By Mario Toneguzzi
A survey on trusted brands by leading market research firm BrandSpark International finds that retail giant Amazon leads the way in many e-commerce categories.
The BrandSpark Most Trusted Awards program was based on a survey of 6,900 Canadians and the company determined the most trusted brands in 61 diverse e-commerce and service categories.
“In an increasingly online world, trust has never been more important,” said Robert Levy, President of BrandSpark International. “Shoppers are seeking new and different signifiers of trust, such as online reviews and consumer-based awards on brand websites. Being a winning brand in the 2019 BrandSpark Most Trusted Awards is a major accomplishment. The program tells shoppers which companies are trusted by other Canadians. This allows consumers to make better purchasing decisions, as trust is the greatest indicator of delivering value and a good customer experience.
“Amazon now has emerged and kind of changed the way people shop both online and offline. And it’s also changed their expectations in terms of customer support, in terms of convenience, delivery, transparency and also the whole voice of the consumer. The whole idea of these authentic reviews and ratings that are both positive and negative. All of these factors have changed the way consumers are. They check their prices. It’s transparent. We have examples of these brands that have managed to hold their own within the new e-commerce world and also within Amazon.”
Here are some of the survey’s key findings:
71 per cent of Canadian shoppers feel that trust is established through unfiltered customer reviews on brand websites. A majority of shoppers now rely on product and service reviews to support their purchase decisions, and without these reviews, many refuse to transact;
75 per cent of Canadian shoppers say that companies that listen to online reviews and feedback show more accountability and care for their customers; and
66 per cent of Canadian shoppers appreciate receiving discounts or special offers that are tailored to their interests based on the websites they visit.
BrandSpark’s survey is in its sixth year for the market research, consumer insights company that’s been around since 2001.
“We’ve been doing annual surveys to basically gauge what are the best new products awards and we just thought with the incredible change in the retail landscape and the way consumers were buying we started doing some custom research on trust. We thought we’d open it up and launch truly the first national syndicated study using BrandSpark’s research methodologies and at its core we’ve always been about the voice of the consumer,” said Levy.
He said brands that are doing well in the area of trust such as Home Depot (home improvements and renovations), Sephora (beauty and cosmetics), or Best Buy and SportChek are holding their own because they’re offering an omnichannel experience.
“We’ve seen from our BrandSpark research that you really do improve trust if you can offer both online and brick and mortar,” said Levy. “And the other thing is that these brands are also following through on the expectations that the customers have now probably led by these brands but also by Amazon.”
Levy said that brands that are not keeping up are going to just disappear.
BrandSpark’s Canadian Shopper Study also found that two in three Canadian shoppers say that Amazon has changed the way they shop, whether in-store or online: they research products more, buy a greater variety of products, compare prices across channels, and make fewer trips to stores.
The study said only 16 per cent of shoppers have lost trust in an online retailer they formerly relied on, but key issues that have eroded trust for e-commerce shoppers include receiving lower quality products than advertised, not receiving purchases, and difficulties getting a refund.
“It’s important for e-commerce retailers to make shoppers confident that they won’t face these issues when ordering from their site,” said Adam Bellisario, Director of the BrandSpark Most Trusted Awards program. “Since shoppers can easily move to another retailer online, it’s crucial for e-commerce retailers to build trust and loyalty with their shoppers. The BMTA claim and logo is a proven way to communicate that the site has already earned the trust of the Canadian shopper.”
The report said Amazon’s win in a majority of the e-commerce categories reflects its success as a fulfillment site, since consumers say they choose to purchase products on Amazon because they trust the site’s reliability and consistency. More shoppers are convinced they can trust Amazon for major purchases as well as lower priced items. Still, retailers like The Home Depot and Hudson’s Bay have won or kept up with Amazon as being most trusted in their specific categories in the 2019 study.
Levy said one of the questions asked in the survey was if Amazon has changed the way they shop.
“What’s really happened is the basics now that we just take for granted. One. Comparison shopping. That was not so easy to do before Amazon. Now you just kind of go on Amazon to quickly check someone out and they for example try to offer the lowest prices. They even have multiple vendors within their marketplace. So you really feel that you’re in control,” he said.
“Reviews are really important. Authentic transparent reviews. Negative reviews can also be there. That’s a game changer. Think of the old days. Now every site has negative reviews and positive reviews. If they don’t, you just ignore it. The idea of a diverse selection . . . Having this incredible diverse selection that can all be delivered. And then obviously the whole convenience of delivery and the speed of delivery. (Amazon) they’re a logistics company right.
“And then the surprise though that comes up with why people love Amazon so much - and you know they love Amazon because they’re willing to pay an annual fee just to get free delivery from this service provider. It’s now one-third of the Canadian population and that’s growing. It was 25 per cent a year ago. And in the U.S. it’s up to 60 per cent.”
The other factor with Amazon, added Levy, is that the company also delivers incredible customer service. Amazon has raised the bar for customer service where some brick and mortar retailers have followed suit and ultimately the consumer is the winner.
The BrandSpark study also found that one in two Canadian shoppers have lost trust in a service provider they previously trusted, due mainly to hidden fees and rising prices, as well as difficulty finding resolution for their complaints. Canadians expect fair prices and transparency from service providers. Consumer recommendation, company values, and innovations can help providers increase trust in their service and 62 per cent of consumers say that reliable customer support improves their trust in a service greatly; 59 per cent value consistency of high quality goods or services.
The report said Loblaw’s successful expansion of the Optimum program has grown it into Canada’s most trusted loyalty program. SkipTheDishes beat UberEats with 26 per cent more citations as Canadians’ most trusted Food Delivery Site, and companies like GoodFood have also had major success, surpassing HelloFresh in the Meal Kit Delivery category. Kijiji is the most trusted Online Buy and Sell Classifieds site and Sun Life Financial now ties with Manulife as the most trusted life insurance provider nationally, while Industrielle Alliance is the leader in Quebec.
“With the similarity of many service offerings, companies must race to acquire a strong consumer base, and then continually meet those consumers’ needs to prevent them from switching to a competitor,” said Levy. “Trust is an important deciding factor for consumers, and the strength of the BrandSpark Most Trusted logo reinforces that trust.”
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.