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Brand Loyalty in Times of Crisis

What does brand loyalty look like today, and how can organizations adapt to maintain consumer trust during the pandemic?

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REPORTBrand Loyalty in Times of Crisis

Building a base of customers that buy your product, trust your business, advocate for your company, and come back for more is the goal most businesses shoot for.

But, like all good things in life, brand loyalty can be hard to win. Everyone is fighting for a long-term connection with their consumers, and it’s never going to be an easy battle. This will be especially true in 2020, a year defined by uncertainty.

Now that Covid-19 has activated crisis modes, how are brand-customer relationships being impacted? How can consumer trust be won back? And what can you, as a business, do to keep your hard-won audience?

In this report, we’ll explore:

  • What the loyalty landscape looks like right now
  • Consumer trust in the shadow of the pandemic
  • How brands can strengthen brand loyalty in the current climate

We’ll finish with a plan of action that’ll help your brand stay on top.

The brand loyalty landscape

Using Brandwatch Qriously, we recently surveyed 6,917 people across France, Spain, Germany, the US, the UK, Australia, and Singapore via their mobile devices.

Two key findings from that survey’s responses paint a scary picture for established brands.

Firstly, of consumers who have been buying alternatives to their favorite brands during the pandemic (either because they can’t afford them or because they haven’t been available to find them) 18% say they will be making a long term switch.

Secondly, 36% of consumers think the items they buy being branded is less important now than it was before the pandemic.

These are pretty big danger signs. A strong customer base pre-pandemic will not necessarily translate to one once the outbreak is contained.

Consumer trust in the shadow of the pandemic

You can’t have loyalty without trust, and there are plenty of reasons for consumers to be wary right now.

Concerns around supply chains, safety of key workers, sanitization protocol in stores, and delivery issues are just a few of the reasons that trust in brands is lacking.

In another recent Qriously survey of 7,573 adults from Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the USA, we found that, once lockdown measures are lifted:

  • 14% of respondents said they would not feel safe at all returning to shops/stores
  • Only 20% said they would feel very safe

It’s a polarizing picture, and one that bricks and mortar stores are going to have to address to get their in-person customers back.

And there will be some customers who simply don’t want to come back in person.

Looking at results from the first survey we referenced, we were able to see how customers who’ve recently tried out online shopping feel about continuing to shop that way.

  • More than 20% of our respondents said they’ve bought clothes, groceries, or toiletries and beauty products online when they normally wouldn’t have got them that way
  • Over 50% of those new online consumers across all categories said they would continue to buy things online now that they’ve had the experience

The real winner in all of this is online clothing retailers. 73% of new online shoppers say they’ll continue to make online purchases post-outbreak. Brands that give consumers a good online experience now could see them returning again and again through the web, even after stores reopen.

You can read more about this data in our recent report:

Rebuilding and protecting brand trust

Brand loyalty connotes consistency – it means companies can rely on custom. But consumer behavior is changing rapidly, both in terms of the importance they place on branded products and how they perceive safety. This isn’t the fault of brands, but it is the responsibility of brands to react fast to these changes. In fact, without doing so, their long term survival could be in jeopardy.

The question is: How can brands rebuild trust with consumers for a problem they didn’t create, but must now manage?

It can be broken down into more manageable starter questions. For retailers:

  • What are the trust issues surrounding retail and Covid-19?
  • Which retail brands seem to be striking the right tone? And why?
  • What are customers saying about our current solutions?
  • What old solutions are no longer effective due to increased restrictions?

The answers to these questions will be different for every brand, but answering them with consumer research will light up a clear path for the most appropriate strategy. Tactically, this might look like a revised set of sanitization rules, or creating a plan for giving back to communities – whatever the direction, trust your consumers’ voices.

Plan of action

With all this mind, it’s time to talk about action. What should you be doing now to ensure brand loyalty is where it needs to be further down the line?

Broadly speaking, there are three key steps.

We’re all sick of hearing phrases like “an unprecedented time” or “the new normal”. But here’s the thing – they’re both true.

We’re all learning how to market during a pandemic, and the ‘right’ path to winning and keeping customers is going to keep on evolving. Allow the voices of consumers to guide your way.


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