just around the corner and COVID-19 cases surging across the country, retailers will have to contend with complex issues — not the least of which are supply chain disruptions, delivery hiccups and labor challenges related to the pandemic.

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