IKEA and John Lewis lead the way with best retail brand experience, design agency Rufus Leonard reports


Retail brands should focus on building emotional connections with customers to beat the competition, according to new research from independent design agency Rufus Leonard.

IKEA, which scores better than most in terms of this emotional connection, is the retailer (91) that scores the highest in the sector, based on a maximum score of 140 and an ‘all sector average’ of 80.

Overall, the retail sector has some strong performers, John Lewis (87) and Marks & Spencer (82) also score above the average, and the retail sector’s average BXi score is close to the overall average BXi score.

The majority of the featured ten retail brands are clustered through the middle of the league table, while Debenhams (74) is the only retailer with a BXi score significantly under the average. However, it scores significantly higher than the lowest ranked brands in the travel and telecoms categories.

Rufus Leonard’s research focuses on people’s views of brands in three sectors that provide contrasting experiences: travel, retail, and telecoms. Within each sector, the agency selected 10 brands, five established brands and five challenger brands, based on longevity and revenue.

The agency developed the new research to track the impact of a brand’s experience on customer loyalty, on why people choose and remain with brands, based on a survey of UK people.* The survey measures five facets of experience that consumers have when interacting with a brand (‘sense’, ‘feel’, ‘think’, ‘do’ and ‘connect’) to compare how well brands are engaging them.

Rufus Leonard also asked people about their loyalty to the brands with questions about future purchase preference and likelihood to recommend (Net Promoter Score). This showed that there is a significant correlation between a strong BXi score and brand loyalty.  Every 10 BXi points gives a brand double-digit growth in future preference, loyalty and advocacy (NPS). As a result, each BXi point correlates to a large bottom-line business value (e.g. £75m for Ryanair).

Retail brands tend to score better than the overall average in the ‘Think’ (sets expectations) measure, which reflects the clear functional purpose of brands like B&Q. However, retailers are lacking in ‘Connect’ (inspires social connection) and ‘Feel’ (creates emotions). Brand champion IKEA is 14% ahead of the sector average in terms of the ‘Connect’ score and 17% on the ‘Feel’ criteria.

Laurence Parkes, chief strategy officer at Rufus Leonard, said: “It’s harder for retailers to emotionally engage customers who relate primarily to third party brands in-store. Yet without such an emotional connection, retailers are putting customer loyalty on the line – and making themselves vulnerable to competition.”

* The sample was made up of 2,018 respondents and the make-up was nationally representative of the UK population. Respondents were screened based on having recent experience (last 6 months) of each brand in the survey.