Amazon Tops Walmart in Ranking of Most Valuable Brands

Strong Omnichannel Play Sets Retail Brands Apart From Peers

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Among the biggest stories in this year's BrandZ ranking of the world's top 100 valuable brands is the rise of the apparel and retail categories, which posted approximately 20% brand value growth over last year.

One highlight from this year's retail story includes Amazon's gain over Walmart. Amazon, with a brand value of $45.7 billion, saw its value grow by 34%, while Walmart grew by 5% to $36.2 billion. Amazon's operational swiftness accounts for a good part of its financial success, namely, the retailer's ability to quickly adapt to market and pricing fluctuations and normalize goods to real market value. Additionally, Amazon has been making the move to in-store selling, with a push in the UK and US to sell merchandise within highly trafficked convenience stores.

Walmart's second place performance comes on the heels of a slowdown in the Chinese market, a major area of focus for Walmart. Despite this, the retailer is poised to gain in brand value over the next few years. With the major advantage over Amazon of owning its brick and mortar stores, the retailer is making great strides in becoming an in-store, online and mobile heavyweight. Perhaps the greatest indication of its auspicious future: a new i-Phone scan and checkout system available at more than 200 locations in the US. This is just one step toward meeting the customer through various mediums and making the shopping experience more interactive.

But the battle between Amazon and Walmart isn't actually about online versus in-store -- it's about being omnichannel -- accessible at every touchpoint, competing within all realms of the consumer's daily routine. As marketers and advertisers have known for decades, the more a consumer interacts with the brand, the greater the bond is.

This is particularly important for today's apparel brands. For example, a consumer who shops BrandZ's top apparel brand Zara in-store and online and on their mobile device is the brand's most valuable customer, and in most cases, spends more share of wallet at Zara alone. To Zara's advantage, third ranked H&M cannot fully play this omnichannel game, as their website currently lacks the function to complete a purchase online. This, in part, may explain why Zara grew by 60% in brand value since last year, while H&M decreased by 6%.

This omnichannel phenomenon is not exclusive to retail. In fact, reaching the customer at every opportunity is a tactic well-known by this year's top growth category (according to brand value) -- beer. Global beer brands like Bud Light and Budweiser are pros at constantly meeting their consumers at their most relevant touchpoints. From movie product placement, sports sponsorships, television ad campaigns, print and more -- the beer industry is the best when it comes to multi-platform advertising and communications. Budweiser, for example, is one of this year's biggest winners, with a 28% increase in brand value since last year, advancing the brand 14 spots.

So, how can brands access the potential of this omnichannel power? The answer is not to generate as much branded material across every possible platform. This, in fact, leads to overexposure and a decrease in brand value. It is, instead, creating one consistent brand identity across platforms, whereby each interaction enhances the next. That is, shopping at Gucci online enhances the in-store experience, and browsing eBay deals on mobile enables a better experience online. Branding is more complicated than ever, and the discipline to adhere to one voice across varied mediums will be one of the greatest challenges for advertisers of the omnichannel era.


Pierre Dupreelle is senior VP at Millward Brown Optimor, where he leads key global strategy assignments. His experience spans various sectors, including CPG, luxury and sports and entertainment.

Kimberly August is a consultant at Millward Brown Optimor. She graduated from Harvard University.