The US Customer Experience Index 2021 results are in, and retailers had a good showing. Overall, retailers as a group saw no significant change in their industry Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) average (74.1 out of 100). That said, four of the top 11 brands on the full index this year are retailers — more than any other single surveyed industry. Honors went to (number one overall, no less!), Etsy (number three overall), Trader Joe’s (number four overall), and Costco (number 11 overall). If we look only at the 39 retail brands in the study, next on that list are HEB, Publix, and Wegman’s.

No, you’re not imagining it: The common thread among these top retail performers is those things we needed most during the pandemic. Pets (and their supplies), groceries, masks, and home goods defined a lot of life in lockdown, and US consumers felt that these retail brands stood by them during a difficult year. Let’s have a look at some of what these brands did to deliver CX quality via effectiveness, ease, and emotion:

  • in 2020 stepped up to surging pet adoption and caretaking by (often newly) homebound US consumers. customers grew 42.7% year over year. As “pet parents,” fully 28% of customers are “devotees” — that is, those customers are willing to forgive these brands’ mistakes, pay a premium for the brands’ products, keep their business with the brands, and spend more over time. To meet this growth, the company invested in automation and fulfillment capabilities, introduced services such as “Connect With a Vet” telehealth and compounded pet meds, launched online gift cards, and transitioned customer support teams to work from home to continue providing service.
  • Etsy is a perennial consumer favorite. Twenty percent of its customers in 2021 are devotees — slightly lower than the retail industry average (23%). However, its investments for better customer and seller experiences paid off. Capitalizing on its unique merchandise assortment, the company introduced customer experience-enhancing features such as installment payments and search filtering around expected delivery dates. All told, in 2020, consolidated gross merchandise sales were up 106% year over year — including over $740 million in face masks alone.
  • Trader Joe’s continues to delight customers with high quality, well-priced private label goods, and ready assistance from cheery Hawaiian shirt-clad “crew members.”
  • Costco members continue to rely on the retailer across categories such as food, housewares, pharmacy, over-the-counter medication, small electronics, and consumer electronics. And in 2020, the company invested in e-commerce and logistics to meet overall growth.

Learn more about the full results of the US Customer Experience Index 2021 for retailers and many other industries in our annual report.