Fierce competition for customers in the online brokerage industry is driving exceptional Internet service levels, according to research from Keynote Systems, with Schwab and Scottrade scoring highest for usability, and E*Trade and Fidelity appealing most to first-time investors.
The Keynote study found that brokerage Web site service levels far exceed other industries, with an average reliability rating of 99.5%. According to the study, pages that download in more than one and a half seconds - a download time that is considered excellent in other industries - are judged second rate in the brokerage industry.
"Leading brokerage companies are pushing the bar much higher not only for competitors, but across the Web as well," says Chris Loosley, general manager, service level business for Keynote. "Driven by the brokerage industry, the eight second rule, which had become the four second rule, is quickly becoming the one and a half second rule."
Keynote tested speed and reliability by running 6500 simulated interactions across leading brokerage sites. Ameritrade, Schwab and Scottrade were judged to provide the best overall service levels across ten key factors measured in the study. In the critical area of site reliability, Schwab and Scottrade were reported as the most reliable sites, with Scottrade not reporting a single error for the entire month during which the study was conducted.
Keynote found the speed and reliability of trade execution on a company's Web site is almost as important to prospects as the commissions and fees charged for trades. In the study, 83% of prospective online investors reported commissions and fees as an important consideration and 82% reported speed and reliability of trade execution as a key consideration. In comparison, the selection of available products and services was a consideration for 60% and investment advice and planning tools were considered by 56%.
In the competition for customers, E*Trade, Fidelity and Ameritrade had the most success in converting prospective online investors into customers.
The top frustration for prospective investors evaluating brokerage sites was when poor online demos were presented, or no demo was available at all. Almost a third (29%) of all prospective investors in the study complained about this issue.