Survey Says: Shoppers Love Amazon, Hate Walmart

ACSI notes lower prices typically equal lower satisfaction

An ACSI spokesperson said Walmart’s ranking is connected to its low prices.
An ACSI spokesperson said Walmart’s ranking is connected to its low prices.
Illustration: Dianna McDougall; Sources: Getty Images

Key insights:

U.S. consumers are happiest with online retail—especially Amazon—as well as membership warehouses, L Brands, Home Depot and grocers like Trader Joe’s and Wegmans. Across a range of categories, including ecommerce, brick and mortar and grocery, they rank Walmart dead last.

That’s according to a new report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which interviewed more than 85,000 customers throughout 2019.

Here’s a closer look at the results:

Ecommerce

Internet retail was the only retail sector in which ACSI found improvement year over year.

Amazon, not surprisingly, ranked highest, followed by Etsy and Nordstrom.

The middle of the ecommerce pack includes Macy’s, Wayfair, eBay and Overstock. They are followed by Target, which ACSI noted has made moves to offer faster delivery to better compete with Amazon, but it “still trails far behind the internet leader.”

At the bottom of the list, we find Walmart and Sears, which ACSI said score better online than they do in-store. (Ouch.)

“Despite its efforts to compete with Amazon in the one-day shipping space, Walmart can’t gain any traction against the leader when it comes to customer satisfaction,” the report read.

Department and discount stores

Among brick-and-mortar stores, membership warehouses—including Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club—ranked highest in consumer satisfaction last year. In fact, respondents gave Costco the same score as Amazon because in part they like Costco employees and give it high marks for staff courtesy and helpfulness.

The membership warehouses are followed by Kohl’s and Nordstrom, which ACSI said appeal to customers with promotions and brand names, respectively.

Walmart was again at the bottom of the list, alongside Sears, Dollar General and Big Lots.

An ACSI spokesperson said Walmart’s ranking is connected to its low prices.

“The Index has shown that typically lower prices equal lower satisfaction,” she said. “There’s only so far down companies can go without sacrificing quality and that’s ultimately impacting customers’ satisfaction.”

According to ACSI’s analysis, no part of the customer experience at department and discount stores improved in 2019. ACSI said store locations did not impress consumers in 2019, which makes sense in the wake of closures. But, respondents said, the worst part of the shopping experience at department and discount stores is the speed of checkout, or lack thereof, as these stores ranked lowest of any retail category.

Specialty retail

In terms of specialty stores, L Brands, which recently shed its Victoria’s Secret banner, ranked highest.

Of the retailers that follow, Home Depot improved from 2018 to tie with Lowe’s customer satisfaction score even as it “plans to counter Amazon with one-day delivery options,” ACSI said.

The survey found satisfaction dropped for a slew of other retailers in this category, including: O’Reilly Auto Parts, AutoZone, PetSmart, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy and Michaels.

Health and personal care

Overall satisfaction with health and drugstores is down year-over-year as ACSI notes major players are investing in in-store improvements. That includes CVS updating stores to focus on health and wellness and Walgreens launching new health services following Amazon’s PillPack acquisition.

However, these efforts have yet to translate to increased customer satisfaction. As in other retail categories, ACSI said customers are still not happy with the frequency of sales and promotions or checkout speed.

Kroger ranks highest here, but has a lower score than last year because of service quality issues. Albertsons also dropped, along with Rite Aid and Walgreens.

ACSI said Walgreens in particular is hurt by its app, which customers say has deteriorated year over year.

The bottom of the list once again includes Walmart, which ACSI said lags in speed of checkout “where it rates worst in class by a wide gap.”

Grocery

Customer satisfaction with supermarkets is stable as the online grocery industry continues to shake out.

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