Consumers are watching for consistency between brand’s messaging and business reality during COVID-19
Gaining customers’ trust and loyalty is always a painstaking business.
Particularly in times of crisis, that work pays off as customers turn to the comfort of the companies they are not only familiar with, but are also aligned with on global issues.
McKinsey research has found that 64 percent of customers choose to buy from socially responsible brands.
Retailers are under scrutiny today more than ever, as customers are increasingly interested in how companies demonstrate their ethical practices in the ways they conduct business.
Customers are attuned to local, national and global issues, and their buying decisions are increasingly influenced by how retailers are responding to the world.
Indeed, customers who once wondered, “Does this company have questionable labor practices?” now also ask, “How did this company treat its employees during COVID-19?”
News reports suggest that the businesses that show concern and empathy for their employees are winning with customers.
COVID-19’s shift in retail plans and consumer behavior
The COVID-19 pandemic and periods of economic shutdown have thrust retailers into crisis mode, and into providing services that were not on the roadmap for this year — if ever.
Curbside pickup of items from bath towels to ground beef has become commonplace; even this past January curbside was something only a handful of pharmacies and chain restaurants offered.
Customers too had to change buying habits and embrace e-commerce.
The proof is in the numbers: It was, quite literally, Christmas in May as digital sales were up 77.8% year over year to $82.5 billion, tracking higher than holiday shopping levels on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to Barron’s.
Analysts are still watching to see whether these shifts will remain or recoil.
But during times of crisis, the way a business treats its customers can make a lasting impact.
Loyalty is reinforced with brands who show care in crisis
Consumers remember which companies contributed to their communities’ well-being.
Those that were supportive earn loyalty — and the ones that were perceived to be unsympathetic lost customers.
Customer experience leaders must not only position their companies as being socially responsive in order to attract and retain shoppers, but actually strive to embody those values.
Empathy, care and concern are part of a new currency.
Of course, delivering high-quality products and services at a good value along with providing excellent customer service will never go out of style.
But involvement in civic causes demonstrates how — and whether — the company cares about their customers.
In times of hardship, customers want to know their favorite stores are there for them and will reward those retailers with their loyalty even after the crisis has passed.