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Apple takes top spot in online order fulfillment in Q4 with average ship time of 2.5 days

In its first ever quarterly study, customer service analytics firm StellaService ranked Apple as the fastest and most most efficient online retailer in terms of shipments for the fourth quarter of 2014, taking an average of 2.5 days to send out orders.

Detailed in a StellaService's Benchmark report published Thursday, Online Apple Store customers saw their packages arrive an average of 1.5 days faster than the four-day delivery time average aggregated from the Web's top 25 retailers. The number is down slightly from a one-month period sampled in June 2014, when Apple ranked No. 1 for the first time with a 2.3-day order fulfillment average.

Apple-centric data provided to AppleInsider covering the period between February 2014 and January 2015 shows 85 percent of Apple orders were fulfilled on the day they were placed, compared to 41 percent for the rest of the Top 40. All Apple orders tracked by StellaService were shipped within one business day.

Aside from speed, the Shipping Benchmark factors in package fit, package quality, whether companies offered and met an estimated delivery date and other metrics. For example, Apple has provided shipping estimates on all orders in placed in the last 12 months and boasts a 96 percent success rate for on-time deliveries. The Top 40 provided estimates on 95 percent of orders, but only managed to meet those estimates 74 percent of the time.

Looking beyond shipping, Apple took an average of five days to issue refunds to customers, nearly two times faster than a 9.7-day average put in by the study's Top 40 retailers. StellaService attributes the quick turnaround to Apple's reliance on FedEx 2Day shipping for returns, as well as internal efficiency that allows it to process refunds within two days of receiving the item versus 4.7 days for the Top 40.

Customer care metrics proved Apple representatives have above average product knowledge, dubbed Product IQ, and achieved a perfect score in 7 of the last 12 months. The company's chat-based customer service score has improved to 92 percent in the last 6 months, up from 87 percent over the first half of 2014.

Taking shipping, returns and phone, email and chat support into consideration, Apple landed in third place overall behind online clothiers L.L.Bean and J.Crew.

StellaService analysts perform daily evaluations of 124 online retailers to generate Benchmark data. The report issued today includes results from the retail fiscal fourth quarter of 2014 ending in January.