Amazon remains by far the most popular web retailer among U.S. online consumers, but its customer satisfaction score took an unaccustomed tumble this year, possibly because of frequent out-of-stocks and slower deliveries during the coronavirus outbreak, according to an annual RBC survey. Nonetheless, RBC projects Amazon as the big winner in coming years as more shopping moves online.

Amazon.com Inc. hit a minor bump in the road this year as its customer satisfaction rating uncharacteristically fell below that of rivals Walmart Inc. and Etsy Inc., according to a survey by RBC Capital Markets. Nonetheless, RBC says Amazon will be the big winner as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates the ongoing shift to online shopping in coming years.

About the only negative news for Amazon in RBC’s eighth annual online shopper survey was its relatively poor showing in customer satisfaction: Only 64% of online consumers responding to the survey said they were “extremely” or “very” satisfied with Amazon this year, versus 73% in 2019, 72% in 2018 and 82% in 2017.

The Prime program is Amazon’s crown jewel.
Mark Mahaney
RBC Capital Markets

“The skew is still clearly positive, but the trend is disturbing,” Mark Mahaney, an RBC analyst who has followed online retail for many years, said in the report on the survey results. “It could reflect COVID-related delivery delays and unavailability of essential and non-essential items, but we will continue to monitor this.”

The results are noteworthy because Amazon generally scores at or near the top of surveys of customer satisfaction with major retailers. But in this survey by RBC Capital Markets, a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada, online handicrafts marketplace Etsy outscored Amazon with 77% of respondents saying they were very or extremely satisfied, and Walmart Inc. got similar accolades from 70%. Amazon did score better than eBay, which came in at 60% of shoppers at least very satisfied.

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Nonetheless, Amazon remains by far the most popular online retailer, cited by 91% of consumers surveyed as among the online retail sites they use most often. Walmart was second at 43%, followed by Target Corp. 30%, eBay 29% and Etsy 16%.

Behind Amazon’s big lead is the continued growth in its Prime loyalty program, the report says. 67% of consumers surveyed said they belonged to Prime, up from 59% in 2019 and 25% when RBC first conducted this survey in June 2013. Prime members shop with Amazon a lot more, RBC says: 83% of Prime members make at least two to three purchases on Amazon per month versus 24% of non-Prime Amazon buyers, and 59% of those with Prime subscriptions spend $800 or more annually with Amazon compared with 15% of non-Prime customers.

“The Prime program is Amazon’s crown jewel,” Mahaney says.

And, despite fears that the coronavirus pandemic might lead to a recession, 84% of Amazon expect to spend more on Amazon in the next 12 months, compared with 82% who said so in last year’s survey.

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In general, RBC says it appears the pandemic has pushed forward the steady growth of online shopping, as 54% of survey respondents say that the COVID-19 crisis has made them permanently more willing to shop on the web.

Here are some other findings from the RBC survey of 2,800 online consumers conducted June 3:

  • 80% of consumers surveyed say Amazon is the top ecommerce site in selection and price, versus 5% who cite eBay and 4% Walmart in both categories. The gap is smaller when it comes to the best price, with 55% citing Amazon versus 15% for Walmart and 10% for eBay.
  • Free shipping is the main reason consumers sign up for Prime, cited by 89% of Prime members, followed by Amazon Prime Video (57%), free same-day shipping (45%), access to exclusive deals (35%) and Prime Music (14%).
  • 76% of consumers who have been Prime members for 4 years or more say they are using Amazon “much” or “moderately” more than in the past, versus 53% who joined in the past year, a sign that shoppers come to value Amazon more the longer they are members of Prime.
  • A majority of shoppers are interested in fast shipping, but the percentages slipped slightly from last year: 61% of online consumers are either “extremely” or “very” interested in next-day delivery, compared with 64% in 2019, while 53% are highly interested in same-day delivery, versus 58% last year.
  • Usage of Amazon’s same-day delivery increased steadily from 4% in 2014 when RBC first asked shoppers if they used the service to 16% in 2019. That percentage dipped slightly to 15% in this year’s survey “likely due to COVID-related delays in Amazon’s one-day and two-day delivery promise,” the RBC report says.

Amazon is No. 1 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, a ranking of North America’s leading online retailers. Walmart is No. 3 and Target is No. 12. EBay is No. 5 and Etsy No. 18 in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 100 Online Marketplaces ranking of the world’s leading web marketplaces operated by companies that host online shopping sites but do not sell merchandise on their own behalf.

 

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