In a move to bring objective research and analysis to online consumers, Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) today announced the launch of Forrester PowerRankings — unbiased rankings of eCommerce sites in the most popular categories. Forrester’s PowerRankings combine survey data from online consumers, rigorous shopping-experience tests, and unbiased expert analysis to provide a complete assessment of the leading eCommerce sites. Forrester’s PowerRankings are currently available for online brokerages and seven major retail categories at

“Consumers don’t want to learn where to shop and buy online by trial and error; they need a reliable guide to help them make informed decisions about choosing an Internet merchant,” said George F. Colony, Forrester’s president. “PowerRankings are backed by the tradition and integrity of the established leader in eCommerce research. And because Forrester does not accept advertising on its site or participate in vendor referral and link exchange programs, PowerRankings provide eCommerce rankings consumers can trust.” class=”newpage” target=”_blank”

Forrester’s PowerRankings are currently available for online brokerages and seven major retail categories: Apparel; Books, Music, & Video; Computing; General Merchandise; Health; Flowers; and Toys & Games. In the inaugural rankings, the winners were Charles Schwab (Brokerage), Lands’ End (Apparel), (Books, Music, & Video; General Merchandise; and Toys & Games), (Computing), (Health), and Hallmark (Flowers).

The PowerRankings process begins with survey data from online consumers. To solicit direct consumer views on eCommerce sites, Forrester has partnered with Greenfield Online to survey members of Greenfield’s 400,000-person online panel. Consumers are also invited to participate in surveys at the Forrester PowerRankings Web site. This survey data is used to determine which eCommerce sites registered most significantly with consumers.

The online shopping experience is evaluated by a team of Forrester shoppers who perform a series of tests for each site in eight areas: advice & market information; cost; customer service; delivery; features & content; transacting; usability; and value. The tests are designed to cover every aspect of the eCommerce experience, from finding products and information to placing an order or trade and dealing with customer service. Each test is performed in a consistent and rigorous manner to ensure that the results are accurate and replicable.

“While the top spots were dominated by dot-com companies, we were surprised by the strong showing from the traditional companies whose eCommerce efforts are still evolving,” observed David E. Weisman, group director for research at Forrester. “In the Brokerage category, for example, the top five scores were held by traditional firms. Similarly, the Apparel and Flowers categories each had several established companies in the top five. What this suggests is that the strong brands, established order fulfillment systems, and good customer service that these companies have offline is starting to make a difference in the online world.”

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.