Consumers today have more information, options, and input in how and where they spend their money than ever before - and retaining their loyalty can prove to be a difficult challenge. Marketers are finding that consumers are growing more promiscuous with their brand choices, and the reasons aren’t limited to just one cause. Consumers are brand switching at higher numbers in order to suit their needs and brands must reevaluate the changing territory of consumer loyalty and how to maintain it, especially in light of current market disruptions. In order to overcome these disruptions and loss of loyalty, brands must be willing to uncover and understand the reasons why consumers have become less loyal.
At the start of the COVID, consumers had to find ways to adjust to the disruptions the pandemic brought to our personal lives and our buying behaviors. Three-quarters of Americans changed their shopping behavior since the start of the pandemic. Of these, around 40 percent say they have switched brands to find products that matched their expectations of favorable value, price, accessibility, and convenience. Brands found themselves in the midst of demand fluctuations which prompted unprecedented, fast-changing consumer habits and spikes in sales on the one hand, and market disruptions and changes in brand loyalty on the other. Consumers were looking for new ways to satisfy their expectations during uncertain times and brands had to quickly pivot to adapt to those disruptions. As a result, we began to see an increase in eCommerce and online shopping. Providing consumers with a way to shop without the health risks allowed brands to continue to cater to their consumers’ needs while also retaining their loyalty by providing more accessibility and convenience.
Today, consumers continue to show an overwhelming preference for product availability rather than brand loyalty. It is no secret that supply chain issues affect brand loyalty and with recent market disruptions, we have seen product availability take the lead as one of the biggest sale drivers in how consumers decide to make a purchase with one company versus another. Additionally, consumers are relying on factors that make shopping more convenient, and brand switching is more likely if an inconvenience occurs for the consumer, requiring them to modify their shopping habits. A study reported that while 13 percent of respondents who faced out-of-stock products say they waited for an item to come back in stock, about 70 percent switched retailers or brands. To combat this, brands should be prepared to be transparent with their customers and make any changes necessary to their infrastructure to improve consistent product availability, proper merchandising, and new product development strategies that fulfill the needs of their target markets.
While supply chain issues may not slow down anytime soon, brands can improve consumer loyalty and capitalize on these disruptions through the means of customer experience and having a good understanding of customer needs. Customers have expectations of product value, accessibility, and convenience, and the pandemic has forced brands, with the help of customers, to reshape those expectations. While the trends are clearly pushing in new directions, there is no conclusive way to know what is next for the customer experience. However, it is a certainty that brands will be required to remain agile, provide value, and stay up to date on the needs of customers to ensure they can maintain customer loyalty.