Consumers’ Expectations Continue to Grow. Which Brands Are Best at Meeting Them?

February 19, 2015

BrandKeys-Brand-Leaders-Customer-Loyalty-Engagement-Feb2015Consumers’ emotional expectations from brands continue to grow but brands are failing to keep pace, reports a new study from Brand Keys. The 2015 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI) study uses a proprietary survey-based research method to assign each measured brand a percentage score indicating the degree to which it meets expectations against a consumer-generated category-specific ideal. That ideal is itself based on path-to-purchase drivers that are distinct for each category.

This year’s study covered 64 categories and 540 brands, and relies upon a survey of 36,605 brand customers aged 18 to 65.

The following is a brief selection of category leaders. The percentage defines how close the brand is to an ideal score in its category. In some cases, comparisons are made to last year’s results, though it’s important to note that this year’s report also included Canadian consumer assessments for some categories, such that the comparisons may not be apple-to-apple in all cases.

  • Airline: Air Canada (85%), topping last year’s winner, Jet Blue;
  • Automotive: Ford / Hyundai (93%), unchanged from last year;
  • Computer (laptops): Apple (96%);
  • E-Readers: Kindle (97%);
  • Instant Messaging Applications: WhatsApp (91%);
  • Online Music: Pandora (90%);
  • Online Payment Services: PayPal (91%);
  • Online Retailers: Amazon (95%);
  • Online Video Streaming: Netflix (89%), after tying with Amazon last year;
  • Search Engine: Google (86%);
  • Smartphones: Apple (82%);
  • Social Networking Sites: Facebook (75%), after tying with Twitter last year;
  • Tablets: Apple (92%), taking the sold lead after splitting it with Amazon last year; and
  • Wireless Phone Service: AT&T (85%).

Unless otherwise noted, each of those category leaders remained constant from last year’s results.

A couple of things that stand out to those who follow these categories: Apple retains the smartphone title from Samsung; and while Facebook takes the social networking lead, its low score suggest that social networking sites are having a difficult time meeting consumers’ expectations.

Unlike last year, the social networking category is not in the top 5 in terms of highest overall consumer expectations. This year’s top 7 (along with the category drivers where consumers hold their highest expectations) are:

  • App-based rideshare (My needs come first);
  • Athletic footwear (personal innovation and performance optimization);
  • Luxury cosmetics (nurturing/optimizing my appearance);
  • Headphones (my very personal experience);
  • Luxury hotels (service I deserve);
  • Instant messaging apps (the ability to matter); and
  • Smartphones (I can do anything from this phone).

About the Data: Brand Keys describes its methodology as follows:

For the 2015 survey, 36,605 consumers, 18 to 65 years of age, from the nine US Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers, and the brands for which they are customers. Seventy (70%) percent were interviewed by phone, twenty-five (25%) percent via face-to-face interviews (to identify and include cell phone-only households), and 5% online. This year certain categories included Canadian consumer assessments.

Brand Keys uses an independently validated research approach that fuses emotional and rational aspects of the categories, identifies the four behavioral drivers for the category-specific “Ideal,” and identifies the values that form the components of each driver.

The Ideal describes the precise path-to-purchase drivers, describing how the consumer will view the category, compare brands and how they will engage with the brand, buy, and remain loyal. The four drivers, for example, for the Smartphone category have been identified as: 1) Brand Reputation & Design, 2) A Platform For All My Needs, 3) Features & Personal Connectivity, and 4) Brand Value & Customer Support. Drivers are category-specific since consumers don’t buy smartphones in the same way they buy cosmetics or pizza.

The assessments measure how well brands meet consumer expectations for each driver that makes up the Ideal for a specific category. The research technique combines psychological inquiry with statistical analyses, has a test/re-test reliability of 0.93, with results generalizable at the 95% confidence level. It has been successfully used in B2B and B2C categories in 35 countries.”

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