Each year, Savanta’s Top 100 Most Loved Retail Brands Report highlights the role human emotions play in business through BrandVue tracking, our market research intelligence platform for retailers.
This last year has been unlike any other in recent history, presenting new and unique challenges for retailers across the UK. Not only has the pandemic starved brands of footfall, with successive lockdowns placing immense pressure on businesses, but retailers have also been faced with an uncertain road to a post-Brexit new normal.
The more a brand is loved relative to its competitors, the more frequently its customers shop...
Still, we’ve seen the retail industry persevere. There has been continuity, and even progress. We’ve come to rely on our supermarkets, new shopper segments have embraced internet shopping and innovation that might have taken many years to arrive has come forward. Further, even if we can’t visit the shops we used to visit, consumers still hold retail brands dear, and this emotional connection is arguably the most resilient and valuable weapon retailers have against the challenges presented by the pandemic.
Reflecting the year that the retail industry has faced, this year’s Top 100 Most Loved Retail Brands Report is also unlike any other, and has become a time capsule of changing consumer opinion and brand performance as the pandemic has unfolded across the UK.
Why Brand Love Matters
Savanta’s data shows time and time again that if a consumer trusts a brand, they will be twice as likely to consider the brand, however, love gets a brand further. If a consumer loves a brand, this puts that brand in the preferred rather than considered category. Love is a differentiator.
That’s why, with our BrandVue tracking platform, we measure Brand Love, or the percentage of consumers who “love” a brand. Statistical analysis of hundreds of brands’ data shows that Brand Love is linked to purchase frequency. The more a brand is loved relative to its competitors, the more frequently its customers shop. In essence, then, Brand Love is like a relationship where the more deeply felt the affection, the greater the urge to offer exclusivity. And, whilst at face value this seems obvious, it means retailers must consider how they can feel relevant to each consumer, particularly when scaling their customer base.
What we’ve seen in our data is that over the course of the last year, the Brand Love effect has been a constant. We see the brands with the highest Brand Love scores achieving the highest relative frequency, regardless of channel. This year’s Top 100 Most Loved Retail Brands Report offers benchmarks and insights for retail brands looking to scale their customer base and increase brand value through measurable customer-centric strategies. We’ve analysed High Street trends based on our BrandVue data, including the rise of e-commerce, the DIY bubble and what’s next for the High Street behemoths.
2020 Was the Year E-Commerce Came to the Rescue
From groceries, to DIY, to working from home supplies, e-commerce has allowed the world to keep products moving throughout a pandemic that has forced the closure of brick-and-mortar stores for a significant part of the last 12 months. It hasn’t been smooth going, with delivery delays, problems booking online grocery slots and stock availability issues – but by and large, e-commerce has risen to the challenge, with most brands growing their operation exponentially. So, what does this mean for the future?
Given that most brands have increased the capacity of their online arms, it’s important to understand how to keep this increased capacity utilised, and to make the most of the investments put in place this year. This is going to require research to help close the knowledge gap between retailers’ understanding of in-store, versus online, shoppers. It will be vital to understand where the balance sits between stores and online shopping across customer segments as restrictions ease, and also understand the different types of missions consumers want to use each channel for. Brands that get this balance right will see rewards in increased Brand Love, and frequency as a result, in the coming year.
The DIY Bubble
Our data shows a drop off in DIY activity in January by comparison to November and December. Comparing this latest lockdown to the first one in March 2020, twice as many people claim they will do less DIY than do more. This presents DIY retailers with the challenge of maintaining Brand Love following the The DIY Bubble.
The initial rise of DIY is different from other consumer trends in that it is limited by its nature and its scope. By nature, the outcome of DIY purchases is long term and permanent; once a job is done it shouldn’t need doing again for a long time (if done well!). Combine this with the fact that DIY isn’t for everyone, particularly not for renters and those without the skills, ability or confidence, and there is a clear limit to the extent to which any DIY peak can be maintained long-term. So, whilst there is still a decent appetite for DIY (3 in 10 intend to do some DIY in the next 3 months), this cannot be relied upon as a baseline, and businesses should consider getting ahead of the potential normalisation of interest with activity that addresses the concerns customers have and promotes Brand Love in the long term.
What’s Next for the High Street behemoths?
Many large retail chains have fallen victim to the financial squeeze the UK has experienced in recent times. Falling sales, teamed with the rising cost of physical space and rates have resulted in a familiar news story for the likes of BHS, Mothercare, Toys R Us and more recently, the Arcadia Group and Debenhams, which are all soon to be closing (or not re-opening) their doors post-lockdown.
Large retail brands have been struggling to operate in the face of fierce competition from online-only retailers. Online provides consumers with the convenience to browse a wide range of items, compare prices, at a time convenient to them. A cheaper sales model dependent on out-of-town warehouses and distribution centres, rather than premium priced central store locations, allows for cheaper prices to be passed on to the consumer.
Those retailers that have underinvested or were slow to react to the increasing move to online are suffering as a consequence. In order to survive and thrive, retailers must weigh two options to increase Brand Love. The first is to offer a competing experience with online channels, including 24/7 access, better product ranges, lower prices, self-service, free and convenient parking, WiFi, and a quicker service experience. The second option is to offer consumers a more unique experience that cannot be fulfilled online, including destination shopping with an entertainment or leisure focus, or a more personal experience.
Whether it was a brand that optimised the e-commerce experience for customers increasingly shopping online, a DIY business that provided the tools we’ve all needed to create productive home office spaces, or a High Street retailer that tackled increased demand for online shopping experiences, the past 12 months have accelerated change that we expected to see over the next few years in the retail industry. With that change, we’ve continued to see the significant impact of Brand Love on retail brands’ bottom lines. Without knowing exactly what the coming year will bring, what we do know is that Brand Love will continue to be a differentiator for retail brands.
To find out more about Brand Love and what it means for the retail industry, you can download the full report, including the full list of the Top 100 Most Loved Retail Brands in the UK.