Measuring Online Shopper Satisfaction
By Bernice Hurst, Managing Partner, Fine Food Network
Online retailers sometimes struggle to know how happy customers are. They don’t always get direct feedback, positive or negative, and don’t often have time to chase it themselves. Feefo, a UK-based start-up, has set out its stall to address precisely this need, however.
Feefo (Feedback Forum) claims to be the only independent forum customers can use to either praise or criticize online retailers. The platform mimics the way eBay enables customers to rate sellers.
Bill Cawley, who started the business in 2006, explained to RetailWire that Feefo asks retailers to send them details of sales, each of which then generates an email to the consumer requesting feedback. Customers can rate both products and service. Retailers can then respond, immediately and publicly. Comments and responses are posted for all to see.
In addition, customers can spread the word about retailers who may not yet be participating by posting comments under the company’s Feefo Grapevine platform.
A visit to the site found reviews of 560 online retailers. The wide majority, including bigger players such as Marks & Spencer and Amazon, do not participate in the Feefo program although reviews were available under the Grapevine program. But a handful of retailers have partnered with the website.
One early member, Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts, has had more than twenty thousand comments in the past year. Founder Nick Wheeler said in a statement, “Feefo gives your customers the chance to rate your product and service… Whatever they say, good or bad, is posted immediately onto your website for the whole world to see. Feefo is independent. We cannot edit or change customer responses in any way. I was worried at first – to say the least – but am delighted to see that 99 percent of our customers rate our service excellent or good. I shall not rest until we hit 100 percent!”
Tyrwhitt’s website includes a Feefo logo so that customers know where they can go to see what other shoppers have said about their experience.
Mr. Cawley believes that Feefo can be particularly helpful during the current difficult situation for retailers as they try to retain customer loyalty.
“Feefo is aiming to be the TRUST mark for customers to rely on. At present we have in the region of 20 percent of customers providing feedback – usually positive, sometimes not. We believe our response rates are so high because it is quick, transparent and honest…eBay buyers have been using feedback published on the eBay website as part of their purchasing decision for years. Amazon customers are the same. Feefo offers all e-tailers the chance to provide that same level of service.”
Discussion questions: What do you think of customer feedback websites as a way for online retailers to gauge customer satisfaction? Should retailers be partnering with such program providers? What hurdles do customer feedback websites face to work successfully for online retailers?
- Leading retailer signs up to eBay-style feedback & wins 99% approval from their customers – Retail Week
- Feefo – website
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10 Comments on "Measuring Online Shopper Satisfaction"
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Put me in the grain of salt column. There is clearly some value in these sites but there is also a lot of vetting going on.
This site will be useful for some consumers and will be one more source of information for companies. There is too much variety among consumers for this to become the only source, or probably even, the source. However, it is one more place on the web that needs monitoring to get feedback from your consumers.
Online retailers are no more or less likely to get feedback from their customers than offline retailers–it’s more a function of how hard the retailer tries to provide channels for such feedback and how good it is at getting that feedback to the people that can do something about it.
Feefo is a good idea for those retailers who don’t already have good communication channels. I agree with the comments above about the difficulty of such a site making money given the myriad alternatives and communities that already exist for consumers to assist each other in making good choices. Feefo seems more about making retailers feel like they can go to one place and know all they need to about how they are perceived by consumers. That’s never going to be good enough. If you really want to know the scoop (and this applies equally to online and offline retailers) you have to actively search for the feedback in social networks, blog comments, lifestyle site discussion forums, etc.
Max nails this, I think. Customer rating online stores is a concept from the dawn of the dot-coms. I actually built and ran a site in 1997-98 called storedotstar.com to do the same thing–several hundred e-retailers were covered at its peak. While BizRate pressed on, I dropped the effort when it became clear there was no path to revenues.
From the online marketer’s point of view, the concern I have with voluntary ratings sites is that they may tend to capture the motivated extremes of the satisfaction bell curve–the most ecstatically satisfied and the most furiously angry. Most folks in the middle have much less incentive to offer opinions. Can Feefo responses be modeled to deliver a realistic read?
What Feefo is doing in 2008, Biz Rate was doing in the US in 1998. Biz Rate found that they could not build a business solely on customer feedback, they needed to add commerce. I don’t think that a stand-alone customer feedback website will draw much interest from consumers or be able to monetize itself. When coupled with the myriad of current places for consumers to comment on businesses, I don’t think Feefo has much of a future.
Customer feedback must be timely. When the experience happens–whether good or bad–the customer is driven to give feedback. After time elapses, customers are less likely to give feedback.
The feedback may work for some but my fear would be that the limited amount of response would skew the information. Take surveys, for instance. Survey results seem interesting until you drill down and find out that only 15 responded out of 250.
Retailers would be better served in-store with a customer feedback machine giving a random price to every 1,000 that respond, having a touch screen at the end of the checkout line for the consumer to respond. Online, allow the customer to respond immediately after the experience when the emotional level will drive them to respond.
Customer feedback websites sound like a good idea but must be taken with a grain of salt. I assume that the vast majority of online shoppers don’t have the time or inclination to provide feedback, even if they are dissatisfied with their shopping experience. So the feedback might be expected to be heavily weighted toward those with something to complain about.
Otherwise, it’s important to gauge customer satisfaction with e-commerce sites by the results themselves, just as with bricks & mortar “customer relationship management.” In particular, retailers need to have a grasp of recency, frequency, and the size and contents of their “market basket.” Mining these data will provide a snapshot of the best customers, who ought to be the first people surveyed about their level of satisfaction.
I am not a fan of sites that allow anonymous reviews from authors that are not qualified customers of the product they are writing about. However, when retailers ask for feedback from 100% of their customers, they usually find that more customers respond than they expect, and that the ratings are overwhelmingly positive.
An example of a company that does this well is Hotwire. When a customer books a hotel through their site, they are sent a very quick survey the following day. The info gathered, I believe, is used to validate Hotwire’s star ratings and to indicate to visitors which hotels are “customer favorites.”
The best online retailers get customer feedback within their own sites and from survey questions e-mailed soon after the shopper’s visit.
Of course, those who respond are the extremes, but if that’s 20% of the entire customer base, it’s not a bad sample!
Feefo doesn’t pretend to be ‘scientific’. For that matter, very few polls can pretend to be. Some customers will never answer polls.
More to the point – Feefo is not principally aimed at suppliers. We do get our income from them, but our target is consumers. The ‘eBay’ model – asking every customer for feedback – is by far the best way of establishing whether a supplier is trustworthy, and that’s what customers need.
I am sure that, should the eBay-Amazon-Feefo principle ever get a real hold, there would come a time when people would not trade with a supplier unless the trader offered the option of giving public feedback on an independent site. Then the internet would be a safer place to trade.