Online shoppers tend to care more about the tail end of their shopping experience, such as the site's payment process and whether their purchases are delivered on time.
In contrast, those at physical stores are more concerned about the start - the availability of products, the types of promotions offered and the staff's courtesy.
These were some of the findings of a three-month study, released yesterday by the Singapore Management University's Institute of Service Excellence (ISES), which compiled the Customer Satisfaction Index for the retail and infocommunications sectors. Overall satisfaction in both sectors rose this year.
For the first time, ISES included the e-commerce subsector in its annual study to take into account changing consumption patterns. Ranked first was Zalora, followed by Taobao/Tmall and Groupon.
One observation was that consumers tend to visit online stores more often and, as a result, spend more there, despite perceiving these as having lower value and quality than bricks-and-mortar ones.
"The expectations of service are quite different for an online store," said ISES executive director Neeta Lachmandas. "The challenge for businesses is the integration... Can we integrate the bricks-and-mortar with the convenience of online?"
The retail sector produced a score of 71.7 out of 100, up from 70 last year. Improvements came primarily from fashion, jewellery and department stores. Bossini, Uniqlo and Hang Ten were the top three performers among fashion stores, while DFS, Takashimaya and John Little claimed the top spots among department stores.
Among supermarkets, only Sheng Siong had a significantly higher score than a year ago.
A Sheng Siong spokesman attributed the rise to a two-day training workshop that the chain and the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies came up with late last year. Nearly 800 of its front-line staff have attended it. "The training emphasised the importance of serving our customers wholeheartedly," she said. "Our latest score... seems to suggest that our customers could sense our improvement in service."
Meanwhile, the roll-out of self-checkout machines at supermarkets has "complemented cashiers in facilitating a smooth payment process" and did not adversely affect customer satisfaction, said Mr Chen Yongchang, head of research and consulting at ISES.
The score of the infocommunications sector rose from 67.4 to 68.5, driven by higher satisfaction with broadband and Wireless@SG services. Telco M1 claimed the top spot in the broadband subsector, followed by StarHub and Singtel.
Mr Chen noted that the recent successful implementation and take-up of free Wi-Fi services at 33 MRT stations could have led to the sharp increase in the score for Wireless@SG, from 59.6 to 69.6.
The study, which involved face-to-face interviews, polled 9,489 people between January and April this year. Of these, 8,584 were Singapore residents interviewed in their homes and 905 were tourists at Changi Airport.