Did your favourite store make the top 2020 retailers list?
B.C.-based Lush Cosmetics is closing stores across Canada on Friday, Sept. 27 so workers can participate in climate change protests. (Lush)
TORONTO -- As part of an annual survey of shoppers, market research and analytics company Leger has unveiled the top retailers in Ontario and top online retailers for all for Canada for 2020.
Examining 145 retailers in Ontario that cover 20 different sectors, Leger conducted an online survey of nearly 13,000 Ontarians, according to the company’s press release.
All retailers were assigned a score from zero to 100 on the “16 dimensions of customer experience,” which include things like product quality, staff courtesy and store ambience.
The retail sector has been hit especially hard in the pandemic, and independent retail expert and consultant Doug Stephens says that companies and brands have generally fallen into “three classes” in weathering the fallout.
“There are those for whom the pandemic has simply provided too many challenges, insurmountable challenges in terms of sort of re-jigging their entire business to serve this now almost entirely online consumer,” Stephens explained in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca.
“Those that have managed to make those adaptations and adjustments to their businesses and have cobbled together reasonably good or good enough online game to weather the pandemic, and then those that this crisis was almost purpose-built for their businesses, like Amazon. So it's a tale of three cities, if you will,” he said.
These are the Leger WOW top retailers in Ontario for in-store experience for 2020:
3. The Body Shop
7. Fire & Flower Cannabis Co
8. M&M Food Market
9. Bath & Body Works
10. Yves Rocher
12. Lee Valley Tools
Reitman’s taking the number one spot was a surprise to Stephens, but he noted that the way Leger compiled the data for the WOW study is probably key.
“They’re not stopping people randomly on the street and saying ‘hey who’s the best retailer in Canada?” he said. “I think they’re literally going to people who have shopped these retailers and asking them what they think of them – which could produce different survey results.”
In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, Leger said that its WOW Digital Index is “derived from the performance of a site or app on 14 non-transactional customer experience dimensions, taking into account their respective importance in the sector.”
Leger said it then calculates the importance by using a “Key Drive Analysis,” with the “probability of recommending the site or app as a dependent variable.”
The company reiterated that the WOW Digital Index ranges from zero to 100.
Here are the 14 dimensions used by Leger for the WOW study (please note items marked with an asterisk are not included as dimensions):
As for the high rankings for Lush and the Body Shop, Stephens said Lush “definitely has been really more of a sensory experience, that borders on entertainment,” and the Body Shop has customers who are “committed and aligned with their cultural values,” such as sustainability and no animal testing – and that most likely accounts for their position.
“But frankly, even those two I wouldn’t necessarily pull out of my back pocket and say these are the best retailers in Ontario,” he said.
Stephens was less surprised by the rest of the Ontario list.
Saje, in his opinion, belongs on that list as it has stores that “are easily navigated…and involve your senses.”
“The whole experience of walking into a Saje store and sort of taking in the different fragrances…[and] I have always found their service levels to be really great,” Stephens said.
Stephens said he considers four factors when evaluating retailers: service, expertise, culture and entertainment.
“Maybe that’s where Mountain Equipment Co-op comes in because you feel like you can go in and really talk to someone who knows what they're talking about, not because they took a product knowledge course, but because they actually have used the products and can speak to a place of experience,” he said.
The pandemic also added a new dimension for his evaluation, he said.
“Do I feel safe shopping there? Do they give me flexible options with which to shop the brand? And how do they treat their people? You know, are they putting their people in harm's way? Are they rescinding their hero bonuses that they were paying them at the height of the pandemic or have they continued to pay them? Well, those things matter to consumers now, absolutely,” Stephens said.
The 2020 study also evaluated the online experience for customers across Canada. Using 22 dimensions of online experience for 173 Canadian websites and apps, Leger used the responses from almost 14,000 Canadians to rank the best online customer experience.
These are the top retailers in Canada for online experience for 2020:
5. Cook It
9. Lufa Farms
10. Nespresso/Yves Rocher
“Simon’s is a brand that understands technology…and they have a great assortment of brands, their online shopping experience is solid and they offer consumers different ways of acquiring things like click and collect,” Stephens said.
Having Lush come in at number two, and be featured in both lists “speaks to the level of allegiance that their customers have to the brand,” Stephens said.
Apple being in the top three was not a surprise, Stephens said, noting that “since its inception” the company has been “very, very good at both online and in-store service.”
Sephora and Nespresso featuring on the list of nation-wide winners made sense to Stephens too.
“Sephora is a retailer that has done a great job on both fronts, they have a great online game, extremely flexible in terms of shopping options, and that reinforced with a really excellent in-store experience as well,” he said, adding that Sephora was known to train its staff – who are passionate about skincare and makeup – extremely well.
In light of the pandemic slowing down brick-and-mortar traffic, Nespresso comes into play, Stephens said.
“First and foremost, a lot of people are having their coffee at home these days, and Starbucks is closing stores…Nespresso offers great product and great service online, so it makes perfect sense to me,” he said.
But there was one big surprise for Stephens, who found it “kind of astonishing” that online retail giant Amazon didn’t break the top three.
Stephens said that Leger’s methodology must have something to do with Amazon coming in at eighth place, because “70 per cent of the time, people realize they need a product, they are going to Amazon.”
If Leger’s data is interpreted as “purely about ‘do I have an enjoyable or entertaining experience shopping online from these retailers,’” Stephens said, it could be argued that Amazon “is not exactly entertaining, it’s kind of just an index of products.”
Factoring in a pandemic
Leger said in its release that the COVID-19 pandemic has “undeniably affected” the in-store experience in 2020.
“In general, the in-store customer experience has declined at most retailers deemed essential, including convenience stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and hardware stores and renovation centres. The dimensions most negatively affected are prices and promotional offers, courtesy, staff competence and availability, the importance given to customers, and general ambience,” the release states.
Leger also noted that consumers may be less critical in their evaluations for the year, “feeling compassion” for stores who had difficulty staying afloat, something Stephens agrees with.
One-in-five, or 20 per cent of consumers surveyed, found that the health-and-safety measures implemented during the pandemic also significantly affected their shopping experience – negatively impacting customers at places like beauty stores, jewelry stores and some clothing stores, but was less detrimental to “essential” businesses like pharmacies, according to Leger’s data.
A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to The Body Shop as The Body Shoppe.