“Two or three years ago we were more likely to experience[…] there it’s more about speaking to people’s hearts,” says Hélène Crépin, Vice President of Consumer Affairs at Leger (Photo: Atoms for Unsplash).
It appears that the retailers who have been able to do well in 2021 are the ones whose values resonate the most with their consumers, aWhile the effects of the pandemic have regularly eased over the past year, according to Leger’s 12th edition of the WOW Customer Experience Awards.
“Those who performed well in 2020 and those who continued this year are the retailers who meet the requirements higher up the Maslow pyramid,” said Executive Vice President and Partner at Léger, Christian Bourque. The customer wants to join [à une marque], instead of just buying. It’s no longer fair to offer the right product at the right price.”
This new edition of the list – which drew 13,000 Quebecers – looked at this phenomenon, which was widely discussed in the literature in 2021, noted Hélène Crépin, vice president of consumption at Léger. “There’s a very strong connection between the sense of belonging and the human aspect” among these “good corporate citizens,” the head of WOW research observed in an interview with Les Affaires.
In fact, what differentiates the experience from one company to another today seems to revolve heavily around the relationship between the customer and employees and their sense of being part of a group, of a community. “Two or three years ago we were more in experience, we measured the playful aspect, technological innovations. It’s more about reaching people’s hearts, […] the emotional bond is strong,” says Hélène Crépin.
For (read) reading: Study WOW 2020: The champions of customer experience in times of the pandemic
This explains why Popeye’s Supplements, the banner specializing in sports nutrition, tops the list. Customers and employees share a passion – physical training – have a similar lifestyle and even share tips according to testimonials. “There has to be a secret handle to get into the store,” Christian Bourque exemplifies when speaking of this far more than commercial relationship between the company and its consumers.
It’s also why small shops like grocery stores Mega Vrac (4th) and Vracs et Bocaux (11th) and the layman’s lesser-known bakery Ange (6th) rank so high in the list of best customer experiences. They joined regulars there like Yves Rocher (2nd), SAQ (3rd), Bath & Body Works (5th) and Lush (7th).
After all, Hélène Crépin reminds us, this list does not measure shop traffic. “We spoke to the participants [en boutique], and a significant number had good comments,” she says.
Back to normal
If the hygiene regulations, the lack of staff and the shortage of storage particularly annoyed buyers in Quebec in 2020, both parties now seem to have gotten used to it. Unfazed by the checkout lines, consumers don’t care, much to the research leader’s surprise.
“This is good news because it is a point that is very dear to retailers. […] We’re still feeling the effects of the pandemic, but these are irritants that were there before,” she said.
She also notes that all sectors hit by health guidelines early in the crisis, such as telecoms and convenience stores, have performed better than last year and their in-store experiences appear to be returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Conversely, fewer shoppers had good words for clothing and shoe stores. “What we saw in those stores has perished. In 2020, those who went there were convinced of what they had gained weight for [au palmarès]. Now things seem to be back to normal.”
Apps attract attention
The increase in visits to retailers’ digital platforms continued the momentum that began at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 184 Canadian websites and applications assessed, only 11 saw a drop in their virtual traffic, while a third saw a “large” increase.
For that reason, while Lufa Farms, like other brick-and-mortar businesses, can align heavily with its customers’ values, it doesn’t top the charts, the digital customer experience version doesn’t dwell on it.
In fact, it’s more because of its product offering, loyalty activities, and the content that helps people shop that allows it to take pride of place, and not just on Montreal rooftops.
How do you make a hit online when you’re short on funds? Lockdown and health restrictions have forced many SMEs to take their virtual presence to the extreme. Between services offered by video conferencing and online shopping, not all are equal in this digital transformation.
Overall, the sites that perform best are the most attractive to the eye and those where the platform is the easiest to navigate.
With virtual applications, the relevance of the functionalities and the ease of use determine the quality of the experience. Here the platform of Simons (3rd) is more likely to lead.
Not only is it visually appealing, but it also allows you to personalize the experience and offers content that improves the use of the application, according to a press release.
“The overall experience on the app is different than the website. We were interested in the dimension of the personalized experience, whether it’s fun,” says the research director, who included this branch in the 2021 edition of the list.