Online-only retailer Amazon is the UK’s top retail brand, rated highly by consumers for its value for money, trustworthiness and customer service, according to new research.
The European Best Retail Brand report, commissioned by shopping comparison site Kelkoo, judged that in the UK Amazon beats homegrown traditional retailers such as Tesco, M&S and Asda, coming in the top two for 70% of all the award categories that the research explored.
Amazon, which is the 25th largest UK retailer by sales, was the only online-only brand to appear in the top 10 rankings, carried out by The Centre for Brand Analysis.
Mark Haupt, UK country manager for Kelkoo, said: “Consumers are starting to understand that Amazon are in themselves a retailing universe of possible opportunities and offers. People are buying more from Amazon and in different quantities and different ranges than they were a few years ago. This has in the minds of consumers placed Amazon in a place where they are genuinely being compared now to high street shops, as well as high street shops’ online operations.”
He added: “You probably don’t see Amazon advertising on TV as prolifically as others but they certainly have mastered the techniques and the ways in which online marketing works well these days.”
When asked what factors persuaded them to shop with retailers, some 54% of the 1,500 Britons quizzed for the research said this value for money was the most influential attribute. Amazon scored highest in this area, followed by Asda, Tesco, Aldi and Argos.
Second most important were the deals and offers given by a retailer, a factor cited by 17% of those quizzed. Here Tesco came in top for its Clubcard scheme, followed by Sainsbury’s, Boots, Amazon and Asda.
Trustworthiness was rated as the third most important attribute, put first by 7% of consumers, and an attribute where Marks & Spencer led, followed by Amazon, John Lewis, Tesco and Boots. In all, nearly 80% of those who took part, when asked to choose three influences on their buying, chose these first three attributes.
Six per cent said customer service was the most important factor. Being cool was ranked as the most important attribute for 1% of consumers; Apple scored highest in this category.
“Amazon’s place at the top of the table is simply as a result of its consistent performance across all the factors that are important to consumers today,” said Haupt. “Their business model was firmly based on value for money, transparency of offers and trust. That trust is vital because thanks to their successful review service – which they probably pioneered in the ecommerce space – they have formed an emotional connection with their audience. People are buying products, reviewing them, reading other consumers’ reviews on the Amazon website, Amazon are not making an attempt to steer the message one way or another. They are simply putting up the products, finding the best price offers and allowing their audience to give an opinion. This is a very successful model that points the way forward for ecommerce and the rest of the sector.”
Researchers surveyed more than 10,000 people across seven European countries, exploring 286 European retail brands in total, including 50 in the UK. It While UK and German shoppers put Amazon top, those quizzed in France, Italy and Denmark all named IKEA as their top brand, while Dutch and Spanish shoppers opted for local retailers, naming Albert Heijn and El Corte Inglés top respectively.
Consumers were asked to judge the brands across ten different attributes including value, deals and offers, trustworthiness, customer service, shopping experience both in store and online, delivery options, innovation, environmental concern and how ‘cool’ a brand is considered. In the UK, Amazon was ranked top for value, customer service, delivery and online shopping experience. It was also voted number two for being cool and innovative, just behind Apple, and trustworthy hot on the heels of Marks and Spencer.
Tesco was in second place overall, leading in the deals and offers category, while Marks and Spencer came in third, voted top for trustworthiness, in-store shopping experience and environmental concern.
“Tesco do very well in these kinds of surveys,” said Haupt. “It’s simply down to the fact that Tesco have been able through their supply chain to get value for their consumers and to provide things to consumers in a hard-pressed environment with recessionary factors.”
But while value for money was rated highly by consumers, offering it was not enough on its own to take retailers into the top ten. Aldi, Primark and Lidl came 4th, 6th and 7th, respectively, in the value category, but came in overall at 23rd, 21st and 26th. They were perhaps pulled down by their positioning in the customer service category, where Aldi was put in 30th place, Primark at 33rd and Lidl at 35th.
Our view: Amazon has long been the leading online retailer but still it will probably come as a surprise that an online-only brand could be voted the UK’s leading retail brand by consumers in a league that also includes high street and multichannel brands. After all, as yet not all UK consumers have the technology to shop online, while most people can go to a high street or order by catalogue. The received wisdom is that multichannel shopping has something for everyone while online only does not.
This result seems to reflect both the ever increasing reach, and popularity, of online shopping and perhaps a new truth – that doing exceptionally well online can outweigh such considerations as a lack of high street stores in enough consumers’ minds to push an online brand to the top. As Kelkoo’s Mark Haupt says, it’s enough to perform well “across all the factors that are important to consumers today.” Evidently, for this research at least, having shops is not an absolute essential.