Walmart, Home Depot, T.J. Maxx Among Most Trusted Brands in Retail

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
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Target ranked No. 1 in the discount retailer category on Brand Keys’ “2019 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index."

The “2019 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI)” finds that shoppers are loyal to Target, Walmart, Home Depot and T.J. Maxx, among others, when it comes to retail.

For Brand Keys’ 2019 CLEI survey, 51,673 consumers, 16 to 65 years of age from the nine US Census Regions were polled. The company’s research also finds that consumer expectations increase annually on average 25%.

“Trust has become the connective tissue between brands and loyalty,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys. “Expectations for trust are up across all product/service categories and brands an average of 250+% year over year. Meanwhile, customer concerns regarding privacy, security, and brand transparency have reached a tipping point.”

“Marketers relying on a definition of ‘loyalty’ and ‘engagement’ as something they’ll recognize when it impacts their brands will be disappointed,” he continued. “Brand awareness is not loyalty; satisfaction is not loyalty; entertainment is not loyalty.”

In the 2019 CLEI, the No. 1 brands customers rated highly at creating emotional engagement and loyalty in the retail categories are:

Brand Keys' Methodology

Brand Keys uses an independently-validated research methodology that fuses emotional and rational aspects of the categories, identifies four path-to-purchase behavioral drivers for the category-specific Ideal, and identifies the values that form the components of each driver, along with their percent-contribution to engagement, loyalty, and profitability. 

Consumers self-selected categories in which they are consumers and brands for which they are customers. Forty-five percent of consumers that par-took in the survey were interviewed by phone, forty-five (45%) percent via face-to-face interviews (to include cell phone-only households), and 10% were interviewed online.Brand Keys’ research technique, a combination of psychological inquiry and statistical analyses, has a test/re-test reliability of 0.93, and produces results generalizable at the 95% confidence level.



  • Zara (apparel)
  • T.J. Maxx (department store)
  • Target (discount)
  • The Home Depot (home improvement)
  • Dick’s (sporting goods)
  • Amazon (online retailer)

In addition, Nike for athletic footwear, Whole Foods Market for natural foods stores and Dunkin’ Donuts for out-of-home coffee, all came in No. 1 in their categories.

“Today, loyalty is a fusion of emotional engagement, trust, and an ability for a brand to engage; to meet or exceed expectations consumers hold for their Ideal product or service. The brands on top of this year’s category lists know that,” said Passikoff. “More importantly they know how.”

For example, TJ Maxx’s treasure hunt experience delights shoppers. In its second quarter 2019, its comp sales increased 6%, thanks to increases in customer traffic. A major driver of the increase in traffic and revenue was the brand’s focus on growing its millennial shopper base, which now makes up a large portion of the brand’s most loyal consumers. 

Walmart, which ranked No. 2 in two categories, has been racing to add cutting-edge solutions to please its customers. Last year it rolled out a new website and since then it has been testing everything from last-mile delivery pilots to AI-powered cleaning robots that allow associates to focus on customer service instead of mundane tasks.

Target is in the midst of a massive store remodel that will see 1,000 of its stores redesigned and updated by 2020. No two stores will be exactly alike, as Target is redesigning the tech-filled facilities to meet the wants and needs of local consumers.

The Home Depot’s merchandising execution team (MET) is leveraging advanced analytics and proprietary technology to drive productivity and efficiency in stores and has reduced the number of out of stocks per store by 24% in its top selling SKUs through “tiered replenishment strategies.” The retailer’s ongoing work to drive an interconnected shopping experience helped it see a 5.1% sales spike for the third quarter of fiscal 2018 compared to Q3 2017. 

"Brands looking for guaranteed profits, can’t do better than loyal customers,” noted Passikoff.

The following are the top brands customers rated highly at creating emotional engagement and loyalty in the Retail categories:

    Discount Retail

    1. Target

    2. Walmart

    3. Dollar General

    4. Dollar Tree

    5. Kmart

    Department Stores

    1. T.J. Maxx

    2. Marshalls

    3. Nordstrom

    4. Dillard’s

    5. Macy’s

    6. Kohl’s

    7. JCPenney

    8. Sears

    Sporting Goods

    1. Dick’s

    2. REI

    3. Big 5

    4. Bass Pro Shops

    5. Cabels’s

    6. Modell’s


    1. Zara

    2. Old Navy

    3. Anthropologie

    4. Forever 21

    5. Levi Strauss

    Home Improvement

    1. Home Depot

    2. True Value

    3. Lowe’s

    4. Ace

    Online Retail

    1. Amazon

    2. Walmart

    3. Best Buy

    4. Apple

    5. Ebay

    6. Target

    7. Macy’s