COVID-19 is transforming consumer behavior in ways that are distorting the grocery supply chain and shoppers’ in-store and online buying experience, including their engagement with brands. Hardly a week goes by without stories of empty grocery store shelves, plundered by desperate shoppers stocking up on cleaning and sanitation supplies and disposable paper goods. It seems to be a pattern – this week it’s toilet paper, last week it was flour or yeast; eggs are in limited supply and now we face a potential meat shortage. In this chaotic environment, how can brands maintain customer loyalty when their shopping experience is so uniquely disrupted?
Of course, this is also an opportunity for challenger brands to beef up marketing to gain share of mind among shoppers thwarted from buying their traditional favorites. Marketers seeking to win must shift the consumer focus from simply the benefits of buying their products, to reminding them why they should love and trust the brand. This can be accomplished, in part through a renewed focus on value, ease of access, and generosity.
Below are three ways brands can stand out and maintain and build customer loyalty during this period:
1. Remain Brand True. According to CampaignLive.com, in times of stress, consumers pay very close attention to the way that brands conduct themselves – not just in messaging tone, but in their actions and how their values are revealed. Consumers are more likely to stick with brands they perceive to be operating authentically and which demonstrate measurable, meaningful actions that are aligned with their values.
For example, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has demonstrated reliable brand value during this crisis by emphasizing their position as a source of information and support for their customers. They maintain a COVID-19-specific FAQ page on their website that details information about where to buy their products and the actions they are taking to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. Additionally, their Better Your Bake site offers a wealth of free tips for people working from home seeking to embrace baking as a means of lowering stress, while simultaneously improving their kitchen skills and techniques.
2. Give a Little. A recent study from Mintel shows that consumers are meticulously scrutinizing their spending as the recession deepens. They are less likely to pay high prices for premium products and are even re-evaluating items they had once considered necessities. During this period, discounts, free trials, and even free products can help cash-strapped consumers pivot to new brands that demonstrate empathy for the plight of struggling shoppers.
In April, fitness company Peloton enrolled its largest class ever with more than 23,000 people streaming from home; its stock soared 16% above where it stood on January 1. The company was quick to react to the COVID-19 shutdown of traditional health clubs by extending its free trial period to 90 days from its typical 30 days, offering consumers a deal on stay fit at home without breaking the bank.
3. Show Thanks. While consumers are focused on brands that live their values every day during this pandemic, they also show a preference for companies that support those in need. A recent article from Taste of Home showed that a whopping 81% of consumers are looking for substantive action on behalf of brands to help the healthcare community specifically. Support for medical workers, essential workers, and communities most impacted are ways brands can demonstrate they care.
Recognizing the tremendous strain on healthcare workers during this pandemic, Dr. Scholl’s found a meaningful and impactful way to help. As of the first week of April, the foot care and shoe company had donated over $1.3 million worth of products to healthcare workers on the front lines.
Interested in following these ways to engage brand loyalists, but need some direction? We would be happy to offer some guidance and answer questions. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us start a conversation.