When a digital retail brand makes customers feel appreciated, 88% of shoppers plan to stay with the brand, 88% will advocate for the brand and 87% plan to spend more with the brand, Forrester says.

Online shoppers can get satisfaction. That is, if they shop at TV and web merchant HSN.com. HSN ranks first in customer satisfaction among digital retailers in a survey conducted by Forrester Research Inc. HSN is owned by Qurate Retail Group, No. 11 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500.

What makes a consumer judge a customer experience as positive?

HSN had the highest percentage of customers reporting positive experiences over negative ones of all the digital retailers Forrester measured in its U.S. CX Index. The index includes companies in the airline, banking, insurance, retail industries and more. Forrester conducted an online survey of 110,828 U.S. individuals ages 18 to 88 February through May 2018 to determine how they perceive their experiences with brands and how customer experience drives loyalty. As part of its report, Forrester asked consumers who had shopped online with 11 digital brands in the U.S. in the past 12 months to rate their most recent experience with the brand.

To help understand why customers  rated their experiences as they did, Forrester asked about the interaction that customers had in mind as they took the survey, such as seeking service for a broken product. It also asked customers which channels they used during the experience such as website or phone agent. Based on the survey, Forrester ranked the 11 digital retailers. Of the 11 digital brands Forrester analyzed, four fell year over year in the rankings: Etsy Inc., Wayfair Inc., eBay and RueLaLa.com.

HSN rose five places to earn the top digital rank. Etsy, which ranked first last year, fell to fourth place, but it still has a strong 33-to-1 ratio of positive experiences to negative ones. That was matched only by Zappos.com, which is owned by Amazon (No. 1 in the Top 500).


“HSN continues to delight its loyal base of older customers with superior customer service agents, crystal-clear return policies and comprehensive content,” the report says.

QVC and Zappos ranked second and third, respectively. More QVC and Zappos shoppers said that these brands were easy to shop, compared with customers of other digital retailers.

How did other retailers rank?

QVC, whose parent Qurate bought HSN last year, has nearly the same customer service initiatives as HSN, Forrester says. Zappos also has ranked consistently high for years on the index because of its “superior human customer service interactions, easy-to-use website, hassle-free returns, broad assortment and high-quality products,” the report notes.

Gilt, owned by Hudson’s Bay Co.—No. 36 in the Top 500—and Rue La La moved the most on the index and both fell towards last place. This year, Gilt is in last place and Rue La La is next to last; both slipped more than any other brand in the ranking.


“Flash sale sites are now mature businesses that must focus on profitability—so, counter to their original market promise, they now have higher prices, stricter return policies, weaker product assortments and slower delivery (often handled by the manufacturers),” Forrester writes.

Meanwhile,  another digital commerce company that fell—eBay—faces many of the challenges common with third-party marketplace models—a lack of consumer trust in transacting, less transparency because orders are delivered by other sellers and inconvenient customer service to resolve questions or concerns, Forrester reports.

When a digital retail brand makes customers feel appreciated, 88% plan to stay with the brand, 88% will advocate for the brand and 87% plan to spend more with the brand, Forrester says.

Etsy is No. 19 in the Top 500, Wayfair is 13 and RueLaLa.com is 92.


The Forrester report also notes:

  • 71% of digital retail customers on average reported having a good experience with the products and services of the brand about which they were responding.
  • One-third of digital retailer customers on average didn’t have a good experience with returns, exchanges and refunds. It’s no coincidence that shoppers were less likely to have an easy return experience with eBay, Gilt and Rue La La, the lowest-ranking companies, than with the other brands Forrester measured, the report notes.
  • On average, 19% of disappointed shoppers say they will stay with the brand.