When supply shortage causes the largest brand taste test—how do you react?

Published Jun 25, 2020

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While COVID-19 disrupted supply chains worldwide, it also disrupted consumer shopping habits. Product shortages deprived many shoppers of their first-choice brands, forcing them to go without or consider the next available option.  

In many ways, consumers have been forced to change the way they consume products and have, almost unwillingly, entered the world’s largest brand taste testtrying products from brands they would have never tried before. What will happen when distribution normalizes?  

Loyalists and Substitutes – One of these Groups is Guaranteed to Return  

Let’s focus on the two main types of buyers you can expect to emerge from the taste test: loyalists and substitutes. Loyalists are those buyers who are so attached to their favorite brand that they’re frustrated when forced to buy an alternative. While these buyers are participating in the taste test like all the rest, they’re likely to be yearning for their old dependable. If these are your buyers, they’ll return to you when supply chains recover.

Substitutes are those who are willing to go without their favorite brand if it’s not readily available. They can handle a little sacrifice and are open to discovering a better alternative. When the supply chain returns to normal and their original top choice returns to the shelf, they may revert to itor they may decide they’ve been just as satisfied by the alternatives and see no need to return to the previous status quo. If your consumers are substitutes, only time will tell if they’ll stay with you when this is over. With 50% of consumers purchasing based on choice or value, now is the time to reel in this audience.

Did you Come out of COVID-19 Ahead?  Or do you Have Work to Do?

No one can argue, COVID-19 has been a great opportunity for some. Challenger brands, for example, should be eager to capitalize on this situation. People are coming to you now who might never have had the impetus before. You’re seeing people who are willing to substitute their preferred brand. Advertising, and keeping top of mind, can help to ensure that you remain in the consideration set as people’s behaviours normalize. 

We’ve seen many product brands flying off the shelves and others are only beginning to be tried out by curious consumers—retailers are watching their portfolios closely. If you anticipate scaling down operations or inventory, pragmatic choices come in. You won’t want to stock what might sell, but what will sell.

How can you stay ahead of consumers’ needs? Behavioural data.

You need to understand what consumers are doing online, and how they are engaging with your brand or category. By monitoring how online behviour is changing, you can quickly pivot your strategy to accommodate new consumer interests. With Toluna’s permission-based Digital Tracking technology, you can track online behaviour to learn more about your target audience—understand the search terms, time and duration spent online, websites visited, panel demographics and more.

This is the first time that many countries have had supply constraints. The question is whether consumers will go back to their brand loyal ways after playing the field, or whether this will permanently alter their behaviour.  Make sure you know how consumers’ preferences have shifted and adjust your strategy in real-time.

Stay ahead of what’s next.  We’ve created a global barometer to better understand changes as they happen.  Click here to access our report.

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