What is your favorite TV commercial? The one with the sales assistant at the deli counter who can instinctively weigh out the correct amount of various sausage meats to the gram? Or the one where a small boy reminds adults that “less is more”? Or did you sympathize with the young woman who, at the end of 2016, was able to survive her mother-in-law’s Christmas visit because she had all the right products? Adverts like these three from Edeka, Aldi and Rewe aim to create a positive image and to tempt as many customers as possible away from competition and into their own stores. However, in this battle for customers it is not enough to put out nice videos regularly or to advertise special offers. To win customers over in the long term, one thing is needed above all: their fundamental trust. How do German drug stores and food retailers compare when it comes to this? Who fared well over the last year? And who has potential for improvement in terms of trust?
As in previous years, dm leads the way when it comes to retailer trust, but the drugstore now has competition for the first time, it has been forced to share first place with Edeka. These are the results of the latest survey on behalf of GfK Verein, in which around 2,000 consumers answered questions on their trust in individual retailers for the fourth time since 2010. They each rated three different stores taken at random and in which they shop for groceries or drugstore products at least occasionally. Overall, the top ten retailers in terms of sales of FMCGs were assessed on the basis of trust. Would this store do anything to keep me happy as a customer? Can I trust them completely? Maybe even more so than its competitors? The answers to these questions on competence and intentions as well as general level of trust and competitive edge over other retailers in terms of trust form the basis for the evaluation of retailer trust in this GfK study.
As before, the companies assessed can generally be pleased with their reputation among customers up to now. On a scale from 1 to 7 (1 = strong disagreement, 7 = strong agreement on positive statements of trustworthiness), one in every two Germans rated the retailers as trustworthy with a rating of 6 or 7. However, some providers are rated even more highly, although to varying degrees: dm, Edeka, Rewe, Rossmann and Aldi currently enjoy an above average level of customer trust. For the drugstore dm, this result is nothing new: It has enjoyed a particularly positive reputation among its customers since the first survey in 2010. Its overall trust level is currently at 62%, which is well above the average. Its competitor Rossmann is clearly lagging behind at 54%. However, after battling through a prolonged period of difficulties over the past few years, Rossmann has recovered sufficiently: Its increased level of trust secured fourth place in the rankings. Edeka will be pleased with its growth in trust: The supermarket had a trust level of 58% in 2010, whereas today it stands at 62%, giving dm some competition for the top spot for the first time.
Another full-range supermarket can be satisfied with its development: Rewe again secured a place on the podium. Perhaps its message of recent years to “live better” has won over customers: The company’s overall trust level rose from 49% in 2010 to 56% by 2016 and seems to be stable. But what about discount stores? None of them managed to secure a place in the top three, but Aldi still registered a slightly above-average result at 52%. The trust level of the discount store recently stabilized after a prolonged downward trend, which brought Aldi into fifth place for 2017. It is highly likely that the Kaufland management team are praying for a similar upturn in fortunes. The full-range store, which enjoyed the trust of over one in every two Germans in 2010, has fallen out of favor with consumers in recent years and now has a trust rating below the 50% mark. In contrast, Lidl and real have improved over the years, but registered slightly lower results in 2016. Now, Lidl comes in seventh place, with a trust index of 46%, while real follows in eighth place with 44%. For Netto and Penny, 39% and 37% of respondents respectively agree with the positive statements.
But what exactly do customers think of the companies assessed? The answer gives an insight into the three pillars of consumer trust: The conviction that a retailer is doing all that they can to satisfy their customers gives bonus points when it comes to competence and intentions. Complete trust in a retailer increases the level of trust, while the knowledge that consumers can completely rely on a given retailer raises that retailer’s competitive edge in terms of trust. Overall, the retailers scored positively: 54% of Germans have complete trust in the companies included in the survey. dm and Edeka receive particularly good results for their individual ratings, both recording a trust level of 65%, followed by Rewe (62%) and Rossmann (59%). Aldi also comes in above average at 57%. Overall, almost all retailers assessed scored their highest values in this subcategory.
When it comes to the question of whether retailers do everything in their power to make their
customers happy, the majority of Germans feel positive about this. A total of 52% of respondents awarded good marks in this respect. Moreover, dm and Edeka are again well ahead of the others. Both scored 63% for competence and intentions, which is 11% above the average. Rewe (58%), Aldi (56%), Rossmann (55%) and Kaufland (53%) area also trusted by an above-average number of
respondents when it comes to their competence and good intentions. The remaining retailers do not score over 50% for this category, but still receive values between 39% and 47%.
In terms of competence and trust level, the retailers seem to be doing well. However, it seems to be significantly more difficult for them to gain an edge over competitors. In total, only 44% of respondents agreed with the sentence “I can trust [xy retailer] over other retailers”. As with the other trust categories, dm and Edeka again lead the way. Overall 58% of respondents preferred the drugstore over competitors, with 57% preferring the full-range supermarket Edeka. Following some way behind, but still with above-average scores, are Rossmann (49%), Rewe (48%) and Aldi (45%). When it comes to other retailers’ edge over competitors, they only scored between 32% and 43%.
What do these results mean in practice? At a time when full-range supermarkets, discount stores and drugstores are often situated close together and so come under the strain of direct competition, it takes more than popular brands or special offers to secure and retain potential customers.
Additionally, the competitive landscape has expanded even further with the possibilities offered by e-commerce. Given that customers have such a wide variety of options to cover their grocery or drugstore product needs, individual retailers must offer added value to build up trust over the long term. But how should retailers proceed? What benefits make them stand out from the competition?
Perhaps this is best answered by the people who know best what customers want – the consumers themselves. Peter Schutz, the former CEO of Porsche, understood this too. He is alleged to have
often remarked: “If you listen, your customers will explain your business to you.”
Data source: GfK Verein; Study „Händlervertrauen 2017“, (January 2017)
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