Brands’ response to Covid will define business for years

online shoppingFurther evidence has emerged that brands are putting their reputations – and future success – on the line over their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the overwhelming majority (94%) of UK shoppers warning that they will switch from a brand or company if they do not agree with their actions.

The findings are part of a global report, “The Future of Retail: Opportunities for Brands in the New Normal”, conducted by customer engagement platform Braze in partnership with Wakefield Research, designed to evaluate the behaviour, perceptions and feelings of retail shoppers during and post lockdown.

The report highlights a movement of consumerism in which shoppers are purchasing with brands that best align with their values.

In fact, the report also found three-fifths (61%) of UK shoppers – and over four-fifths (86%) of UK Gen Z shoppers specifically – have already walked away from a brand because they have heard or experienced something they did not like.

Of those who dropped a brand, the reasons included: bad or abusive customer service (28%), mistreating employees (27%), how their products are made (21%), and polluting or damaging the environment (20%).

However, despite this focus on brand values, consumers still place quality (91%), price (84%), availability (56%), and familiarity (40%) above values or actions (29%) as their top considerations when purchasing from a certain brand.

Nevertheless, rather than finding comfort in the familiar, many consumers have gone in search of something new during the pandemic. A third (32%) of UK consumers say they have tried a new brand during the pandemic, with millennials experimenting the most (43%). What is more, 97% of shoppers who tried a new brand in lockdown said they intend to purchase again from that brand.

The findings also reveal that UK consumers are still much more cautious about Covid safety than their European neighbours. Findings show nearly four-fifths (78%) of UK shoppers are still not comfortable with shopping in person. In addition, three-fifths (63%) admit it will be up to six months before they will feel comfortable. In comparison to shoppers in France (29%) and Germany (66%), the UK is the least comfortable heading back to the shops.

For Brits, it seems that online shopping really is the future, with a far higher percentage of UK consumers (47%) saying they prefer to shop online as opposed to at a store, as it limits exposure to their health. This figure is much lower in both France (22%) and Germany (27%).

Unsurprisingly, if UK consumers are to shop in-store, a retailers’ safety precautions will heavily sway which brand they decide to visit. Half (50%) of UK consumers say that “in-store safety precautions” is a top reason why they would shop in-person instead of online, in comparison to 38% of consumers in France and 29% of consumers in Germany.

However, despite many Brits saying they feel uneasy about heading back to the high street, only a third (29%) say they will shop online more following lockdown, making it an increasingly fragmented shopper landscape for brands to operate and communicate in.

Braze EMEA general manager James Manderson said: “The pandemic and recent social movements have changed consumer behaviour, making it harder than ever to win customers’ loyalty.

“As we can see from the research, the past five months has driven long-lasting changes to consumer behaviour. Brand loyalty has been disrupted, shoppers are increasingly looking at how brands are responding to the world around them and their expectations are higher than ever.

“With brands and retailers continuing to navigate uncharted waters, it’s essential they prioritise customer engagement. Those that listen to their customers and put personalisation, empathy and convenience at the heart of their customer engagement strategy will emerge as winners.”

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