customer experience action

CX lessons from 2021's biggest brand-builders


Great customer experiences have helped leading brands bounce back from the pandemic and dramatically drive up their brand valuations. So who has performed well and what is it about their CX that has stood out?

25th Nov 2021

The UK’s leading brands are bouncing back from the pandemic – with the latest Kantar BrandZ Most Valuable Brands research revealing that the top 75 biggest names have pushed up their valuations by 22% versus last year, even surpassing 2019 figures. And CX helped them to do it – those who have understood the very different needs and desires of customers over the past year have been the ones to recover most quickly.  

While our industry isn’t always synonymous with brand building, this year’s findings demonstrate clearly how it has underpinned growth. Our research shows that businesses which offer good CX are 25% more likely to have strong brand equity.  

But as well as a pat on the back for CX professionals, this is also a call to action. While British businesses are doing well, we also have to put their performance in the context of overseas competitors. Domestic brand values may have grown, but they continue to trail behind global peers which have enjoyed a 42% rise.  

So there’s headroom for British firms to expand, and a large part of that can be driven by CX. Consumers believe that just 4% of brands in the UK deliver an exceptional experience – the level at which brand value starts to grow. While many British businesses give customers a consistent and good experience, few offer something which is truly distinct to them and which sets them apart from the field.  

The ways in which CX contributes to brand-building are diverse, but there are some fundamental principles that all businesses would do well to follow. Good CX typically means honing a seamless offer through your principle channels – whether they are is online, offline, or both – coupled with a laser like focus on customers’ wants and needs to deliver a really tailored product or service experience. It might sound simple but our data suggests that not enough companies are nailing these basics. If we can help more brands to do so, then the gap between Britain and oversees markets will start to shrink.  

Optimising online

We’ve known for years how important it is to have a smooth and intuitive online experience for customers. COVID-19 has only increased that imperative as ecommerce has accelerated, and organisations providing genuinely strong online experiences were 8% more likely to grow this year.

However, many brands are still falling short of the standards that are necessary. Our analysis of the UK’s biggest brands shows that 92% fail to meet Google’s Core Web Vitals – a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability which measure user experience on the web. That is part of the reason why our brands are trailing the global competition.  

But there are brands which are performing well and can provide inspiration. 

Ocado is a great example. Seeing an unprecedented rise in demand during national lockdowns, it invested during the pandemic and its 2021 branding refresh was aimed specifically at improving consumer experiences online. It has built on its position as an early adopter of digital through initiatives like increased capacity and sophisticated live customer service functions. Most crucially, it has invested in systems which help it to understand customers, using data to effectively shape a personalised experience for every user, with targeted offers and products. That has paid off, and helped to grow its brand value by 72% this year.   

Shifting the battleground  

A leading digital offer is critical but that initial innovation has to be followed up by an ongoing focus on the customer and their needs. The next step for brands should be to think about how they really distinguish themselves in customers’ eyes – across their online presence, but also in terms of their wider product or service offer.  

A standout example of a global business using CX properly is Netflix. 

Where once it dominated the video streaming market simply by being the first major player, it has had to adapt to respond to new and emerging competitors. Netflix’s CX strength has traditionally come from personalisation. Its whole platform is anchored around it, and at one time that led to a unique customer experience. But now its rivals have caught up, and it has to do more to separate itself. 

Investment in programming content guided by an in-depth understanding of its audiences, their likes, dislikes and streaming habits, has become its most potent weapon – differentiating Netflix’s brand in an increasingly commoditised space. It has cemented itself as a premium offer not just because of a slick platform, but because of the high-quality content it delivers. Our data shows Netflix’s brand value grew by 55% as a result this year, far ahead of the BBC at 6%, Sky at 19%, and even YouTube at 39%. 

Boots on the ground

Finally, for those brands less rooted in online a more targeted CX strategy can still fuel growth. 

B&M retails exclusively offline, but our findings show it has thrived in the past year because of the experience it offered shoppers when they were allowed back into stores. People visiting the discounter feel as though they are getting good brands at a good price. Based purely on shopper perception, people on average think products at B&M cost £0.67 for every £1 in other shops – it gives you the sensation of a bargain.  

That is particularly effective in times of economic uncertainty like the pandemic, which helped it to become one of the UK’s most valuable brands this year. But even as the economy starts to pick up, people won’t lose their appetite for the bargain hunting which B&M has made its unique in-store persona. It’s not just well priced – it has a sense of car boot sale fun. If it can hold on to that experiential feeling it can have long-term success.  

Hand in hand 

CX and brand building are natural partners. Successful brands, both online and offline across different sectors, relied on it this year to differentiate themselves and make gains above their competitors. 

But many more didn’t look closely enough at their offer and grew more slowly for that reason. There’s scope for some of our best-loved household names to transform how they deliver to customers and in turn increase their brand values. This is our industry’s rallying cry to help them do it.    



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