Top 10: Retail Brands in Europe
Europe is home to some of the most prominent retail brands seen worldwide.
From supermarkets to pharmacists and fashion, the continent has a wealth of well-respected brands which consumers rely on for many essential day-to-day purchases.
Here we take a look at ten of best.
Sephora are a chain of cosmetics stores founded by Dominique Mandonnaud in Paris in 1970, and still headquartered in the French capital. The parent company of Sephora is LMVH, who also own Luis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy. Sephora made their first foray into the United States in 1998 when the company opened a store in New York. With revenue of around €2 billion (£1.6 bn, $2.6bn) their CEO is Christopher de Lapuente.
German discount supermarket chain Aldi has over 9,000 stores in 18 countries and a turnover in excess of €50 billion (£39.4bn, $63.4bn). Founded by brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht in 1946 it remains privately owned. Aldi (short for Albrecht Diskont) is organised and operated as two distinct entities with Aldi Nord headquartered in Essen and Aldi Süd in Mulheim an der Ruhr. CEO's are Marc Heußinger and Norbert Podschlapp. Aldi Nord's biggest market outside of Germany is France with 680 stores.
British pharmaceutical chain founded in 1849 by Nottingham-based farm worker turned herbal remedy expert John Boot. After his father died in 1860, 10 year-old son Jesse Boot helped his widowed mother run the company. After building up the business, Jesse Boot sold the firm to US giant United Drug Company in 1920.
His son John Campbell Boot later headed the business after it was bought back from the Americans in 1933. Boots have stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland and employ 57,000 people. Led by managing director Simon Roberts, the company is headquartered in Nottingham and has a market capitalisation of €321.5 million (£251.64m, $402.5m)
French retail group Auchan is headquartered in Croix (close to Lille). Founded in 1961 when Gérard Mulliez opened a self-service shop in Roubaix the company now has over 630 hypermarkets and 2400 supermarkets globally. The organisation has a presence in Italy, India, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Poland, Hungary, Russia, China, Taiwan and Romania and employs 269,000 people. Auchan generated €26 billion ($20.3bn, €32.5bn) revenue in the first six months of 2014.
#6 Marks and Spencer
Founded in Leeds by Michael Marks, a Belarussian Jewish immigrant, and Thomas Spencer in 1884, M and S are now headquartered in London and employ 85,000 people. Marks originally owned a penny bazaar on Kirkgate Market, Leeds, and invited Tom Spencer to come into business with him when he obtained a permanent spot in the city's covered market. With revenue of £10.03 billion, Marc Bolland is the CEO.
Jack Cohen, the son of Polish immigrants, founded the company in 1919 when he started to sell groceries from a market stall at Well Street Market, Hackney, London. The Tesco brand was born in 1924 when Cohen bought a shipment of tea from Thomas Edward Stockwell (the 'Tes' of Tesco from Stockwell's initials, while Cohen took the first two letters of his name to form 'Tesco'.).
The company now has 6,784 stores (2014) in 12 countries and employs 594,784 (2013). Headquartered in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, Dave Lewis is the CEO and is set to embark on a major effort to regain customer trust after a series of crises this year. This said, the company remains the UK's largest retailer.
French multinational retailer Carrefour is headquartered in Boulogne Billancourt, Paris. It is the fourth largest retail organisation in the world, after Wal-Mart, Tesco and Costco. Famous for its hypermarkets, it had over 1450 in 2011. The CEO is Georges Plassat, the company generates around €80 billion (£62.5bn, $100bn) in revenue, employs 364,969 and has 10,102 locations in 39 nations..
Amancio Ortega and Rosalía Mera opened the first Zara shop in La Coruna, Galicia, Spain in 1975. Originally, they wanted to name the store 'Zorba', after the movie Zorba The Greek, but there was already a bar in town with the same name. So Ortega and Mera instead decided on Zara, now headquartered in Arteixo. Inditex are the parent company and there are now over 2000 Zara stores in 88 nations. France with 129 stores is the largest presence outside of Spain (450 shops). Óscar Pérez Marcote is director general of the chain. Zara were number 52 on Forbes' world's most valuable brands.
IKEA is the world's largest furniture retailer. Founded by Ingvar Kamprad in Almhult, Sweden in 1943, the company is now headquartered in Lieden, Netherlands. Originally a mail order business, the firm started selling furniture in 1948. Peter Agnefjall is the Chairman and CEO of the self-assembly furniture giant which generates around €28.5 billion (£22.3bn, $35.6bn) per annum. The company employs 139,000 people and Germany, with 44 stores is IKEA's biggest market.
H&M Hennes and Mauritz AB are a Swedish multi-national clothing company headquartered in Stockholm. Producing clothing and accessories H&M are now the biggest retail company in Europe employing 116,000 workers. Founded by Erling Persson in Vasteras, Sweden in 1947, then known as 'Hennes' (which means 'for her') as a women's clothing retailer.
In 1968, Persson acquired men's hunting clothes company Mauritz Widforss which led to H&M trading as a unisex brand. The company generates revenue of around €16 billion (£12bn, $19bn) while the H&M CEO and president is Karl-Johan Persson. On Forbes' world's most valuable brands the company was listed at number 30.
READ MORE: Top 10 Powerful Brands in Europe
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.