Gone are the days where long-term contracts, a lack of viable alternatives or high switching barriers forced customers into staying with brands. Customers can now make choices about products and services every hour, every day. They can continuously evaluate whether to stay or go, spend more or less with a company and whether to recommend the brand to others or not. With COVID-19 causing economic disruption at unprecedented scale, companies need to ensure the loyalty of their existing customer base. There are three questions brands should ask themselves to survive in a challenging environment.
1. Why should customers buy from me – instead of a competitor?
As customers we praise the abundance of choice and opportunities we have, however as humans we are suffering from choice overload. In a world where it is increasingly hard to differentiate between products and services, brands need to give customers a clear reason to choose them over a competitor. Kantar's CX+ recently spoke to more than 100,000 retail customers worldwide across three different categories: Groceries, Fashion and General Retail. Throughout all three categories, only 40% of customers (39% in Fashion, 42% in Grocery and 43% in General Retail) are truly clear on what the retail brands they buy from stand for. In today’s challenging economic environment this is not sufficient to stand out in the crowd.
One of the leaders in this key success factor is H-E-B, a privately held supermarket retailer, based in Texas. Positioned to link with the strong pride Texans hold for their state, many of their house-brand products connect to this theme, creating a strong shared identity. Ranked No. 11 of Forbes largest private American companies 2019, they are also amongst the top performing brands in Kantar’s CX+ 2020 Retail ranking for the US. 53% of their customer base are clear on what the brand stands for, and customers can experience this with every shopping occasion. The result is not just above average customer loyalty: H-E-B achieves stronger recommendation rates than the majority of their competitors as well as a higher share-of-wallet (41% compared to 30% on average). Clarity of brand promise results in better business outcomes.
2. Am I choosing the right parts of the customer journey to deliver an excellent experience?
Even before the pandemic it was vital for brands to focus on those moments in the customer journey that are most important to customers. With the heavy impact of COVID-19 on the economy, disruptions in supply chains and changes in customer journeys, companies have to be even more conscious on where to invest. The term “investment” goes beyond financials. The pandemic is taking a heavy strain on employees, as concerns for health and financial safety are often coupled with disruptions in their everyday. Organisational energy and time also have to be dedicated to where it really matters. Brands need to make choices as to where they want to excel, and where they allow weakness.
Take IKEA: As my colleague Eirik Ekrann recently described, the experience with IKEA is far from hassle-free. Crowded parking spaces, often long queues at the check-out, having to assemble your furniture – but the gains of high value for money, a large product range and a family-friendly atmosphere outweigh the inconvenience. In Sweden our CX+ results show that 75% of IKEA customers are likely to stay with the brand (compared to 50% on average), preference for IKEA is twice as high as for other brands and customers spend more money with them (share-of-wallet 25% compared to 17% on average).
3. Do I deliver what I promise?
We all know Dr. Dao. The video of the physician who was forcibly pulled from an overbooked United Airlines flight reached millions of views on YouTube. Thankfully, not every broken service promise is that dramatic, but we all have come across situations where we felt a strong disconnect between what a brand says and what it does. Waiting in a call-centre queue for half an hour, a heavily delayed train without further information on its whereabouts, a website that promises simplicity but is a challenge to navigate. Failing to deliver on a brand promise is not only jeopardizing customer relationships, it is also costly. Complaints require answers and efforts need to be made to repair the relationship – whereas brands who align actions with words see the pay-off.
UK retailer John Lewis is not only well known because of their heart-warming Christmas adverts. All permanent staff are partners, who ultimately own the business and receive a share of the profit. Through putting partners at the heart of everything the company does, John Lewis has created far above average employee engagement. Promptness of support and helpfulness of employees were outstanding in our recent CX+ results, setting the foundation for great customer experiences. It is therefore not surprising that 62% of customers attribute John Lewis an excellent performance when it comes to “delivering what they promise” – far above the UK average of 45%. Their customer base is rewarding this with high preference for the brand, strong recommendation rates and a clear wish of wanting to remain a customer.
Cohesion creates great brands
Great brands enable customers to see and feel what they stand for at every touchpoint and interaction. They make conscious decisions on where to focus their investments in the customer journey and they ensure to keep their promises. This cohesion between Brand and CX is not only vital to survive in a post-pandemic world, it also pays off financially.
Want to know more?
The results of Kantar’s CX+ 2020 are available now. If you want to learn more about who is leading the ranking in Retail (our first category to launch), watch our webinar on demand.