The pandemic has affected every aspect of business—including consumer loyalty. In fact, according to a recent McKinsey report on consumer sentiment, 75% of consumers in the U.S. have changed their shopping behavior—including product brands, retailers and methods of shopping. And more than 60% stated they will continue to engage in these new behaviors post-pandemic. So what was it about the pandemic that fueled this fundamental shift? Let’s take a look at the four key factors.
A higher demand for “essential” products, worker shortages, travel restrictions and just plain old manufacturing plant closures put a strain on entire supply chain processes for every industry across the board. Look at toilet paper, for instance. Consumers who may have been “squeezing the Charmin” for decades were forced to become a little less picky, shifting their behavior—and their loyalty—in the face of supply-chain disruptions.
With many businesses put on pause, reductions in hours and losses in revenue, much of the population was forced to tighten their belts. Consumers looking to pay less and hold onto more of their money in the face of uncertainty, turned to store brands. It turns out, often times these generic brands were the only ones available. This consumer change born out of necessity actually opened many shoppers’ eyes to the quality of some of these no-name brands they could get at much lower prices they would not have purchased previously. This realization no doubt attributes to the nearly two-thirds of consumers who say they’ll continue their new behaviors and brand choices into the future.
With many grocery and retail stores limiting the number of shoppers allowed inside their establishments at one time, and people just not wanting to go out in public, the use of delivery services has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Businesses such as Instacart and Peapod that had typically appealed to more of a niche market suddenly became mainstream. In addition to delivery services, businesses that offer one-stop-shopping have enjoyed greater success as consumers are looking to find what they need with the least amount of effort or travel (whether that’s digital or physical). Adding to the success for these businesses, customers who found items they needed have stockpiled a bit more than they normally would have. This all confirms that companies that have focused on making the consumer experience more convenient have actually seen an increase in customer loyalty, while those who haven’t have fallen by the wayside.
For consumers, their own health and that of their families has been more top-of-mind than ever. Businesses and brands that have shown they understand their concerns and are doing everything they can to protect the health and safety of their employees and customers, have continued to win their hearts. Whether offering in-store, online or in-home delivery of goods or services, having clear COVID guidelines and following them is crucial.
The Bottom Line
Many business processes and policies were developed with a business as usual (BAU) mentality. As we all know by now, the pandemic has been anything but usual—especially for businesses. And while vaccines are being more widely distributed and restrictions easing, now is not the time to completely take your foot off the pedal. So how do you maintain and regain customer loyalty? Take a good hard look at the way you do business, adding new services that touch on convenience, value, safety and making products and services available to existing customers, previous customers and new prospects.