Internet retailers moved to a satisfaction score of 81 in 2019, up from 80 a year earlier, while bricks-and-mortar merchants in four categories stayed stable or dropped slightly. Amazon regains the top spot among e-retailers after falling behind Costco last year in the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index, as Nordstrom moves up to No. 2 in customer satisfaction.

Consumers prefer online to in-store shopping, and the gap is widening, according to the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report released this week.

Satisfaction with internet retailers moved up to 81 in 2019 on a 100-point scale from 80 a year earlier, increasing the lead for ecommerce over bricks-and-mortar retailers in four categories: specialty retail (2019 satisfaction score of 78), supermarkets (78), department and discount stores (76), and health and personal care stores (76). Satisfaction with retailers in the first three categories was unchanged, while the health and personal care retailers slipped slightly from 77 in 2018. That represented a stabilization of satisfaction with the bricks-and-mortar categories after declines over the past two years.

When you look at online versus brick and mortar head-to-head, online wins every time.
David VanAmburg, managing director
American Customer Satisfaction Index

“Customers continue to chase the best, most convenient shopping experience available, and right now online is king,” says David VanAmburg, managing director at American Customer Satisfaction Index LLC. “Customers can find what they need more easily and aren’t pestered by salespeople. When you look at online versus brick and mortar head-to-head, online wins every time.”

Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 ranking of North America’s leading online retailers, regained the top spot in the ACSI study after falling behind Costco Wholesale Corp. (No. 15) last year. Nordstrom Inc. moved up to the No. 2 spot in the 2019 survey, while Costco fell into a third-place tie with several online retailers and marketplaces.

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The biggest decline among online retailers was for “All Others”—retailers not on the ACSI list of 25 ecommerce leaders but that consumers taking the survey say they shop with. Satisfaction with that group fell from 82 in 2018 to 79 in 2019. VanAmburg says that likely is because bigger retailers are pouring resources into ecommerce at a pace that small competitors can’t match.

Ecommerce leader Amazon was only in the middle of the pack in the supermarket category, as its Whole Foods subsidiary earned only a score of 79 in customer satisfaction, unchanged from a year earlier. Top marks in that category went to Trader Joe’s, the California-based grocery chain owned by Aldi Nord of Germany.

Walmart Inc. (No. 3 in the Top 1000), the largest U.S. food retailer by sales, scored at the bottom in the supermarket category at 73 and ahead of only Sears Holdings Corp. (No. 38) in the internet retailer category with a score of 74. Target Corp. (No. 16), another major retailer of food (as well as general merchandise), scored 79 in the supermarket category and 80 online.

In the department store and discount retail category, Walmart again came in last among the more than a dozen companies rated with a score of 71, while Target earned a rating of 78. Costco topped that category at 83, followed by Sam’s Club, the warehouse club subsidiary of Walmart, at 81.

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The ACSI bases its rating on interviews with about 500,000 consumers and ranks more than 400 companies in 46 industries and 10 economic sectors.

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