July 30, 2020

by Ansie Lombaard - Senior Global Innovation Director / Kantar

Can we leverage people’s stories, using advances in artificial intelligence, to understand how one brand leveraged trust as a way of prioritizing people over perfection? Yes, we can.

El Corte Inglés is Spain’s second largest e-retailer and historically an iconic department store.  The latest 2020 BrandZ Global Top 100 shows the impressive growth of this retailer between 2019 and 2020 in its ability to generate demand, Brand Power.  This amidst a pandemic, and in the face of very strong competition from the global goliath, Amazon.

What do we know about what it took for El Corte Inglés to win?

Is it about matching Amazon’s reputation for slick distribution and delivery?  Is it about delivering perfectly every time? Or is it perhaps something more human that matters even more when people are faced with extraordinary uncertainty and turmoil?

To find out more, we turned to the combination of exploratory conversation and artificial intelligence, Conversational AI.  Through such intelligent, adaptive conversations on familiar messenger platforms, we were able to better understand the needs, perceptions and expectations of almost 400 shoppers in Spain.

Looking across the stories people shared with us in this way, we found that trust emerged as a prominent theme.  Trust represents a way to connect with people beyond purely functional benefits; to be relevant to them in a way that matters to them now.

More specifically, the stories people shared with our bot helped us to untangle how El Corte Inglés activated trust in a very nuanced way, which reveals a deep understanding of the reassuring role a brand can play in challenging times.

  •     Trust is about consistent quality. “They are safe purchases with respect to their quality… it is important to me, because I save myself a lot of trouble when it comes to not having to make changes because the items always meet my expectations.”  In minimizing the risk of making the wrong decision, El Corte Inglés offer a sense of safety to its consumers when they needed it most.
  •     Trust is about dependable service. “The confidence that El Corte Inglés gives me is everything, it always solves the problems that may arise.” This is not about perfection. While hassle-free returns are important, sometimes things do go wrong. El Corte Inglés understood how important it is to act swiftly and and with kindness when that happens.
  •     Trust is about value for money. “El Corte Inglés offers me quality at a good price, I can also pay in interest-free instalments on many products now.”  In times of economic distress, people may be more price sensitive. Still, they want to know their money is well spent.

In this way, El Corte Inglés demonstrated how a brand can play a powerful role in addressing a deeper layer of human need – one of reassurance, certainty and safety in a time of anxious upheaval.  The opportunity to sustain such well-earned trust sets it up for strong future growth.

This case demonstrates the power of prioritizing people over perfection.  A humane response, steeped in a deep understand of people’s needs and expectations, holds the power to differentiate a brand. Now is not the time for brands to rely on conventional wisdom. Instead, deeply nuanced insight into people is now more important than ever before – the kind of insight we can access through Conversational AI.


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