Retailers are delivering a better experience online than in-store, according to a new study.

This year’s list of the top 100 brands for customer experience, compiled by research consultancy Nunwood and based on a poll of 7,500 customers, reveals that customer experience online across the UK is improving.

Across all non-food retail, customers scored their experiences on average 5 per cent higher when they engaged with a retailer online-only compared to face-to-face. The trend was repeated for supermarkets. Waitrose, with 5.5 per cent, saw the biggest rise.

Craig Ryder, retail analyst at Nunwood, says companies, particularly in the grocery category, are starting to overcome some of the fundamental problems inherent in selling products online.

He adds: [Grocery brands’] availability, substitution strategy and online presentation are second to none. Compared to running stores, running an online proposition is also much less open to risks such as the weather and stocking issues. Brands are starting to realise this now and looking to make more curated and premium customer experiences online that bring in things like CRM, social media and user reviews to provide a more premium customer experience.”

It is an approach that has been adopted by second place John Lewis, which has moved to integrate its store, online and mobile offerings further this year to encourage shoppers to interact with the brand across multiple channels. The retailer’s multi channel experience was rated 5 per cent higher than its in-store offering.

The study also highlights a clear link between brands providing a consistently strong customer experiences and the likelihood of re-purchasing or making a recommendation. On average shoppers are 5 per cent more likely to recommend or re-purchase from a brand that made the top 100 compared to a random sample of brands that were not on the list. This increases to 10 per cent for those brands in the top 20.

The Co-operative Bank was one of the biggest risers, jumping from 52 in 2011 to seventh in this year’s list. The bank has launched a several initiatives since the start of the year to position itself as an ethically, consumer-focused alternative to high street banks. Indeed, last month the business introduced a bonus scheme for staff based on customer service.

Traditional high-street banks either fell down the rankings or dropped out of the Top 100 entirely.

Respondents showed a marked increase in the scores given to these banks when it came to questions around integrity with those brands that made the top 100 scoring on average 13 per cent higher than those that did not.

It shows the importance of ethical practice, sustainability and CSR when it comes to the bottom line, according to Nunwood.

Ryder says: “Brands are getting better at delivering customer experience across the UK, but there’s a sweet spot they can achieve if they look to balance their online experience with what goes on in bricks and mortar stores. There’s a real premier league of brands emerging like John Lewis that are injecting more personality into there stores to really give their consumers an experience that is fast matching the premium environment they are increasingly producing online.”

Customer experience top 10

Rank Brand Rank 2011
1 Amazon 1
2 John Lewis 2
3 Lush 12
4 First Direct 16
5 Ocado 19
6 M&S Food 6
7 The Co-operative Bank 59
8 Green Flag 79
9 Waitrose 14
10 Virgin Atlantic 3

Brand Multichannel vs Store
Debenhams +4 per cent
Dorothy Perkins +15 per cent
Halfords +5 per cent
John Lewis +5 per cent
M&S +3 per cent
Matalan + 5 per cent
Next + 6 per cent
River Island +3 per cent
Sports Direct +6 per cent
Superdrug +6 per cent