Amazon has been knocked off the top spot of customers’ favourite places to shop by M&S’ food division, according to exclusive survey data from OC&C.

Ranking
RankRetailerIndex score
1 M&S Simply Food 85
2 John Lewis 83.3
3 Lush 83.1
4 Amazon 82.7
5 Apple 82.4
6 M&S 81.7
7 Aldi 81.6
8 Boots 81.3
9 Ralph Lauren 80.9
10 Ikea 80.7
11 Waitrose 80.6
12 Waterstones 80.2
13 Wilko 80.2
14 Selfridges 80
15 Clarks 79.9
16 Home Bargains 79.5
17 Argos 79.4
18 Jack Wills 79.2
19 Lloyds Pharmacy 79.2
20 Greggs 79.2
21 Body Shop 79.2
22 Hugo Boss 79.1
23 Next 79
24 Mothercare 78.8
25 Lidl 78.8
26 Screwfix 78.8
27 Sainsbury’s 78.7
28 Lakeland 78.6
29 Debenhams 78.6
30 Iceland 78.5

What happened to Amazon?

For most retailers, ranking in the top five of customers’ favourite place to shop would be a win. However, after six consecutive years of clinching the top spot in OC&C’s shopper survey, Amazon’s drop to fourth place reads like a fall from grace.

So what has the online Goliath done to fall in shoppers’ favour? According to Matt Coode, partner at OC&C’s retail and leisure practice, there are two areas where Amazon has been “a victim of its own success”.

The first is its variety of selling models. Through its Prime membership scheme, marketplace model and Sales events such as Prime Day and its swathe of Black Friday promotions, Amazon has made a name for itself in offering shoppers exceptional prices.

However, a negative side effect of this is that over the last year shoppers are not convinced the online retailer is clear about just how much its products cost.

“As Amazon has introduced more dynamism and purchase journey options it has become transparent to shoppers they aren’t consistently at the same price for the same product,” says Coode.

“Consumers, and particularly loyal ones, see that and struggle to reconcile it with the idea that Amazon is still the go-to retailer for good value.”

This has also eroded the perception of the quality of Amazon’s service amongst some shoppers, who think that those that don’t pay for a membership scheme are getting a raw deal.

“Because Amazon has introduced an ever increasing number of delivery options and charges different amounts for them, it’s been made clear to those that aren’t Prime members that they do not get as slick a delivery process,” says Coode.

“What that translates to is an idea that some shoppers don’t think they are getting a consistently excellent a shopping experience as they once thought they were.”

Coode stresses that these issues are nothing more that “teething problems” for Amazon, which is the market leader for an easy and efficient shopping experience.

“The challenge for Amazon is how to continue to be the pacesetter in retail and introduce new ways of shopping while still keeping it clear to all of its shoppers that they can go to them to get the right thing at the right price at the right time,” says Coode.

Lessons from the best in class

In an era of price inflation and consumer uncertainty, it will be a source of comfort for retailers that shoppers no longer perceive low prices as the definitive attribute of an exceptional customer experience.

Coode says: “There is a general trend in this year’s research that retailers which have ranked at the top are not necessarily those that lead on price, but are exceptional in other areas of their proposition.”

Marks & Spencer’s grocery division ranked top, which demonstrates that this embattled retailer has a recipe for success in at least one part of its operation.

“Our research shows that shopper affection for Marks & Spencer’s is at an all-time high,” says Coode.

“Customers rank product quality as having paramount importance and that has played into [the hands] of Marks & Spencer. This points to the work Marks & Spencer have done on the consistency of its execution and having a strong staff presence in store when others have been cutting back.

“It has won with shoppers by having safe, familiar and consistent experience in its stores.”

The department store chain’s ascension through the rankings – alongside Lush and Apple’s positioning in the top five – represents the value of having a specialist position in retail.

Coode says that for shoppers today customer service does not solely need to be efficient to be good – but it does need to be attentive.

Favourite ranking category winers

Favourite ranking category winers

“Shoppers value customer service which centres around emotional engagement, support and guidance, and retailers that have a clear focus on a particular type of product are best placed to win in that regard,” says Coode.

He adds that there is no reason why multi-category retailers cannot provide this level of service, but it will present a greater challenge to them than it would to a sector specialist.

“The position in the market of a business like John Lewis, which is perceived as a one-stop shop all-rounder but does not excel in any specific category, is likely to come under pressure in the market over the next few years,” he says.

Top five over the last five years

top 5
Ranking20122013201420152016
1 Amazon Amazon Amazon Amazon Amazon
2 John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
3 Marks & Spencer Apple Apple Lush AO.com
4 M&S Simply Food Marks & Spencer Lush Apple Lush
5 Card Factory M&S Simply Food M&S Simply Food Moonpig Waitrose

The generation game

Age breakdown
RankingMillennials (18-34)Generation X (35-54)Baby boomers (55+)
1 Amazon Ralph Lauren M&S Simply Food
2 Lush M&S Simply Food Lush
3 M&S Simply Food John Lewis John Lewis
4 Ikea Selfridges Waitrose
5 Paperchase Apple Healthspan
6 Boots Boots Marks & Spencer
7 Apple Amazon Apple
8 Home Bargains Aldi Aldi
9 Aldi Clarks Amazon
10 Asda House of Fraser Jack Wills

The shifting retailer rankings for shoppers across different age demographics demonstrates that for younger shoppers, price and speed is king.

Amazon held onto its top spot with millennial shoppers but sunk to seventh for those aged between 35 and 54 and ninth for those aged 55 and over.

The top rankings of Ralph Lauren and M&S Simply Food respectively demonstrate that older shoppers with more disposable income value great customer service and clarity around price over speed and affordability, which goes some way in explaining Amazon’s fall in the rankings.

“Non-millennial shoppers are not worried about it taking longer if it means they get the right thing, whereas a millennial will place primacy on a more affordable option and has been conditioned to want it as quickly as possible,” says Coode.

Methodology

OC&C Strategy Consultants’ Retail Proposition Index is compiled by surveying over 50,000 consumers across 10 different countries (UK, Germany, France, Italy, US, India, Poland, Brazil, Turkey and China). Respondents are asked to rate a random selection of 10 retailers that they had shopped at (i.e. visited or purchased) in the last three months on the overall strength of their proposition and on individual elements (such as low prices, quality of products, service etc). Questions were based on a five-star rating system (1 = poor, 5 = excellent) which was then converted into the simple 0-100 score shown in the index available online.

The sample sizes collated for each retailer means that ratings are accurate to within +/- 1.0 – and that differences greater than this are statistically significant.