Brand Loyalty and Businesses Today: Creating Value, Community, and Trust

Published May 13, 2021

Janice Caston, SVP, Global Marketing

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Moving a brand forward today looks significantly different than it did a little more than a year ago. A tumultuous 2020 brought with it marketplace disruption and ongoing shifts in consumer expectations.

It’s on brands to keep up — but what does that even mean, and how is it done? Our in-house experts teamed up with the research and strategy consultants at PSFK to take a closer look.

What’s expected of brands today

Brands must connect with consumers who have been deeply impacted by COVID-19, economic concerns, and social issues. These factors have fundamentally changed their attitudes and behaviors, and the changes continue constantly.

Brands must build interest, trust, and loyalty, especially during a time where consumers are more likely to brand switch or “trade down.” Meaningful connections mean developing a deep and ongoing understanding of customers’ behaviors, demands, and intentions.

The best way to get this information? Straight from the consumer! That’s why we created a Global Barometer study to monitor real-time changes and trends.

For example, as vaccinations become more available and much of the world starts to re-open, consumers expect to spend on things they haven’t over the past year-plus. This includes vacationing within their own country (at 49%); personal care and hygiene (27%); and leisure activities (26%).

This is a valuable insight into their priorities in the near future and offers potential for brands to get ahead of these trends. Datum like this informs our clients’ decision-making and planning to stay ahead.

Establishing a clear point of view

Modern brands must work harder than ever to truly resonate with consumers.

Consider this: Fifty-nine percent of consumers say they’re more open to trying a new brand than they were pre-COVID. And more than half of consumers report purchasing lower-cost or private-label brands to save money in the face of financial concerns.

Brand purpose has become a key differentiating factor across industries. Today’s consumers must explicitly understand and believe in a brand’s efforts before buying in.

Consumers have redefined their focus on health, family, and finances, and expect brands to support these causes. They also want brands to stand for something and participate in culture, society, and politics. Having accurate consumer insights is critical to understanding shared values that drive loyalty.

So what do consumers say is important to them? Fifty-one percent of consumers are looking to brands that are environmentally focused, while 48% seek supportive brands that are focused on customer service. Nearly half of consumers say they’re buying based on value, at 47%.

These are all opportunities for companies to meaningfully connect with consumers in new and exciting ways in 2021 and beyond, taking a “test and learn” approach for measuring effectiveness.

Community, wellness, and collaboration

Community and connection are top of mind for consumers everywhere, and this presents another opportunity for brands to foster trust. An overwhelming 78% of consumers feel it’s important that brands have a strong sense of community.

There’s also a call for brands to support society and small businesses and think locally. Fifty-six percent of consumers say the pandemic has caused them to shop at neighborhood stores, with 79% planning to continue to do so long-term. More than half are buying more locally-sourced products (59%), and84% plan to continue long-term. In response, businesses are launching initiatives and platforms designed to present a more inclusive reality, using their brand as a platform to drive change.

Yet another opportunity for businesses to connect with consumers is in the well-being space. Social distancing and lack of interaction have taken a toll on consumers, and forty percent report having concerns about mental health.

We’ve seen brands step up by innovating within social distancing guidelines to create shared experiences by leveraging their products, resources, and communities to safely connect consumers with one another. And it’s working! An overwhelming eighty-four percent of consumers want brands’ social channels to facilitate a sense of community and offer support to those in need during these hard times.

A final consideration for businesses during this transitional time is the consumer’s desire to feel a sense of ownership over their favorite brands. They want to contribute their ideas and feedback for collaborative products and services that better meet their needs. Providing this fosters a more meaningful relationship.

Research is non-negotiable.

Change is constant. Research is necessary.

To gain new audiences, convert lapsed customers and build loyalty, brands must work to assert a clear point of view, pursue a customer and community-first agenda, and position themselves as a platform for creating value. And it starts with a true understanding of their consumers, in real-time.

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