Propelled by its easy-to-use site, captured top honors in three categories — General Merchandise, Toys & Games, and Books, Music, & Video — in the first ever Forrester PowerRankings announced today by Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). Forrester’s PowerRankings combine survey data from online consumers, rigorous shopping experience tests, and unbiased expert analysis to provide objective rankings of the leading eCommerce sites.

“Amazon’s success isn’t too hard to understand — its site works so well that consumers keep coming back, even though the prices aren’t always the best in the category,” observed David E. Weisman, group director for research at Forrester. “Amazon has done a tremendous job transferring what it has learned from selling books online to other categories. The result is powerful offering.” dominates the Books, Music, & Video category with its broad selection, one-click buying, and reliable customer service. But Amazon’s prices leave the door open for companies like DVD EXPRESS, CDNOW, and to challenge on cost with cheap delivery and free returns. Each of these sites suffered from shortcomings like checkout problems at DVD EXPRESS and poor customer service at CDNOW. The other companies in the category —, Best Buy, BigStar, and — all suffer from various site and customer service shortcomings.

In the Toys & Games category, was a surprise winner pushing past eToys with the easiest-to-use store and features like a wish list. But eToys remains No. 1 with consumers for delivery and customer service, so the battle is far from over. With free shipping and responsive customer service, came in third in the category. Despite being the most difficult-to-use site in the category, Toys “R” Us offered fair prices and good inventory. Finally, fell short with poor delivery, difficult returns, and high cost.

Despite higher prices, was a runaway winner in the General Merchandise category with its ease-of-use, great service, and free shipping for returns. But Wal-Mart is a real contender in this category. Its prices drew rave reviews with customers and the retail giant offers prompt delivery and easy returns. QVC performed well in most categories, while Value America’s low prices compensated for numerous site design problems. With a wide range of products and easy ordering, came in fifth in the category.

Forrester PowerRankings use consumer survey data from Greenfield Online’s 400,000-person online panel to identify the most popular eCommerce sites. The online shopping experience for each of these sites is then evaluated by a team of Forrester shoppers who perform a series of rigorous tests in eight areas. The Forrester shoppers’ experience and the consumer data are then synthesized to generate an overall PowerRanking.

Forrester PowerRankings are currently available for online brokerages and seven major retail categories: Apparel; Books, Music, & Video; Computing; General Merchandise; Health; Flowers; and Toys & Games. Forrester plans to add more categories to PowerRankings in the weeks ahead. Additional information about each of the categories, including a complete set of rankings and scores, can be found at the PowerRankings Web site —