For all 47 brands tracked in the Retail category, attributes relating to "shopping experience" and "store reputation" are exerting the strongest impact on customer decision-making, category-expectations, and engagement with retail brands.
While expectation levels for delight vary by category, brands in the Retailers category that were best at creating customer delight are:
Abercrombie & Fitch
"Consumer expectations have been accelerating for some time," said Robert Passikoff, president, Brand Keys. "Many industry pundits have looked at the pressures on price and drew the erroneous conclusion that brands have lost their value. Quite the opposite is true. Real brands are more valuable than ever. We need only look to the continuing success of luxury brands as evidence. Brands that lack meaningful differentiation are being punished by the economic and behavioural shifts, becoming 'category placeholders' because consumers do not look for commodities in their search for delight."
"Brand Keys CLEI data predicts emerging trends in the consumer marketplace. Every category we can compare to last year shows a rise in either the "importance of" or "increased expectations" when it comes to the brand-based attributes that most strongly impact the customer experience. In short, things that generate delight," noted Brand Keys' Passikoff. "Given the levels of commoditisation we've witnessed in product/services and pricing/promotion strategies, it's no surprise consumers are looking to strong brands to offer a difference. Consumers know the brands, know what they do, and know what they are willing to pay. Satisfaction has never been more cost-of-entry while delight is the new differentiator."
"Experience is key, whether it's experience with products themselves, or how products are put into the hands of consumers - from rapid delivery to product introductions - including the after-life of service and support that the consumer experiences. Consumers want a higher level of experience," said Passikoff.
This year consumers' skyrocketing desire for experience and authentic brand values are exerting the strongest impact on customer decision-making and profitable engagement with brands. Brands that can meet, or exceed, consumer expectations become category leaders. "This only matters, of course, if marketers keep score by counting sales and profits, not by merely tracking awareness levels," noted Passikoff.
Retail brand loyalty and engagement rankings for 2012:
3. New Balance
2. Duane Reade
4. Rite Aid
Retail Store (Apparel)
1. Abercrombie & Fitch
2. Victoria's Secret
3. L.L. Bean
4. J. Crew
8. American Eagle Outfitters
9. Old Navy
Retail Store (Department)
3. T.J. Maxx
Retail Store (Discount)
Retail Store (Home Improvement)
2. Home Depot
3. True Value
Retail Store (Office Supply)
1. Office Depot
Retail Store (Price Clubs)
2. Sam's Club
For the Brand Keys 2012 survey, 49 000 consumers, 18 to 65 years of age, drawn from the nine US Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers, and the brands for which they are customers. 75% were interviewed by phone, 20% via face-to-face interviews (to account for today's population, who are cell phone-only consumers) and the remaining consumers assessed categories and brands online.
"At a time when brands are struggling to differentiate themselves and to find ways to profitably engage with customers, the changes in the 2012 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index serve as a benchmark for marketers. Products and services that respond with a meaningful consumer-centric view of their category - delighting the customer - based on predictive loyalty metrics, stand to gain the most, and will establish themselves as this decade's brand leaders," concluded Passikoff.
The complete listing of the 83 category rankings can be found at Brand Keys.