Our survey asked respondents to evaluate retailers across several different areas of trustworthiness, ranging from fair pricing to ethical sourcing. When asked about what retailers can do to earn trust in general, fair pricing (58%) and affordable products (49%) dominated, with product quality (30%) coming third. Far less important elements were to do with sourcing and operational strategies (ethics, animal welfare, sustainability) as well as how much retailers were seen to support their local communities.
Our research evaluated all main retailers in the UK across all of these eleven areas of trustworthiness and the most trusted retailer in the UK is Aldi, with Marks & Spencer a very close second. Asda was ranked as third, and while we saw different rank order for many of the statements, the three overall winners were all in the top-3 for Fair Pricing, the most important factor for trust. The least trusted retailers were Tesco, Sainsburys and rather surprisingly Lidl, given the overall importance of price and value as components of overall trust. It must be said that scores were fairly similar at this total level, with the score difference between top and bottom retailers typically in the low single digits considering the sum of Somewhat and Completely Agree responses. Significantly more variation was seen at the level of specific demographic groups, reflecting some of the Shopper profiles of these retailers.
But what explains the strong differentiation in strategy among the top two ranked retailers – Marks & Spencer and Aldi?
Marks & Spencer has traditionally positioned itself as a provider of high-quality goods, often sourcing products with an emphasis on sustainability and ethical practices. Their communication has continued to reinforce taste and quality even during the recent cost of living crisis. This commitment to quality has engendered trust among consumers who associate the brand with reliability.
M&S performed less well with the following statements:
I feel ‘retailer’ supports its local communities
I feel ‘retailer’ prioritises customers over shareholders
I feel ‘retailer’ has a wide range of affordable products
Aldi, while maintaining a reputation for value, has also invested in domestic sourcing and sustainable practices, contributing to a positive perception among consumers and uniquely mixing high quality with affordable pricing. Perhaps in contrast to other discounters Aldi has succeeded in gaining popularity and trust for its focus on affordability without compromising on quality. While Aldi was consistently among the top-3 best performing retailers for most statements, the one area where it performed considerably worse in ranking was in its efforts around sustainability, an area where M&S was ranked first!
Ultimately, trust is a nuanced and multifaceted aspect of the consumer-brand relationship, influenced by various factors. As consumers continue to prioritize trust in their purchasing decisions, both Marks & Spencer and Aldi stand as examples of how different strategies can build and maintain trust in the competitive retail landscape.
Supermarkets that understand the importance of trust and adapt to the changing expectations of consumers will not only survive but thrive. By continuing to prioritise price transparency, sustainability, and customer-centric experiences, UK supermarkets can create enduring relationships with shoppers, earning their trust as reliable, responsible, and forward-thinking retailers. In doing so, they secure their position as integral pillars of the UK retail industry.
For more information and results of our survey, download the PDF with the link at the top of the page.