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    C-store Brand Equity Ratings Trail the Retail Pack

    Consumers have difficulty "bonding" at franchised stores, says Harris Poll.

    By Brian Berk, Convenience Store News

    NEW YORK — Convenience stores ranked "below average" in the retail category of the 2015 Harris Poll EquiTrend brand equity survey, but there is plenty of room to improve their standing, a Nielsen consumer insights expert said Wednesday during its "The Power of a Strong Retail Brand" webinar.

    Because several c-store chains are franchised as opposed to being wholly corporate-owned, the experience for consumers is not the same from store to store of the same chain, leading customers to have an inability to "bond" with c-stores and ultimately lose their faith in a brand, explained Joan Sinopli, vice president of consulting, Nielsen Consumer Insights, North America.

    "Uniform signage and uniform messaging are very important [for c-stores]," she said when questioned by CSNews Online.

    Although c-stores ranked as below average among the retailers studied in the 2015 Harris Poll EquiTrend survey, the retail group overall had a strong brand equity rating, considerably outpacing other industries such as travel, media, telecom and insurance. 

    The survey determines top retail brands in terms of equity by asking consumers if they are familiar with a particular brand; if it is a brand of quality; and how likely they are to purchase a product from that retail brand. Additional questions are also asked regarding whether a consumer loves or hates a brand, and if the brand is on the "way up or way down." 

    Leading this year's list as the top retail brand for the third year in a row was Amazon.com. Target and CVS also posted strong brand equity scores, while online grocery retailers were found to be a group on the way up.

    In addition to the obvious sales that come along with having a highly regarded brand, brand equity is important because consumers tend to give a highly regarded brand more slack during difficult times so that brand can recover quicker when times begin to shift for the better, relayed Sinopli.

    Along with a uniform strategy, c-stores can improve their brand equity most quickly through innovation, according to Sinolpi. She cited Netflix as a prime example of a brand that rapidly improved its brand equity after committing some missteps in recent years.

    Understanding customers more effectively is another way to enhance brand equity, the Nielsen executive stressed.

    Conversely, brand equity can quickly be tarnished as well. Sinopli acknowledged that unfortunately, brand equity can be ruined by something out a retailer's control. For example, the financial crisis of last decade quickly eroded the brand equity of retail banks, which are still fighting to repair the damage.

    MOBILE PAYMENT IN HIGH ESTEEM

    As part of the 2015 Harris Poll EquiTrend survey, consumers were questioned about an additional topic: interest in mobile payment technologies.

    Sinopli reported that many "more consumers than anticipated" are interested in purchasing products using mobile payment technology.

    "Mobile payments are something to watch," she concluded. "Consumers are willing to trust [this technology]."

    Harris Poll is a Nielsen company. Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive Inc. in February 2014. 

    By Brian Berk, Convenience Store News
    • About Brian Berk Brian Berk is managing editor of Stagnito Business Information's Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner, where he specializes in covering motor fuels, technology and financial news. He has served the magazine industry for 14 years and has also worked in the radio and newspaper fields. Berk holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the State University of New York at Cortland and a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

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