There’s a new king of the hill when it comes to brokerage firm website rankings, at least according to Gomez’s rankings. For the third quarter of 2002, Salomon Smith Barney took over the reins atop Gomez’s list, besting Merrill Lynch, which had held the No.1 spot for the past two years.
According to the Waltham, Mass.-based Gomez, SSB’s recent site redesign and general usability overhaul were the major factors in their place at the top. Merrill’s drop might be attributed to their lack of changes to their site, which remains the same as it was when in launched in 1999, according to Gomez. However, Merrill is in the midst of a revamping, so changes might be expected in the future. UBS PaineWebber finished third in the survey.
Improved usability seems to be the primary reason for SSB’s jump from three to one on the list. “We put a lot of emphasis on ease of use,” says Dan Burke, director of brokerage services at the group. “Two years ago, it was ‘what can you offer.’ Now it is ‘what can you deliver.’”
Gómez scorecards measure the quality of e-commerce offerings and efficiency of a firm’s Web site, according to numerous criteria, such as whether a site offers Saturday telephone customer service. Then, Gómez puts each criterion into one of five categories: ease of use, customer confidence, on-site resources, relationship services, and overall cost, and ranks the firms accordingly.
Creating user-friendly screening tools on a site, such as a stock selection tool, can create opportunities for a firm’s business, Burke said: “On average, investors who used screening tools traded 50 percent more off-line than those who did not,” says Burke. Scorecard findings also reveal investors who used screening tools tend to have almost twice the income and three times the investable assets than the active investor who doesn't use the tools.