Brands struggling to stand out should focus on emotion

Forrester suggests a better understanding of how brands make customers feel could help stagnant experiences.
Retail, shopping, consumers

How an experience makes customers feel has a greater influence on their loyalty to a brand than efficacy or convenience in every industry, from banks to multichannel retail, the latest results from Forrester’s CX Index suggest.

Now in its sixth year, Forrester’s CX Index results are benchmarked based on a survey of more than 58,000 Canadians across 147 brands in 12 industries. It polls respondents on the “quality” of a brand’s customer experience (its effectiveness, ease with which customers get value from it and the emotions it generates), as well as how well it drives brand loyalty (retention of customers, likelihood of buying additional products and likelihood of recommending the brand to others).

In the multichannel retail industry, for example, 87% of customers who say they felt valued plan to stay with the brand. What’s more, 84% of customers who felt valued said they plan to increase spending with the brand, and 86% will advocate for the brand.

Sharyn Leaver, SVP of research at Forrester, said brands looking to “break away” from their competition need to shift their focus to understanding how consumers are impacted by experiences emotionally, which will be a “crucial differentiator” in how brands can sustain customer loyalty.

Breaking away is something some brands may be struggling with when it comes to customer experience, continuing a trend from last year’s report. According to the index, only 16 of the 147 Canadian brands in the index “significantly” improved their index scores this year, offset by 12 that had corresponding decreases. Rick Parrish, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, said in a Thursday blog post that the firm’s research found that the overall quality of the Canadian customer experience “remained flat” from last year, with an average score of 67.4. The average score increase and average score decreases were nearly the exact same.

Overall, 56% of brands fall in the “okay” range of scores, with 35% in the “good” range. None of them ranked as “excellent.”

Of the brands included in the index, 52% were categorized as “locksteppers,” meaning the quality of these brands’ CX remains “roughly on par” with that of their competitors. And 22% of brands were deemed “languishers,” which have been relatively high-scoring brands but have remained stuck without a significant score change for at least two years. Another 22% were categorized as “laggards,” with index scores that have consistently remained at the low end of the rankings.

One bright spot that Forrester notes, however, is that keeping scores where they were happened despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which began to have its impact in Canada while the survey was in-field in March.

Seven brands were given “elite” status by Forrester, falling in the top 5% of brands in the index: Chapters/Indigo, Home Hardware, Costco, Toyota, PetSmart, MEC and Well.ca. However, of the elite, most of them had stagnant scores from last year, with Toyota being the only one that showed “a real improvement” in CX quality.

Toyota, Well.ca, PetSmart and Costco were the new additions to this year’s “elite” brands, as Fairmont Hotels, GMC, Mercedes-Benz, Hampton Inn & Suites and ATB Financial dropped out (though it does not appear that Fairmont was included in this year’s survey).