Pandemic alters customer priorities for brand loyalty

Study finds new patterns in online shopping and considerations made when buying.

A cat sitting next to a parcel at a front door.

Almost 90% of consumers who tried new products durung the COVID pandemic have revealed they intend to purchase them again in the future.

This is according to the ‘Behaviour that Sticks’ report by Bazaarvoice, a provider of user-generated content and product reviews.

The survey, conducted through Savanta, asked 8,062 consumers from the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany and Australia about their buying habits in July 2020. 

The survey found key considerations for brands to take in maintaining customer loyalty. It also revealed other shopping patterns that have been affected by the pandemic.

Suzin Wold, SVP marketing at Bazaarvoice, said: “Amazon has been one of the big winners of the last few months, but the opportunity for other brands to win loyalty from new customers as people’s habits change is huge.”

More people trying new brands

Over the course of lockdown, nearly 40% of people globally tried new brands. 88% of these consumers said that they will continue to buy from these new brands in the future. Surprisingly, 44% of Brits reported switching to a new product only because their preferred one was unavailable.

In the UK, a generational gap was found in those who ventured into new shopping territories. Almost two-thirds of Gen Z shoppers tried new brands or products. In contrast, only 25% of over 65s shopped outside of their comfort zones.

Of course, not all those who tried new brands wish to continue with it. Those who chose to remain loyal to their old, preferred brands said that prices (18%) and sustainability (15%) turned them away from new brands or products.

What is driving brand loyalty?

Overall, price remains one of the most important considerations consumers make when choosing a product or service. In fact, 31% of UK shoppers said it will be the most influential factor in their buying decisions in the next three months. Alongside price, availability of products online was important to almost one-fourth of shoppers.

With online shopping, consumers consider clear descriptions of product function and design to be crucial. 34% of Gen Z and millennial shoppers connected with brand apps, using chatbots to connect with sales associates for product details prior to purchasing.

Wold added: “As consumers return in-store, the use of technology to connect online and offline and provide shoppers with product information before they visit will be important. An omni-channel approach not only enables a stronger connection with consumers but also creates a seamless experience.”

Increase in subscriptions

One finding from the survey saw an increase in subscriptions to various services. One in five UK consumers turned to a subscription service during lockdown. Those who did so were asked whether they would continue with these services. A vast 80% majority said they would continue with their subscriptions post-lockdown. Amongst reasons why consumers wished to remain loyal to their subscriptions included confidence in the quality of the product (52%), ease of shopping experience (45%), and reliable and/or regular deliveries (32%). 15% of 18-34s also appreciate the availability of reviews and ratings in online shopping.

Wold commented: “The success of subscription services reflects the rapid digital evolution we have experienced this year. Younger consumers are some of the most powerful influencers and their use of social [media] plays a large part in enabling customers to share experiences that credit these brands. In addition, their reliance on ratings and reviews content only highlights the enormous opportunity brands have to use the voice of the customer to create more meaningful shopper experiences, which ultimately results in more sales and customer loyalty.”

A shift away from in-store shopping

When asked about their future shopping habits, the survey found online shopping to be the more preferred option. Four in five UK consumers said that they were likely to purchase something online before the end of October. Just under three-fourths said that they were comfortable online shopping. Conversely, two-thirds said that they were likely to shop in-store in the same time period. However, only 41% of respondents saying they felt comfortable doing so.

A reason for this is cleanliness. Over half of consumers said they are wary of in-store shopping if they don’t trust the retailer’s cleanliness. In fact, 39% stated that they considered transparency of safety and hygiene practices to be of critical importance.

The big picture

The report shows that price, sustainability, and availability of ratings and reviews lead to brand loyalty. Having the option to shop both online and in-person is also a plus in the eyes of the customers. This is especially true since fewer people are comfortable shopping in-store versus online. Reliable and detailed product descriptions are necessary for customers so that they can have a complete picture of what they are buying as they do not have access to the physical product.

Wold said: “Retailers and brands must stay in tune with consumers’ priorities over the coming months and ensure they provide store and product information that instills confidence in shoppers.”

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