Gaining consumer trust and loyalty is the key focus of retail executives, new research from KPMG has reported.

A third of retail executives admitted consumer trust and loyalty would be their top priority over the next two years – ranked above product and pricing (29%) and customer experience (26%).

Of the 526 consumer and retail executives surveyed from around the world, 74% emphasised loyalty and trust as ‘very’ or ‘critically’ important to short-term success.

“In this age of increased disruption and volatility, change comes thick and fast, and executives of consumer and retail businesses are all too aware of the challenges this presents to their growth prospects, if not their survival,” said Liz Claydon, UK head of consumer markets at KPMG.

“You don’t have to look far to find a new entrant who has swooped in and snapped up market share with an innovative approach that better meets the ever-rising expectations and changing needs of today’s customer,” she added. “In the eyes of the customer being loyal to a particular brand is not as important as it once was. This means experience has become the primary differentiator in the battleground for success, and the larger players are having to starting thinking like start-ups.”

Meanwhile, 37% of executives said declining consumer loyalty poses the biggest threat to their brand, while 35% pointed to competition from new entrants, 33% cited eCommerce and 30% were worried about the increasing expectation for immediate services.

Claydon concluded: “For established players, paying close attention to consumer trends and launching innovative products is of course one important step towards growth. However, it is often the speed and agility with which they meet ever-changing consumer demands that is perhaps the defining factor. This is where new entrants typically have the upper hand. Significant growth will not come from reacting to a market, it will come from leading it.”

But Adrian Clamp, UK head of customer advisory at KPMG, warned that the trust customers place in a brand can be undermined in a world of cyber threats and data breaches.

“Too often in the past, company executives wrongly believed that customer loyalty could be improved with the launch of a new product or loyalty points scheme... Our survey tells us that executives recognise the uncomfortable fact that customers have more power than ever and while it is important to improve customer experience, customers will take their business elsewhere if their bond of trust is broken.”