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The Best Pandemic Grocers, Ranked

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
The Best Pandemic Grocers, Ranked
H-E-B, which ranked No. 1 on the KPMG list, has been getting accolades for months for its response to the pandemic.

Grocery retailers, especially brands such as H-E-B and Costco, provided the No. 1 customer experience during the pandemic, according to a new survey.

The 2020 KPMG U.S. Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) report identified the top performing brands and industries during the pandemic in terms of customer experience. The survey found that brands that used technology, including AI, to transfer the in-store experience online reaped the rewards of customer loyalty.

“Leaders in our 2020 index are purpose-led companies with deep connective customer relationships, offering online experiences that are immersive, emotionally connective and safe,” said Julio Hernandez, U.S. Customer Advisory Practice lead at KPMG LLP. “With the move to online accelerating due to COVID-19, the nature of the relationship between brands and their customers has changed, bringing the need for commercial cadence to the forefront. Our analysis also shows a move to the age of ‘buying into’ from ‘buying from,’ as customers are seeking companies that make a difference environmentally and socially.”

The report offers six pillars of experience that explain how companies navigated the COVID-19 environment and how they performed in terms of customer experience (CE). High performing CE leaders scored high across the six pillars: 

  • Integrity, acting ethically and demonstrably in the customers’ best interests
  • Resolution, focusing on proactively addressing customer problems
  • Accurately setting customer Expectations
  • Reducing the Time and Effort customers need to expend by enabling frictionless digital and, where possible, physical interactions
  • Delivering a Personalized experience  
  • Empathy and compassion

According to KPMG, the 2020 top 10 U.S. brands are:

  • USAA
  • H-E-B
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Edward Jones
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Costco Wholesale
  • Publix
  • Wegmans
  • Charles Schwab

Grocery retail remains in the top industry, with an average score increasing to 8.04 out of 10 in 2020, compared to 7.96 in 2019. Restaurant & Fast Food move to second place in 2020 from third place last year with a score of 7.94, compared to 7.84 in 2019. Non-Grocery Retail falls to third place in 2020 from second place in 2019 with a score dropping to 7.79 compared to 7.87 last year.

The brands with the highest increase in their survey rankings in the U.S. this year showed that they were able to maintain their commercial cadence, while scoring high on their six pillar performance, differentiating themselves from the pack on Integrity and Empathy.
Eastern supermarket chain Hannaford was the biggest mover, rising 137 places as it not only placed its customers and employees first, but fused smart in-store technology with online purchasing and rewards to make their customers lives easier. Hannaford looked at the experience from the eyes of the shopper and looked to facilitate the easiest and most engaging path to purchase.

Zappos also made significant progress on the index, rising 68 places as the company used creative marketing and omni-channel experiences to became more deeply embedded in its customers’ lives. For example, to help its customers get into the right running shoes — a common challenge for runners — Zappos offered a 30-day return guarantee no matter how many miles were run in the sneakers.

Sephora also rose 63 places as the company was creative in using sophisticated technology to transfer the in-store experience online and even in some areas enhance it.

The research for this year’s U.S. report was conducted via an online survey. Approximately 11,000 U.S. customers were interviewed and asked to rate their experiences with over 300 U.S. brands across the six pillars of experience. Results reported in the 2020 KPMG U.S. CEE report are based on the data accumulated during the duration of the survey.

Last week celebrated H-E-B, Wegmans Food Markets and Hy-Vee as some of the top food retailers in America when it comes to their pandemic response, inventory management and customer service.

H-E-B, based in San Antonio, Texas, topped the magazine's list and earned kudos for its company-wide emergency plan

In June, H-E-B achieved an 80% customer satisfaction mark in the newest Bond Brand Loyalty "Covid-19 Consumer Tracker" study. H-E-B scored higher than other food retailers such as Costco and Walmart, each of them scoring 61%. Publix and The Kroger Co. were behind them, with scores of 59% each. 

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