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In retail, we notice that those brands that are known primarily for their advertising are rated less attractive: like Aldi and Rewe  

Retail brand touchpoints: Employees are more important than advertising

Article

What brand touchpoints are relevant for consumers? What companies are able to differentiate themselves at those touchpoints? We analyzed the touchpoints for three sectors (in D, A, CH). Sector 1: Retail.

Unquestionably, companies these days are experiencing challenging times. There are more and more sales channels, USPs are dwindling faster all the time. That's why it is more important than ever to have a profile that makes you strong and resilient to copy cats and low-price providers. Your brand touch points play a decisive role in this, because they are the gateways to perception of your performances, which in turn are what builds lasting appreciation and added value.

This is why we wanted to learn more about the significance of brand touchpoints and conducted the first comprehensive international study on the subject. We wanted to know:

• What brand touchpoints have what impact on buying and repeat buying?
• What touchpoints offer potential for differentiating from the competition?
• What touchpoints affect the brand's attractiveness?

We illuminated three sectors in detail: banking, the sporting goods sector, and retail. In this article, we will introduce the results of our analysis of the retail sector. For the study, we examined 20 brand touchpoints of 19 retailers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland: ALDI, Amazon, dm, Edeka, H&M, IKEA, Karstadt, OTTO, REWE, XXXLutz, Zalando, Bipa, Zara, coop, Billa, Spar, Migros, C&A und Zara.
The 20 brand touchpoints we examined are: parking area, entrance area, cash register area, counter, employees, shelves and aisles, dressing rooms, retailer's website, other website (comparison portals), search engines, advertising (posters, ads), online advertising, flyers, coupons, catalog, customer magazine, packaging, sales receipt/invoice, service hotline, customer card.

What touchpoints are decisive for the buying decision?

Another clear result of the study: It is not the advertising touchpoints that make the sale. Only 20 % of respondents stated that advertising gives them the crucial impulse to buy. 32 %, by contrast, name employees as the deciding touchpoint; in Austria that number is even higher at 52 %, in Switzerland 39 %.

Instead we see that brands that are mainly known through their advertising are rated as less attractive: such as Aldi and Rewe (each 37 %) or XXXLutz (25 %). In Switzerland as well, the least attractive retailers are those that are perceived primarily through their advertising – for instance ALDI and H&M. The most attractive and best known retail brands are known for their customer cards. The only exception in the study is the retail sector in Austria, where brands like XXXLutz are able to be perceived as star brands through their advertising (70%).

Looking at the most attractive retailers in Germany, we find: At dm, the entry area is the most significant brand touchpoint (30 %). With IKEA and OTTO, it is the catalog (68 and 61 %).

What companies are able to differentiate themselves?

A brand experience happens gradually like a journey. It is the sum total of experiences a customer has with a brand over time. The study illustrates that there is a great need for improvement here: because with 80 % of all companies examined (retail, sporting goods, and financial services) the survey respondents do not recognize any differentiation. How can a brand experience happen here?
We also asked where consumers do see differences. Here, an unmistakable winner emerged: dm takes the lead in the ratings of nearly all touchpoints. The drugstore chain is only beaten regarding advertising and catalog, where Ikea achieves stronger differentiation.

In a direct comparison between Aldi, Edeka, and Rewe , Edeka does best in nearly all segments when it comes to differentiation. The largest lead is recorded in the categories employees, parking area, and cash register area.

When asked what touchpoints stir the consumer's interest, Edeka takes the top score. Apparently this company manages to consistently express the brand's values and make them tangible from the parking lot through the entry area and cash registers, counters, and customer card, all the way to the employees.

Rewe und Aldi are among the "Out Brands"

The BrandTrust Performance Monitor confirms the results of the brand touchpoint study. With this method we determine not only the awareness level but also the attractiveness of a brand. The highest degree of awareness and at the same time attractiveness (= Star Brand) is achieved by dm, followed by Ikea, Amazon, and Edeka.

A high degree of awareness but paired with low attractiveness make Rewe and one-time sector leader Aldi into "Out Brands". Amazon has the highest awareness level. The enterprise, which was started in Germany in 1998, is "top of mind" and is perceived as being even more attractive than all of the great grocery retailers.

One surprise is Karstadt. Despite its crises, the brand still enjoys a high level of attractiveness, even higher than Zalando. Karstadt's "brand battery" apparently has not run dry. It will be interesting to watch how the company owners are going to take advantage of this brand credit.

Study design: We commissioned Puls Marktforschung, Schwaig/Nuremberg to conduct online interviews (duration: 18 minutes) with 1,863 end customers (D: 942, A: 461, CH: 460). The analysis included 65 leading brands from the banking, retail, and sporting goods sectors.

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