’s superior online shopping experience secures its victory in the latest rankings of online apparel retailers by Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). Forrester PowerRankings combines survey data from online consumers and unbiased shopping tests to provide objective rankings of the leading US eCommerce sites. The companies that rank below Nordstrom are Lands’ End, L.L.Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, Spiegel, Gap, J.Crew, and J.C. Penney.

Nordstrom’s site sets a high bar for online shopping with a topnotch search engine, easy returns, and excellent customer service. The site provides links to return, privacy, and security policies on every page during checkout, and customers can ship to multiple addresses within one order. But — like all sites — has its flaws. For example, despite knowing a shopper’s address, the site only estimates tax at checkout.

After winning two previous apparel PowerRankings, Lands’ End winds up in second place. Its customer service representatives pick up the telephone in seconds and the return policy is unconditional, but online order tracking requires entering a number from the order confirmation email, tax is estimated, and there is no express checkout.

L.L.Bean comes in a strong third with clear inventory information, search results that can be refined, and fast email responses. But the site’s to-do list should include creating an express checkout and adding online order status and history.

“In its first PowerRankings appearance, Nordstrom managed to defeat two-time champion Lands’ End,” said Tom Rhinelander, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “Both sites offer excellent customer service, but Nordstrom’s top scores in features, delivery, and returns put it over the top.”

Weak scores across the board sink J.C. Penney to last place. Shoppers must endure the longest first-time checkout process of the ranked sites, and the order total is not given at checkout or in the order confirmation email. However, loyal customers have the option to pick up or return purchases at stores, and the site offers unlimited returns.

For the latest PowerRankings, Forrester surveyed 20,000 consumers from the NPD Group’s online panel. These consumers identified the eCommerce sites that they purchased from most recently and rated their experiences. A team of Forrester shoppers then evaluated the shopping experience on sites that have a statistically valid number of consumer respondents by performing a series of rigorous tests. The consumer data and Forrester shopper scores were then synthesized and weighted, with consumer views accounting for two-thirds of the overall PowerRankings. A complete set of PowerRankings results — both consumer and Forrester shopper data — is made available to all ranked companies free of charge.

Additional information about each of the categories, including a complete set of rankings and scores, can be found can be found at the PowerRankings Web site —