Consumers Now More Loyal to Favorite Brands

Retail experts share their thoughts on keeping customers coming back.

August 18, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Consumers say they’ve have become more loyal to the brands they shop, reports

According to a November survey from Yotpo, an e-commerce marketing platform, a quarter of respondents said they were more brand loyal than in the previous year. The things that help keep them coming back are a brand’s product, price point, customer service and loyalty program.

In recent years, numerous retailers have added new options to their loyalty programs. But when COVID-19 hit the U.S., many consumers strayed from normal shopping patterns and began stockpiling products. Amazon notified customers in March that certain household staples were out of stock as more consumers turned to online shopping. Retailers worked with existing suppliers to keep up with consumer demand, but out-of-stocks drove consumers to seek alternative brands.

A McKinsey report found that the pandemic caused more than 75% of consumers to try new brands, new retailers or new methods of shopping. Product availability was the No. 1 reason consumers sought out new retailers or products in the past couple months, followed by better prices and promotions.

The most frequent purchasing problems experienced, however, weren’t necessarily detrimental to a customers’ loyalty to a retailer, according to a study from the Wharton School’s Baker Retailing Center and WisePlum. “[N]ot all problems are created equal in their impact on customer loyalty. In fact, the top 10 most frequent problems were different from the top most damaging problems,” the report stated.

The study found that the most damaging problems consumers experienced were a difficult returns process and a hard-to-navigate website or app. The most frequent problems centered around the availability of products, along with how retailers and brands responded to those issues to retain customer loyalty. Recently, members of the RetailWire’s BrainTrust panel of retail experts shared these thoughts on consumer loyalty:

Mistakes happen, but they need to be fixed.

According to Neil Saunders, managing director, Global Data Retail, the retail research agency, “Having things go wrong does not destroy loyalty per se. Not addressing, fixing and apologizing for those things is what causes resentment. And mistakes do happen, no matter how good the retailer.”

A frictionless end-to-end experience will create loyalty.

Ken Morris, industry thought leader, said, “Inventory issues have many causes from supply chain interruptions to antiquated legacy systems. Perpetual inventory in real-time has not permeated retail yet. Synchronicity from stores to the web to wholesale is required to compete against Amazon, that is their secret sauce, but technology investments by brick-and-mortar retailers to achieve that end have not been made. Reserving inventory, returns management and frictionless service are the way to win and keep your customers.”

Optimize the basics.

According to Rodger Buyvoets, CEO and founder, Crobox, a data company, “Many issues the research brings up fall outside of a retailer’s scope of control (e.g., product availability). I think retailers have done what they can to meet many of these challenges in a very short time. In the end, the retailers that foster loyalty will be the ones who offer better personalization, transparent communication and a digital experience that goes above and beyond.”

An emotional connection provides reasons to stay loyal.

Shep Hyken, chief amazement officer, Shepard Presentations, a customer service company, said, “The emotional connection that drives not just repeat business, but loyal repeat business, is more important than ever. Customers need convenience in their lives. Friction in the ordering or delivery process will cause a customer to jump to a competitor. Friction with returns will potentially cause a customer to never come back. It's a combination of the retailer having what the customer wants, delivering it with good customer service and creating a convenient experience.”

React swiftly to correct issues that arise.

Kathleen Fischer, director of retail marketing, enVista, a global software and solutions organization, said “Unfortunately, most retailers struggled in recent months as they had to shift to BOPIS or ship from store to meet consumer needs. The key to keeping loyal customers returning is to work to meet and exceed customer expectations, but when things go wrong (as they often do), be quick to react and try to fix the problem.”

Focus on execution of services.

According to Mark Ryski, founder, CEO and author, HeadCount Corporation, a national non-profit, “While the disruption and impact on customer experience would make it seem as though retailers have fallen short, in the current context of a pandemic and despite the challenges, some retailers have most certainly stepped-up—deepening loyalty with existing customers and winning over new customers. Now more than ever retailers need to focus on basic execution—honing BOPIS/curbside services, maintaining inventory and offering practical solutions for returns.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.