Consumer WOM Proves Powerful, Apple, Amazon Lead Sectors

As marketers know, word of mouth can make or break a brand. But which brands are consumers most likely to back, as well as bash? 

In the category of online search and information Web sites, Google remains top dog, according to new research from customer experience consultancy Satmetrix. The search giant earned a Net Promoter Score (NPS) -- which is based on customers’ likelihood to recommend products or services -- of 56%.

NPS is calculated as the percentage of customers who are promoters, rating the company 9 or 10 on a 0 to 10 point scale, minus the percentage who are detractors, rating 6 or lower.) 

Facebook, meanwhile, lost 21 points compared to last year’s benchmark -- dropping to an NPS of 31%.

Among online shopping Web sites, Amazon.com delivered again this year with an NPS of 76% -- placing it second among all brands profiled in the study, just behind USAA’s direct banking operation.

The Satmetrix Net Promoter benchmarks are based on a survey of more than 30,000 U.S. consumers, with ratings for more than 200 brands across 22 industry sectors.

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“The annual benchmark is an important guidepost for executives to understand which brands are truly winning the loyalty of American consumers,” said Deborah Eastman, general manager of consulting at Satmetrix.

Apart from USAA’s direct banking operation, which had an NPS of 83% -- few banking brands are held in high regard by consumers. Indeed, seven banks had more detractors than promoters, with the Wachovia brand -- acquired in 2009 by Wells Fargo -- trailing the list with an NPS of negative 15%.

In the area of technology, Apple’s loyalty performance matched its financial performance; it once again led in the computer hardware sector with an NPS of 71%. The company also performed well for its consumer software applications, scoring an NPS of 68%.

In the drug store and pharmacy sector, Walmart Pharmacy led with an NPS of 40%, while home improvement chain Lowe’s led among hardware and home supply retailers at 54%.

Specialty grocers earned some of the highest Net Promoter Scores in the overall study, with Trader Joe’s and Wegmans tied at 73% in the grocery and supermarkets sector.

Among major department, wholesale and specialty retailers, Costco took top honors again this year with an NPS of 71%. New additions Belk and Nordstrom also did well, both earning an NPS of 66%. Echoing its financial woes, Sears trailed among department stores with an NPS of 35%.

For airlines, Virgin America captured the top spot with an NPS of 66%, followed closely by last year’s winner, JetBlue Airways, at 64%. American Airlines trailed the sector at negative 5%. 

In the hotel sector, Marriott’s 56% score and Hilton’s 55% were more than 60 points ahead of sector laggard Motel 6. 

Among the travel Web sites, only TripAdvisor showed a significant differential in its experience -- benefitting from its unique hub of consumer reviews combined with travel booking functions to garner an NPS of 33%, according to Satmetrix.

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