Longo’s takes the cake in customer experience, according to Leger’s 10th annual WOW Index. The family-owned retailer was ranked No. 1 in the grocery sector in Ontario, followed by Whole Foods, Farm Boy, Fortinos and Zehrs.
The ranking is based on an evaluation of the customer experience at 145 Ontario retailers across sectors via an online survey with nearly 13,000 Ontarians. Each retailer was assessed by 400 respondents who had visited the retailer’s store since June 2020.
The WOW Index is based on a store’s performance on 16 dimensions related to the customer experience, including product quality and variety; store ambiance and layout; price and promotional activities; sense of belonging; staff competency; and efficiency at checkout.
“If you look at the top four grocers, they tend to be smaller, more specialized shops that are more about the experience of going there,” says Christian Bourque, executive vice-president at Leger.
Longo’s was founded in 1956 and now has 36 stores in Ontario. In an October 2020 Q&A with Canadian Grocer, Longo’s president and CEO Anthony Longo said Longo’s has consistently delivered against its quality service and value promise to consumers. Most importantly, he added, “we’ve evolved our offering over time to meet consumer needs.”
The WOW Index also evaluated the online experience of 173 websites and apps via a survey of nearly 14,000 Canadians. Each site was evaluated by 300 respondents who had visited the site since June 2020, on factors such as browsing, delivery options and payment process. In the grocery sector, Costco was No. 1, followed by Maxi, Metro, Avril and Real Canadian Superstore.
Costco’s top ranking may be surprising, as the retailer was late to the e-commerce game and doesn’t offer click and collect. Bourque speculates that Costco may have benefitted from customers doing their pantry-loading and centre-store shopping online during the pandemic. “That’s where Costco, for some, becomes a more obvious choice,” he says.
COVID had an impact on this year's results, of course. Overall, grocers saw a decline in their scores compared to last year, while specialty and fashion boutiques experienced an increase.
“In grocery, there’s less service inside the store, longer waits that have had an impact on the length of the visit, and discomfort when people get in your space,” says Bourque. On the other hand, customers are visiting boutiques because they want to—not because they have to—and many stores are by appointment only.
“So, instead of having a hundred customers in the store, there’s only a dozen, and now you’re getting a very high level of service, it’s very personalized, and you end up feeling that your experience was great,” says Bourque.