#NEXT2022: All you need is Love

by Louise Burgers. How the top retailers in the world continue to inspire deep connections with their customers.

by Louise Burgers. In their iconic song, The Beatles sang, ‘There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known / Nothing you can see that isn’t shown… It’s easy / All you need is love!’ But is it true for retail? How did some of the world’s top retailers connect with customers during the pandemic and set up growth for the future?

The WPP/BAV Most Loved Retailers Global Edition, is all about love and how the top retailers in the world inspire deep connections with their customers. Launched in part, at the World Retail Congress earlier this year, it asks, How deep is your love? Because there are powerful reasons why brands should know what their consumers feel for them, and the depth of those feelings. “People ‘love’ stores that offer them convenience or a bargain. They love retailers they can trust and that they see as friendly. They love reliable brands that help them with everyday life. It’s love that bring people back into stores again and again. Love that’s based on respect and trust, dependability, relevance, and leadership. It has real value to brands,” the report states.

There’s a big but, though. Is that love enough to elevate the retailer out of the friend zone and into a lifelong, passionate relationship with your brand? As the BAV report shows, love is a “great attribute” for retailers to aspire to, as it reflects real emotional commitment from their consumer base. And during this pandemic, it is often love that got consumers back into stores or shopping from their favourite retailer.

What’s love got to do with it?

A lot, apparently. “Love is linked to advocacy, because when people love a brand, they tend to recommend it to friends and family. While someone might consider choosing from a selection of retailers that would meet their needs, they’re more likely to actually buy from the one they most desire and love. In the brand world, passionate love leads to loyalty.”

It’s a huge benefit with social media driving much of brand engagement these days, as it is the difference between a brand being loved by a few or admired by many. It can be of benefit to retailers to understand how much love a brand inspires, but also what kind of love – passionate or comfy in the friend zone? Brands that score high for love are also:

  • Leaders – seen as having momentum, being innovative and visionary.
  • Going places – and consumers want to be with them on their journey.

BAV has developed a love score card to measure retail brand love:

  1. Lean on me: This is dependable, solid, reliable love. “Retailers that inspire this kind of love are those that people feel are reliable, trustworthy, good value and original. If fans of these retailers were to sum up their relationship, they’d probably say, ‘I can always count on you’.”
  2. Got to get you into my life: These brands inspire aspirational, lustful, yearning love. “Retailers that inspire this aspect of love tend to be perceived as offering style, quality, a trendy outlook and authenticity – and they have associations with sensuality. People aspire to have these brands as part of their lives.”
  3. Can’t get you out of my head: This is intellectually stimulating, inspirational love. “Retailers like this are resourceful and intellectually stimulating, making consumers feel, ‘I love the way you think’. They’re seen as innovative, daring, progressive, intelligent and even visionary.”
  4. Walkin’ on sunshine: When you feel playful, joyful love. “Retailers in this Love+ category are described by consumers as being charming, fun, energetic, sociable, creative and carefree. They’re the brands people think of as, ‘bringing joy and giving me a good time’.”

Retailers that find themselves in the category of true love, come from a broad cross section of retail. In the UK, discount supermarket chain Aldi is in the Top 20. In the US, it is quick-service restaurant chain, Chick-fill-A. adidas is also doing very well on the brand love scoreboard in Australia, Austria and Colombia.

I wanna know what love is

We’d all like to know, but retailers that ensure Love is all around; and can turn likes into love, share similar traits:

  • It means doing the right thing and going beyond selling goods and services. Hardware chain, Bunnings in Australia, hosts regular carpark ‘sausage sizzle’ fundraisers for local charities, sports, and social clubs.
  • During Covid lockdowns, consumers have favoured retailers that have helped them feel safe while shopping; as well as those that offer seamless online browsing and delivery, with shopper-friendly returns policies. Ikea’s sustainability stance, for example, finds favour with Austrian consumers, where an urban Ikea store is surrounded by more than 100 trees, no parking and consumers are encouraged to visit via public transport or cycle lanes. Still in Austria, Wein & Co is a prestigious online wine etailer, with physical outlets that are part-bar, part-store, with wine-tasting courses and products for sale.
  • Retail as entertainment is what China has perfected with its online and hybrid offerings. “A handful of highly competitive online platforms linking browsing, socialising, gaming, shopping and payments have made ecommerce a national sport,” BAV reports. Market leaders are Alibaba and JD, which have both launched blended shopping festivals and shoppertainment, with online influencers as sales megastars, livestreaming ecommerce. One of the best examples of this blended shoppertainment is Haidilao Hot Pot. “A blend of dining and theatre, Haidilao branches provide gifts for guests having birthdays, offer play centres for children, traditional dancing, manicures for guests; as well as using robots to streamline and automate behind-the-scenes operations.
  • Consumers are increasingly drawn to retailers that offer something extra – like reliability in abnormal times. BAV explains: “[During lockdowns] sporting goods giant Decathlon, which offered online sales, supplied digital advice on keeping fit and healthy, and donated diving masks that could be adapted to treat Covid patients. Similarly, DIY specialist Leroy Merlin promoted online channels where consumers could not only buy, but get reliable advice from its knowledgeable store staff.
  • Increased focus on sustainability is driving love for brands that provide organic food, or other repurposed goods platforms, such as the French second-hand clothing platform, Vined, which links responsible shopping with online convenience and a great deal.
  • Consumers have flocked to brands offering unparallel convenience or immersive, irreplaceable experiences. Retailer Moonpig links convenience and experience, offering personalised cards and gifts sent straight to the intended.

“It’s also important not to slavishly pursue just one type of brand love. The secret may well be to strive for fame in one kind of love, and then support strongly with another. Like the shopkeeper of old, there is still a very important place for humanity in building brand love and encouraging long-term customer relationships,” the BAV report urged.



Like the shopkeeper of old, there is still a very important place for humanity in building brand love and encouraging long-term customer relationships.


Main image credit: Photo by Wyron A on Unsplash.


Louise Burgers is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.


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