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October 21, 2020

Customer satisfaction case study: Amazon has the most to lose during COVID-19

David Vanamburg

Customers’ dissatisfaction with retail is very real. And, since the pandemic, it’s only gotten worse – especially for internet retailers.

Internet retail’s once-comfortable lead over the supermarkets, specialty retail stores, department and discount stores, and drug stores has all but evaporated, per our special COVID-19 retail study, which is based on surveys collected from April 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2020.

Since our 2019-2020 Retail Report, customer satisfaction with internet retail plummets 4.9% to a score of 77 – the largest decline within the retail space – as zero internet retailers improve during the pandemic.

As if this weren’t surprising enough, no internet retailer has taken a bigger knock on the chin during COVID-19 than Amazon.

How has Amazon fallen behind the customer satisfaction game these past six months? Let’s take a look.

‘Amazon in the Middle’

It’s not just that Amazon no longer leads the category, it’s that Amazon is no longer even in the upper echelon of internet retailers.

After tumbling 7% to a score of 77, Amazon finds itself firmly in the middle, tying five other companies – Staples, Best Buy, Target, eBay, and Macy’s – for the industry average.

As it stands, seven online retailers currently outpace Amazon, with Costco, Nordstrom, and Etsy all square at the top with a score of 80.

Amazon’s fall from grace isn’t because of any one thing; it’s from a customer experience meltdown across the board.

Flailing customer experience

Amazon doesn’t have the sole lead in any customer experience benchmark. According to the data, the drops have been significant.

The online giant’s largest decreases come in inventory, navigation, variety, shipping, and customer support. By comparison, Etsy experiences substantial gains in customer support, while Sears, which has the lowest overall score, makes strong gains in shipping.

Many of Amazon’s losses aren’t as sizable, but they are still noteworthy, including site performance, images, and site-generated recommendations.

In most cases, Amazon’s scores aren’t bad. The company is near the top in mobile reliability, clarity, variety, and site performance, and it shares the lead in mobile quality, store speed, shipping, and inventory. However, its marks in these areas have all declined over the past six months.

Amazon’s sales aren’t suffering … yet?

And yet, you’d never know anything was wrong with Amazon based on its sales.

According to May 2020 data from eMarketer, Amazon currently owns 38% of U.S. e-commerce sales. Furthermore, spending on Amazon between May and July was up 60% year over year, per Facteus.

But just because Amazon dominates the online space now, doesn’t mean it will forever.

The pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital, and many businesses are changing with the times. Walmart, Amazon’s closest competition at just under 6% of the market, recently launched its own membership program – Walmart Plus – to challenge Amazon Prime.

No one’s suggesting that Amazon will lose its stranglehold anytime soon, but it’s no longer the only horse in the race. And while the online giant’s sales are through the roof, changes in customer satisfaction do influence a household’s willingness to buy.

Over the past six months, Amazon’s customer satisfaction is trending in the wrong direction. Although this hasn’t affected the company’s sales, it’s something to keep an eye on. If this trend becomes the norm, Amazon could see sales sink just like its customer satisfaction.

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