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March 12, 2021

Retail case study: What Nike and Hobby Lobby are doing right, and what Ace Hardware and Williams-Sonoma must learn about satisfying customers

David Vanamburg

The latest wave of customer dissatisfaction has crashed into the Retail sector – and most retailers were unable to get out of the way.

According to our latest Retail and Consumer Shipping Report, customer satisfaction backslides 2.3% to an ACSI score of 75.5 (out of 100) – the sector’s lowest mark since 2015. None of the six retail industries improve, and 86% of the retailers we measure experience worse satisfaction year over year.

But it isn’t all bad news.

This year, we measured 14 new specialty retail stores, and two of them – Nike and Hobby Lobby – debuted among the sector’s top overall performers with scores of 80. Others, like Ace Hardware (74) and Williams-Sonoma (73), not so much.

How did they succeed while other specialty retail newcomers struggled? To answer that, let’s take a closer look at what Nike and Hobby Lobby did right and where Ace Hardware and Williams Sonoma missed the mark.

Nike keeps it ‘clean’ 

At a time when social distancing is paramount, customers are paying close attention to areas like store cleanliness and layout. And they feel Nike shines.

But it doesn’t stop there. Nike also impresses with its store speed, staff courtesy, and mobile app.

Hobby Lobby is winning customers over with ‘sales’

Like Nike, customers appreciate the cleanliness and layout of Hobby Lobby. But where the arts and crafts store really distinguishes itself is through discounts.

The least satisfying facet of the specialty retail shopping experience is the frequency of sales and promotions, with an ACSI score of 73. Hobby Lobby, however, has no such trouble. In fact, it’s thriving.

Ace isn’t the place for satisfaction

Ace Hardware doesn’t have the lowest score in the industry, but according to customers, it’s close.

The hardware retailer struggles across most of the customer experience. Per ACSI data, it could stand to improve in everything from store cleanliness and layout, to merchandise variety, to mobile app performance.

Williams-Sonoma has work to do

In its debut appearance, Williams-Sonoma outperformed just one specialty retailer – last place GameStop, which fell 4% to a score of 72.

According to the data, customers feel that price is a major concern for the company. But the dissatisfaction doesn’t stop there.

Customers feel store locations are inconvenient, store hours could be better, and staff could be more courteous.

Will Retail rebound in 2021?

2020 was a tough year for the Retail sector, but many are hopeful that things will rebound in 2021.

Newcomers like Ace Hardware and Williams-Sonoma have a long road ahead of them to get in the good graces of their customers. However, it’s not impossible. If anything, observing companies like Nike and Hobby Lobby that debut near the top of the specialty retail industry should provide a useful blueprint to follow.

Of course, we should also point out that Hobby Lobby recently got rid of its 40% off coupon, which could affect its scores moving forward. But if you’re in the same boat as Ace Hardware and Williams-Sonoma, you have several changes you can make to improve customer satisfaction.

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