Despite record retail bankruptcies, customer loyalty has protected many brands from the threat of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, according to Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, the New York-based brand loyalty and customer engagement consultancy.
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Retailers accounted for 19 percent of the Top 100 brands customers evaluated — the most of any industry sector. Brand Keys ranked the top 100 brands out of 833 assessed in a cross-category analysis of 85 industry categories.
“One can’t ignore the effects of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Passikoff. “The combination of enforced store closures, sheltering-in-place and working from home, and trends toward more casual Zoom-call dress, were a condition only brands with high levels of loyalty could survive.”
“Loyalty guarantees customers will be six times more likely to support the brand during uncertain circumstances. And you can’t get any more uncertain than the COVID-19 marketplace. Loyalty has always been a leading indicator of positive customer behavior toward brands,” he added.
Amazon (online retail) came in first place overall, and is followed by Home Depot (8), Nike (12), Trader Joe’s (19), eBay (22), Whole Foods (23), Zappos (25), Sephora (33), CVS (41), Zara (43), Costco (45), New Balance (46), Ralph Lauren (52), Sam’s Club (55), Lowe’s (58), Old Navy (68), T.J. Maxx (79), Dollar Tree (80), and Dick’s Sporting Goods (90).
“It’s important to note that there’s a mix of online and brick-and-mortar retailers on the list,” said Passikoff. “You can blame the pandemic, sheltering-in, online meetings and sweatpants all you want. But ultimately whether consumers support a brand and whether the brand survives uncertain circumstances like the pandemic, comes down to how much loyalty the brand engenders.”
Overall, the top 20 (of 100) brands encompassing multiple categories were, in order, Amazon (online retail), Netflix (video streaming), Amazon (video streaming), Apple (smartphones), Domino’s (pizza), Google (search engines), Disney (streaming video), Home Depot (retail home improvement), WhatsApp (instant messaging), Samsung (smartphones), Instagram (social networking), Nike (athletic footwear), PayPal (online payments), Amazon (tablets), Discover (credit cards), YouTube (social networking), Hyundai (automotive), Hulu (video streaming), Trader Joe’s (natural foods), and UPS (delivery).
Amazon came in first place last year as well, while Netflix was in sixth place last year. Google was in second place last year.
According to Passikoff, brands need to be responsible for knowing what expectations consumers hold for their category and then meet them as best they can. That’s the definition of loyalty in the 21st century, he said.
“Measure customer expectations, then meet or exceed them. The brands that do always survive. Pandemics are no match for loyalty,” he said. “It’s often said that ‘clothing makes the man,’ but as it turns out, loyalty ultimately makes the brand.”
For the survey, 3,265 men and women, ages 15 to 65 from the nine U.S. Census Regions participated. Brand Keys uses an independently validated research methodology that combines emotional and rational aspects for the category-specific ideal and identifies expectations consumers hold for each.