Consumers hold brands to account over their ethics and actions during the pandemic

  • 58% of UK and Irish consumers say they feel greater loyalty towards online retailers and brands that have helped people during the pandemic
  • 53% favour online retailers and brands that have responded ethically to what’s currently happening in society
  • 59% are encouraged and feel greater loyalty to online retailers and brands that have demonstrated their commitment to the safety of their staff through this crisis

The ethics and actions of brands and retailers during the pandemic have significantly impacted customer loyalty in the UK and Ireland, a new research report by PFS and LiveArea has found.

Titled ‘Brand Loyalty: Engaging the New Conscious Consumer’, the research report discovered 58% of UK and Irish consumers feel greater loyalty towards online retailers and brands that have helped people during the pandemic. This rises to seven in ten (71%) of the silent generation, who arguably have had to rely on online shopping the most.

It pays to do the right thing

An increased reliance on online shopping has had a significant impact on consumer purchasing habits, with more buying options available at the click of a button. As a result, consumers have needed to evaluate what is most important to them when making a purchase and deciding where to shop. In fact, more than half (53%) said they favour online retailers and brands that have responded ethically to what’s happening in society. Meanwhile, 59% of consumers said that they are encouraged and feel greater loyalty to online retailers and brands that have demonstrated their commitment to the safety of their staff through this crisis, showing it pays to do the right thing.

Bad news travels fast

The prevalence of social media to voice opinions, coupled with online ratings for products and purchases, has made the process of complaints and compliments shift from pure word-of-mouth to instant online amplification. When it comes to sharing shopping experiences with others, around half of consumers (49%) share negative online shopping experiences with friends and family. This however rises to 57% of millennials. This increased negative word-of-mouth commentary can be detrimental to brand reputation if the right action is not taken to provide resolutions efficiently and effectively, to appease affected customers.

Sharing experiences – good or bad – is a key element in making or breaking brand loyalty and the actions of brands during the pandemic has certainly been put in the spotlight. Retailers’ responses during the pandemic have a huge impact on whether consumers are likely to recommend that brand to a friend.

The research suggests that this attitude toward personal brand endorsement is even more apparent within the younger generation. 60% of Generation Z and 60% of millennials state that they would recommend a brand to a friend based upon how they responded during the pandemic, compared to 50% overall.

Keeping customers close

The personal touch also still plays a huge role in brand loyalty. Almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers are more likely to purchase items from online retailers and brands that stay in touch and offer frequent order updates, for example. When broken down into the different age groups, it is the older generation who value this type of communication the most. Over two-thirds (69%) of the silent generation agree that they are most loyal to brands who stay in touch and keep them updated on the progress of their orders compared to 56% of Generation Z.

Christophe Pecoraro, Managing Director at PFS Europe, comments: “Consumers want to support brands who can make them feel that they are prioritising social responsibilities through their shopping habits. 59% of shoppers feel greater loyalty to online retailers and brands who demonstrate a commitment to employee safety during COVID-19. Brands should not hesitate to do everything in their power to prioritise the wellbeing of employees.

“64% of consumers are also more likely to purchase items from brands who stay in touch and provide frequent order updates. Ensuring you proactively keep customers informed of order delays or other potential issues, especially during higher volume periods, not only improves your reputation in the eyes of customers, it also helps mitigate excessively high volumes within contact centres.”

Benoit Soucaret, Creative Director, LiveArea EMEA, comments: “Beyond the type of communication itself, it’s how you communicate to your customers that’s important and how you address their demands. You have to rethink the drivers of loyalty and affinity for your brand. That means leading with purpose and building new levels of trust and respect with your customers. Create a meaningful impact on the way your brand operates because brand loyalty requires brands to show they are human to the core.

“When it comes to sharing shopping experiences with others, around half of consumers (49%) share negative online shopping experiences with friends and family. It is therefore increasingly important that brands’ customer service operations are equipped to help combat this negative sharing on social platforms. It’s important to act quickly to appease customer complaints and minimise long-term repercussions to your brand’s image.”

Download the full ‘Brand Loyalty: Engaging the New Conscious Consumer’ report here.

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