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Best shopping websites

We rate 52 of the largest online retailers for value, customer support, and more

Consumer Reports magazine: November 2012

No matter what a website sells, it should provide good value and quality, make shopping easy, deliver products on time, and have competent customer support. To see which sites best meet those expectations, we asked our readers about their experiences at 52 of the nation’s largest retail sites. We also checked out many of them to see what distinguishes great online retailers from mediocre ones and what to expect when you shop online.

Overall, shopping sites received high marks, and respondents were highly satisfied with 84 percent of their purchases when visiting these sites—good news, because more and more people are shopping online. In the first quarter of 2012, U.S. e-commerce accounted for $53.1 billion, or nearly 5 percent of total retail purchases, according to Department of Commerce estimates. That’s an increase of more than 15 percent from the first quarter of 2011. By comparison, overall retail sales grew by just 6.5 percent.

Readers’ reasons for shopping online included gas savings, the ability to shop 24/7, the presence of models that aren’t in stores, good prices, and lots of information. “Online shopping gives me the ability to do extensive research quickly, find out what actual users think, and know that I am paying a fair price for the product,” said Michael Burton of San Diego.

Despite readers’ overall approval, sites differed in key areas, including quality and value; ease of navigation, ease of checkout, shipping, and customer support.

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