Apple, L.L. Bean—and Especially, Amazon—Score Big in Online Shopping Satisfaction

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In an annual study tracking customer satisfaction ratings with the top 100 online retailers, perhaps the biggest takeaway is that Amazon is the world’s biggest e-retailer for a reason: It just plain makes customers happier than the competition.

In this year’s ForeSee E-Retail Satisfaction Index, awards for top satisfaction were named in various shopping categories, including apparel (L.L. Bean), computers and electronics (Apple), food and drug (Keurig), and more. Yet without a doubt, only one retailer can legitimately claim the overall crown.

“Amazon continues to set the standard for e-retailers,” the study reads. “Amazon’s score sets a record as the highest score ever attained by a retailer measured in this Index.”

The index uses a 0 to 100 scale, with scores based on four main factors: functionality, merchandise, content, and price. It’s difficult to get a handle on how, exactly, scores are tabulated, but an 80 or above is considered good. Overall, online shoppers aren’t any happier or more disappointed with e-retail this year: The average score has stood at 78 for three straight years.

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Individual retailers, though, have demonstrated improvement. Netflix, which led all e-retailers in customer satisfaction two years ago with a score of 87, fell to 79 in late 2011 after a year of price hikes and cancelled subscriptions, only to rebound to 81 lately. Amazon, which netted last year’s highest score with an 86, registered an all-time high 89 this year.

What’s most impressive about Amazon is that it performs well across the spectrum of indexes and surveys such as the one recently published by ForeSee. According to one study released last summer, Amazon is tops for customer service. In the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which was released in February and incorporates online and brick-and-mortar stores alike, Amazon was named the best of the best.

These surveys also show that not only are customers happy with Amazon, online shopping in general is more satisfying than traditional shopping in physical stores. In the ACSI study, online retail clearly trumped brick-and-mortar retail in terms of customer satisfaction.

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Retailers with a strong brick-and-mortar base are coming to terms with just how important a good web-shopping experience is for their businesses. Several huge traditional retailers—including Home Depot, Kohl’s, Costco, and Macy’s—have vastly improved their ForeSee ratings since the index was first conducted.

A recent Internet Retailer post noted that the web has been the fastest-growing channel for sales for the vast majority of chain stores. What’s more, 30 of the nation’s largest 74 chains closed stores last year, with the overall number of chain stores decreasing 2.2%. Here’s what one analyst had to say on the topic:

“More chain retailers are coming to the realization that they don’t need to expand their store count or operate as many locations as they once did because more of their business is becoming web-based,” says Will Ander, a senior partner with retail industry consulting firm McMillanDoolittle. “The smart chains are the ones looking to grow online because there aren’t that many places left in the U.S. that warrant the cost of building another big-box store.”

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Alternately, there’s the business model in which you’re entirely web-based, with no big-box, brick-and-mortar presence whatsoever.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.