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Closing the Loop in Online Marketing - InternetNews.
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Closing the Loop in Online Marketing

Land's End tops the list of customer-focused e-tail sites, with market giant Amazon.com coming in close behind. That's the conclusion of a report released Tuesday by Future Now, a Web marketing consultancy that focuses on converting traffic into leads and sales.

To conduct the study, dubbed the "2003 Study for Customer Focused Excellence," Future Now sent online mystery shoppers and conversion experts to look at a gold-plated list of 60 retailers' sites, including Bed Bath and Beyond, Dell, 1-800-Flowers.com and Victoria's Secret.

The mystery shoppers searched for 42 different data points across 13 categories to find out which retailers' Web sites best met customer's needs once they had identified the product to be purchased. FutureNow chose the criteria based upon its experience helping companies increase conversions.

The mystery shoppers looked at product descriptions and photos and whether a site offered services such as gift-wrapping. Additionally, they considered how easy it was to check out and complete the purchase. They also looked at how well the site assuaged consumer anxiety about guarantees and returns, privacy and security.

Most of the highest-scoring Web sites were run by traditional companies that are respected for the way they serve customers. Although Amazon.com practically invented e-commerce, it came in second, with a score of 77 percent. Landsend.com, long famous for excellent service to its catalog and telephone sales customers, topped the list with a score of 81 percent. The site of Lands End's parent, Sears.com, also made the list, coming in ninth with a very respectable 68 percent. Other retailers on the top twelve list, in descending order, were LLBean.com, Bluenile.com, QVC.com, Nordstrom.com, BestBuy.com, Newport-News.com, Mondera.com, Macys.com and Neimanmarcus.com.

When sites were ranked by category, Amazon.com won nearly every one, according to the report. Its score was lowered by the site's search and categorization functions. "Shoppers who don't know exactly what they want and are browsing for products will usually be frustrated," the report said. If Amazon.com could fix that, according to Future Now, it will be a "deadly threat" to retailers in every category it competes in.

In general, the sites performed best on things like providing shipping cost early in the delivery process, offering estimated delivery times and offering gift certificates. Fewer sites allowed shoppers to change their default font size, offered multiple image views of products, or offered additional payment options beyond credit cards.