In Sweden, many people would describe themselves as efficient, and proudly so. Indeed, efficiency is something that customers have come to expect from brands and any organization that can deliver a seamless experience — while delivering true value is generally considered in high regard.
The higher ranking brands also leverage customer insight effectively and in Sweden consumers generally accept this as long as it is stored safely and ethically — and of course used to deliver a premium customer experience.
The non-grocery retail sector is currently performing best in this regard and understands how to gather, analyze and utilize customer data. These insights helps brands to truly deliver what their customers want, which is critical in Sweden as the pillar of Personalization is a strong driver of loyalty. Customers are loyal to the brands that tailor the experience to their specific needs and remember their past preferences.
Similarly, the pillar of Integrity also matters. It's the biggest driver for customer advocacy, and this is something that Swedish customers do not give easily. They tend to be quite careful about which organizations they'll recommend to family and friends, lest their judgement be misplaced and they come away feeling embarrassed.
That being said, there are many brands that score highly for Integrity in this year's study. COVID-19 certainly threw a spotlight on this pillar, when the onus fell on individual brands to 'look after' the customers themselves. This is because the government never fully closed its restaurants, schools or retail stores, leaving it to organizations to properly manage social distancing and cleaning routines.
Many brands did this successfully, and indeed the Swedish retailer IKEA achieved a high score for Integrity, ranking in third place in 2020. IKEA responded positively to the outbreak of COVID-19, introducing a 'click and collect' service which allowed consumers to order products online and then collect them at special drivethrough pick-up points.
The pillar of Integrity also encompasses wider, environmental concerns. In general, many nongrocery retailers ask customers to help them look after the planet, encouraging them to return used clothes to stores so that they can be repurposed, for example. Likewise, other brands such as the pharmaceutical retailer Apoteket — which ranks at number two in 2020 — ask customers to return empty bottles and packaging so that they can be recycled.
"No one can save the world on their own," says Apoteket. "To do something about the challenges facing the world, the UN countries have agreed on seventeen global goals. Here at Apoteket, we accept the challenge and roll up our sleeves a little extra. We have chosen to focus our efforts on the five goals (health, customer offering, environment, employees, profitability) where we believe we can make a difference."1
This sentiment is echoed by another pharmaceutical retailer, Apotea, which ranks first. The brand says: "We feel responsible for the world, the people and the environment around us. Ever since Apotea started, sustainability has been important to us. Sustainability should not be something we just talk about; it should be at every level of the organization and it should be seen that we always have the idea of sustainability with us."2
Of course, being a retailer, the day-today functioning of its stores matters as well. Apoteas's highest scores are in Personalization, Time and Effort and Integrity. One respondent said they had "never had a problem with Apotea" and described the shopping process as "smooth" and "fast." They added: "They offer good prices, fast delivery, and a large range of products. I always use the Instabox delivery option, which is also free, on the way home from work. No need to even take a detour to pick it up." However, achieving this level of Personalization and efficiency is still a challenge for a number of Swedish brands.
Many struggle with the alignment of their front, middle and back office processes, meaning unnecessary hurdles sometimes disrupt customer journeys. In addition, the older organizations are being challenged by new disruptors — start-ups that have designed customer-centric processes from the ground-up, and are already winning the hearts of Swedish consumers.
There is also customer insight to consider. While it's seen as an acceptable part of CX, many organizations are ill-equipped to handle large volumes of data, and lack the tools to analyze it properly, or even store it safely. Brands that want to improve their customer experience will need to focus on data if they are to unlock its value.
“The 2020 research strongly highlights the shift to digital we see in Sweden which is independent of industry. The physical channel now supports the digital experience rather than the other way around. Digitalborn organizations such as Apotea will therefore have an advantage over traditional brands due to more efficient and connected operating models." ”
Customer Experience Lead
KPMG in Sweden