Apple Tops U.S. Retailers in Mobile Shopping Customer Satisfaction

Apple trumped all e-tailing rivals in mobile shopping satisfaction during 2011's holidays, but lost to Amazon on the Web, a consumer pollster said today.

Apple trumped all e-tailing rivals in mobile shopping satisfaction during 2011's holidays, but lost to Amazon on the Web, a consumer pollster said today.

Apple's mobile satisfaction score -- how happy U.S. consumers were with the their shopping experience using a smartphone or tablet -- was 85, a point higher than Amazon.com's, said Michigan-based ForeSee Results.

ForeSee measured customer satisfaction using a survey of more than 23,000 visitors to the top 40 retail sites as ranked by annual sales revenue. This was the seventh year that the company has published satisfaction findings.

Apple's mobile shopping score -- calculated using a subset of the surveyed customers -- was higher than the 83 it reaped among people who used its traditional website to shop, presumably with desktop and notebook Macs and PCs.

The Cupertino, Calif. company's higher score on mobile was at odds with the typical trend of websites doing better on customer satisfaction, said Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee.

For example, Amazon and Dell, the No. 2 and No. 3 companies on the mobile side, scored four and two points better on Web-shopping satisfaction. Amazon led the Web satisfaction pack with a score of 88.

Apple's 2011 Web shopping rating of 82 was identical to its score in both 2009 and 2010.

ForeSee's recent mobile shopping satisfaction scores were the first from the company, which acknowledged the increased importance of handheld devices, especially smartphones, to U.S. shoppers.

"As the adoption of smartphones increases, more consumers are using them to access retailer websites," said Freed in a statement. "More and more, there is expectation that companies will address the mobile environment in ways that are effective and user-friendly."

Saying that both Apple and Amazon have set a "very high bar" in shopping via smartphone, Freed noted that their scores rely not only on websites crafted for the smaller screens but also on specialized apps.

The Apple Store iPhone app gives Apple an edge over Amazon, which cut the ties between its iOS app and its online store last July.

While Apple has had an iOS Apple Store app since June 2010 -- which it updated late last year -- Amazon does not, perhaps one reason why it rolled out a customized-for-iPad Kindle Store website this week.

Amazon erased the link between its iOS Kindle app and its online store last July to avoid paying Apple 30% of all online book revenues.

Amazon's Kindle app for Android smartphones retains the connection to its website, however.

Not surprisingly, a high customer satisfaction on mobile gives companies like Apple and Amazon a distinct advantage, one that transcends smartphone purchases.

"Mobile shoppers most likely to make a purchase from another channel (the traditional website, a store, or a call center) are those who shopped on Amazon (87) and Apple (81)," said ForeSee in a detailed report on its findings. Conversely, retailers with mobile satisfaction scores lower than those two leaders are less likely to turn to other channels: Dell, with a mobile satisfaction score of 78, posted a score of 76 on non-mobile shopping methods.

ForeSee's surveys showed that 38% of all online shoppers have used a phone to access a retailer website or a for-mobile-only site, or used a smartphone app to shop. Only 10% admitted to the app option.

Just 15% of those polled said that they had actually purchased a product from their smartphone. The most-common use of a mobile device was to get on the Internet to research a product, compare prices or find a physical store location.

Forty-three percent of mobile shoppers said that they had accessed a rival's website while they were shopping in a brick-and-mortar store.

"The smartphone is a powerful shopping tool and a double-edged sword. Consumers will use it to research products and check a retailer's own site while they're in the store, but they'll also use it to compare prices and check out the competition," said Freed.

ForeSee owns the technology developed by the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a noted annual customer satisfaction project, and uses the ACSI methodology to calculate its scores.

The complete report can be downloaded from ForeSee's website, although users must provide name, company, phone number and e-mail address to access the PDF document.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

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This story, "Apple Tops U.S. Retailers in Mobile Shopping Customer Satisfaction" was originally published by Computerworld.

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