In an era when there is endless debate over whether brand loyalty is dead or still kicking, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that shoppers have at least been maintaining their shopping habits that they fell into during the crisis, even after stores reopened.
As many as 69 percent of U.S. consumers said they intend to continue shopping with and supporting retailers that they relied on during the pandemic, according to recent data from payments platform Adyen. And a recent Narvar study reiterates this finding, stating that an even higher percentage (87 percent) of American consumers expect to continue shopping at the new retailers they began patronizing during quarantine and store shutdowns.
Local matters to shoppers—63 percent said they expect to shop more with retailers located nearby because they want to help keep them in business, Adyen found.
Part of modern loyalty is developing a brand that cares about the world and strives to be socially conscious—51 percent of shoppers intend to go out of their way to shop with responsible businesses that demonstrated a social conscience and engaged with charitable initiatives during the pandemic.
And nearly half of consumers are trying to keep legacy retailers alive as well—47 percent said they expect to shop with important heritage or traditional brands that they want to see survive.
The Narvar study put its own spin on the loyalty discussion by identifying what it brands “loyalty shock.” More than half (56 percent) of consumers tried a new retailer during the pandemic. A large number did it out of sheer necessity due to supply chain disruptions and an inability to get timely delivery from their regular merchant but many cited more emotional reasons including supporting local business or beloved direct-to-consumer brands, the report said.
The brands that have benefitted from an influx of new consumers have the opportunity to retain them by offering predictability and convenience. For example, 41 percent of consumers say faster shipping will keep them shopping with a retailer, while 33 percent are seeking better product selection.
And while 32 percent would like more convenient options for delivery, pickup, and returns, 26 percent would prefer better communications regarding orders and returns. Shoppers who rated their last return as “very easy” didn’t have to check on their return and refund: 43 percent were informed when their refund was processed, and 32 percent received status updates during the return journey.
Narvar also highlighted that 76 percent of those who gave a high rating to their returns experience with a new retailer said they would shop with them again based on that experience.
Additionally, the Adyen survey revealed that 58 percent of shoppers are excited to shop in store, yet the convenience offered by digital experiences will stick in their minds, especially among digital natives. Fifty-seven percent said retailers used technology well to make their products available during the pandemic, underscoring how merchants quickly adapted to the pandemic during store shutdowns.
“The businesses that have risen to the top and will make it through the other side during these challenging times all have something in common—they are trailblazers in enabling technology that gives consumers the convenience and access that social distance orders took from them. Based on our survey, there’s no going back now—more than four out of ten of consumers say that the convenience of the shopping experience is more important to them than the price of items,” Roelant Prins, chief commercial officer at Adyen, said in a statement.
Predictability is so important for shoppers now that they are willing to pay for guarantees, either on an ad hoc basis or as part of a subscription. Both the Adyen and Narvar reports stress this, with Narvar saying that 31 percent of shoppers would pay up to $5 for same-day or scheduled delivery services, while almost one-quarter (22 percent) are willing to pay the same amount for scheduled pickup of returns from their homes.
And in the Adyen study, 28 percent of shoppers said they are going to use subscription services for products like food and beauty to reduce the amount of times they need to shop. This was higher among men (33 percent) than women (25 percent) and millennials have shown they are much more interested in subscription services (54 percent) than their Gen X (25 percent) and baby boomer (8 percent) counterparts.
“Brand loyalty has been disrupted as consumers experiment with other retailers amid uncertain circumstances,” Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar. “Now is the time for retailers to retain both new and repeat customers by providing a convenient experience that preserves predictability in these unsettled times, especially when it comes to delivery promise and returns.”
Convenience admittedly has its costs, especially for online apparel retailers. The Narvar study indicated that the practice of “bracketing”—buying multiple sizes, colors or styles of items with the intention of returning what doesn’t work—has increased 50 percent since 2017, and the Covid pandemic made it worse as consumers have found their weight fluctuating during quarantine, have fewer physical stores to shop in and are experimenting with new retailers.
Since a portion of shoppers (29 percent) say they only bracket when sizing or other options aren’t clear, the report recommends that retailers provide high-quality product information and sizing advice on the product data page to improve consumer confidence and reduce returns costs.