Despite the fact that discount retailers are attracting more customers, more often, in all regions of Canada, shoppers in Quebec profess the most loyalty to established stores such as IGA, Jean Coutu, Sears and Canadian Tire, suggesting that deep discounts are not the only way to Quebecers’ hearts and wallets. Neither, however, is customer service. In fact, the importance of customer service in driving shopper loyalty in Quebec has dropped by 25 percent since 2008, falling from first place to third place behind competitive price and quality products, according to the COLLOQUY Canadian Retail Loyalty Index, a study of 3,500 Canadian shoppers.
"While the recession has played a major role in driving consumers to low-price stores across Canada, Quebecers stand out for the loyalty they continue to profess to well-known, mostly Canadian retailers," said Kelly Hlavinka, Managing Partner of COLLOQUY and author of COLLOQUY Canadian Retail Loyalty Index and COLLOQUY Partner. "Despite this loyalty, giants like Walmart have shown that low prices can be a major factor in driving shopper frequency and loyalty, so established retailers in Quebec must stay focused on identifying and satisfying their customers to protect their position, or even stay alive," she added.
The Loyalty Shift
When asked for the factors that most influence their loyalty to a retailer, consumers across Canada revealed a major shift in their views since 2008, with the importance of customer service dropping by 18 percent overall, and 25 percent in Quebec. By contrast, in 2008, virtually all regional and demographic groups ranked customer service the most important factor in gaining and keeping their loyalty, with competitive price finishing a distant second.
Despite the large drop in the importance of customer service as a loyalty driver, the Quebec experience pales in complexion to the United States, where a similar study by COLLOQUY reveals that low prices have become even further entrenched since 2008, leaving little room for retailers to win on anything but price.
The COLLOQUY Canadian Retail Loyalty Index asked respondents a series of questions to measure how often they shop at leading retailers (frequency), as well as how loyal they feel to those retailers (loyalty). The results illustrate a growing shift to discount retailers and low-price warehouse stores, though well-established retailers with strong brands and loyalty strategies continue to be well-represented.
Winning Retailers in Quebec:
Grocery IGA IGA
Pharmacy Jean Coutu Jean Coutu
Department Store Canadian Tire Walmart
Mass Merchant Sears Walmart
While Walmart dominates across Canada in the retail categories of Department Store and Mass Merchant, in contrast to Quebec, discount grocers such as Safeway, No-Frills and Zehrs, and low-price pharmacy options such as Zellers, Walmart and Costco are leading in Ontario and the West. Atlantic Canadians continue to frequent and profess loyalty to Sobeys (grocery) and Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix (pharmacy), though discounters like Atlantic Super Store and Walmart are gaining fast.
"In the United States and parts of Canada, brands built on low prices have rocketed to the top in nearly every category. In Quebec, the news is much better for retailers like Jean Coutu, IGA and Canadian Tire that have built loyalty programs into their offering to win customers rather than simply promising the lowest price," said Hlavinka.
Winning strategies for the new retail normal
Since there can only be one low-price "leader" and given the risks to retailers associated with continuous price cuts, the COLLOQUY Canadian Retail Loyalty Index suggests the following strategies for retailers:
• Be wise about where you can win. While retailers may not be able to beat Walmart on price, there are other places to win, from selection to in-store service. Better yet, retailers can win by knowing and understanding their most profitable customers and what they want.
• Deliver more value. While the recession hangs on, promotions aimed at a retailer’s best customers and partnerships can augment the value customers receive in return for their loyalty.
• Collect the customer data you need to succeed. By casting the net wide and collecting customer data, retailers can ensure their communications, pricing and product selection hit the bullseye with their most profitable customers.
• Look local. Examine additional marketing opportunities within a tighter range of store locations to court nearby customers, and to attract new and previously infrequent shoppers.
About the COLLOQUY Canadian Retail Loyalty Index
The COLLOQUY Canadian Retail Loyalty Index asks consumers to name the brands to which they feel the strongest loyalty, and seeks to learn more about the drivers of that loyalty, regardless of the presence or structure of a formal customer loyalty program. The 2010 Index surveyed 3,500 Canadian consumers.
COLLOQUY comprises a collection of publishing, education and research resources devoted to the global loyalty-marketing industry. Owned by LoyaltyOne, COLLOQUY (colloquy.com) has served the loyalty-marketing industry since 1990 with over 30,000 global subscribers to its magazine and colloquy.com the most comprehensive loyalty web site in the world. COLLOQUY’s research division develops research studies and white papers including industry-specific reports, sizing studies and insights into the drivers of consumer behavior. COLLOQUY also provides educational services through workshops, webinars and speeches at events throughout the world and is the official loyalty-marketing partner of both the Direct Marketing Association and the Canadian Marketing Association and a content provider to the American Marketing Association. COLLOQUY also operates the COLLOQUY Network, a global consortium of practitioners certified in COLLOQUY’s proprietary methodology. COLLOQUY magazine subscriptions are available at no cost to qualified persons online or by calling 513.248.9184.