Sony may top Apple in a most shocking way
After years of competition, the electronics manufacturer finds a way to beat the iPad maker out of the game.
Sony (SNE) may not be able to sell more PCs, tablets, smartphones or MP3 players than Apple (AAPL). It may not be able to produce a more popular music service than iTunes or build a better software marketplace than the App Store.
However, Sony could one day top Apple in the area of shopper satisfaction. According to a new study by ForeSee, Apple dropped three points in its 2012 Holiday E-Retail Satisfaction Index. The eighth-annual report is based on more than 24,000 customer surveys that were collected between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Amazon (AMZN) led the pack with a satisfaction index rating of 88 -- the same rating it achieved in 2011. LLBean.com came in second place with a rating of 85 (four points higher than the previous year), followed by QVC.com, which achieved a rating of 84 (one point higher than the previous year).
Vistaprint.com, 1800Contacts.com, Keurig.com, HSN.com, Newegg.com, 1800Flowers.com (FLWS) and Scholastic.com were all rated 80 or higher. Even Netflix (NFLX), which managed to anger hundreds of thousands of customers in 2011 (read on Benzinga), achieved an index rating of 80 after increasing its customer satisfaction by one point. (This study was likely concluded before the Christmas Eve outage that left Netflix subscribers without their streaming video service.)
Apple also achieved an index rating of 80, but it was three points lower than it was in 2011. By dropping so sharply, Apple has achieved its lowest score in four years and is no longer one of the top five online retailers in the index. In fact, Apple now ranks 24th.
Sony technically ranks lower, with an index rating of just 79. But in achieving that rating, Sony increased its customer satisfaction by five points. That is an enormous increase for a tech company that is struggling in almost every area of its business, particularly television sets, which used to be its bread and butter.
ForeSee's index ratings are important because of the way consumers respond to a positive shopping experience. According to the report, "Compared to shoppers who report being dissatisfied with a website, highly satisfied shoppers say they are 67% more likely to consider the company the next time they purchase a similar product."
The report further say: "Satisfied shoppers also report being far more likely to return to the site, recommend it and stay loyal to the brand. Furthermore, analysis of top e-retailers in the United States has shown that, on average, a one-point change in website satisfaction was found to predict a 14% change in the log of revenues generated on the web."
How do these results compare to a company's stock performance?
Shares of Apple have declined more than 24% over the last three months. JCPenney.com (JCP), which dropped five points on the index, lost more than 15% of its value during the same period.
BestBuy.com (BBY) and Macys.com (M) also declined in their index ratings. Both companies dropped by one point. Investors were even less impressed with these companies, particularly Best Buy, which has lost more than 34% of its value since September 27. Macy's has only declined by 1% since that time.
Customer satisfaction is not always indicative of a company's performance, however. While Netflix gained more than 63% over the last three months (corresponding with its index rating increase), Amazon -- the number-one company on the list -- lost 3% of its value.
More often than not, however, a decline in customer satisfaction can provide a hint about how a company is performing. Walmart.com (WMT), for example, dropped one point on the index. Its stock has declined more than 8% over the last three months.
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