Amazon Shoppers Not Swayed by Workplace Horror Stories

YouGov BrandIndex Data Show Shoppers Still Plan to Buy From the E-Tailer

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An Amazon distribution center in the U.S.
An Amazon distribution center in the U.S. Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Consumers are well aware of the negative chatter surrounding Amazon's high-stakes workplace culture, but they still plan to shop there.

Amazon's brand perception plummeted 60% this week, after a New York Times expose spotlighted a troubling workplace environment, according to YouGov BrandIndex, which tracks the "buzz" consumers are hearing about brands. In this instance, the research firm asked shoppers: "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?"

As of Monday, Aug. 24, Amazon's "Buzz" score dropped to 23 out of 100, its lowest score since last October when a book about the company called "The Everything Store" was released. The last time it fell below that score was in July 2013 when it announced it was cutting back on free delivery.

However, the bad press didn't rock the way shoppers planned to buy, according to the survey. Seventy percent of consumers surveyed said they would consider shopping at Amazon next time they wanted to make a purchase from a retail store, down from 72% before the story was broke.

"So far consumers are not fazed all that much," said Ted Marzilli, CEO of YouGov BrandIndex, adding that there could be a greater impact down the line. "The longer that a negative story has legs and is out in the media, the bigger toll it can take," he said, citing the Target data breach last year, which earned press attention for more than a month and ultimately impacted sales.

The New York Times piece about Amazon, however, has lost steam since its Aug. 15 release.

"This story will probably run its course and the perception, which is the buzz, will rebound relatively quickly within 30 days," said Mr. Marzilli. That could change if new developments surface that cast Amazon in a negative light, he cautioned.

In both 2014 and 2013, Amazon was the best perceived brand out of 1,500 consumer brands tested by YouGov BrandIndex, which also gives it an edge.

"Brands that are rated that highly, typically consumers will forgive them for… occasional missteps," said Mr. Marzilli.

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