Surveys Cite Top CE Sites

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Dot-com retailers 800, Buy, Cozone, Crutchfield, Egghead, Nextag and Outpost were sited as the best places to buy consumer electronics online in separate studies by Fortune and Forbes magazines.

In an outsourced study of 1999 holiday season performance, Fortune ranked pure-play e-tailer 800.com as the top CE-specific e-commerce site on the web.

The cyberstore, which won TWICE's first Excellence In E-tailing Award at CES, came in 15th place on Fortune's list of 49 leading e-tailers and was the sole CE specialty store represented. Only four other CE sellers appeared in the rankings, including online department store Amazon.com, which placed fifth.

Receiving "below par" ratings were discount e-tailer Buy.com, which placed 44th; CompUSA's Cozone.com site, which placed 47th; and Wal-Mart.com, which came in last. (Wal-Mart has since revamped its site.)

The number-one ranked site was eToys.

The research was conducted for Fortune by Columbus, Ohio-based Resource Marketing, which "stress-tested" each site during the recent holiday selling season on more than 80 separate measures, including navigation, presentation, service and shipping.

The study simulated more than 500 customer interactions and required that researchers spend a minimum of 20 hours on each site.

Ironically, low-ranked Buy and Cozone appeared on Forbes' short list of best CE sites, alongside Crutchfield, Egghead, Nextag and Outpost. The six were among 255 sites in 33 categories that staffers exalted for their design, navigation, content, speed and customization.

Specifically, Forbes liked Buy.com's prices and Cozone's search engine, but chastised the former for the 24-hour cap on its low-price guarantee and took Cozone to task for limiting its shopping bot adviser to computer notebooks and digital cameras.

As for the others:

Crutchfield was praised for its quality tech support but chided for high prices.

Egghead garnered huzzahs for ease of navigation and a raspberry for sluggish fulfillment.

Nextag got yeahs for its interactive bargaining model and nays for "inane" customer product reviews.

And Outpost was cheered for its sharply priced PC bundles and jeered for the sparse selection within its Tweeter.com affiliate site.

Separately, Fortune's top CE pick, 800.com, was named an authorized dealer by both DirecTv and Pioneer last month. The e-tailer will begin carrying a full range of Pioneer products this spring through a specially designed Pioneer Store and has already begun selling three models of RCA's DirecTv system online. Installation is provided in 48 states by DigiVision Satellite Services.

800 became the first pure-play e-tailer authorized to sell Sony products earlier last month.

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