The big takeaway from a new report by Euclid is that retail success strongly flows from brand perception. To many, this may seem like a non-insight; however, it’s contrary to pervasive thinking and conventional wisdom about discounting as a primary retail success factor today.
The report is based on a survey of 1,500 US consumers, and it explores drivers of brand perception, consumer trust and the corresponding benefits to retailers. As might be expected, there were some relatively clear divisions between older and younger shoppers (e.g., baby boomers vs. millennials).
Younger shoppers were more favorably inclined toward brands that supported their values and politics. According to the findings, roughly half of millennials (52 percent) and Gen Xers (48 percent) wanted retailers to align with their values. Only 35 percent of baby boomers said that was important.
Yet, the overwhelming majority of respondents (85 percent) liked the abstract idea of retailers supporting charities. While the report doesn’t get into specifics, I suspect that the findings would vary wildly depending on the charity and its perceived politics.
The immediate payoff of favorable brand perception is a greater willingness to share personal data.
Consumers who would share their purchase history
Somewhat surprisingly, the report says that older shoppers (boomers) are more comfortable than younger ones with retailers accessing their purchase data, provided they had a history with that retailer. The other significant driver of data sharing was discounts: “52 percent said that in exchange for coupons or other compelling promotional discounts, they would be receptive to a retailer knowing their purchase history.”
One of the more interesting findings, in an atmosphere of ongoing retail store closures, is how brand perception impacts e-commerce. Asked how store closures might impact their loyalty and shopping habits, many respondents said they would simply shop at a competing retailer in their area. However, younger shoppers were more likely to remain loyal and shift their buying online if a local store closed.
Those who would buy a brand’s products online without a physical store nearby
There are simpler and more nuanced ways to look at the point being made above. But it reinforces the larger point that favorable brand perception translates into loyalty even when stores close. This is an important consideration for retailers who are trying to shift more of their customers’ purchase behavior online.
The final area explored in the report is new technology, such as digital assistants and augmented or virtual reality. This is one of the places where the generational divide showed up most clearly. Younger consumers were more excited by these tools, while 70 percent of baby boomers had no interest (and were even turned off) by the notion of shopping with a smart speaker/digital assistant.
Among millennials, the report found openness to the following:
- Smart assistants informing them in real time of the latest product offers from their favorite retail outlets — 34 percent.
- Being able to purchase an item online [via new technology] and then pick up in store — 23 percent.
- Having a product return scheduled on their behalf — 20 percent.
Stepping back, there’s a way in which the report’s major finding is common sense: stronger brand affinity equals greater loyalty and revenue for the retailer. But the report breaks down some of the elements of brand perception and affinity and how it manifests in attitudes and shopping behavior.
An unrelated NPR survey supports the overall emphasis of Euclid’s report. In that earlier study, about Amazon specifically, NPR found that 67 percent of Amazon’s customers trusted the company (much more than traditional retailers) to protect personal data. That trust is a major component of Amazon’s ongoing success.
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