94% of UK consumers value brand response to COVID-19

Brand response to covid-19 can sway buying decisions
A new survey reveals that brand values and behaviours are more important post-lockdown as British consumers return to the high street. 

The research is part of a global report, The Future of Retail: Opportunities for Brands in the New Normal’ which explores the behaviour, perceptions and feelings of retail shoppers during and post lockdown. It highlights that shoppers are now purchasing with brands that best align with their values – in what could be a significant turning point for consumerism.

Highlights from the research

  • Almost all UK shoppers (94%) said they’ll likely switch to a competitor if they don’t like a brand’s response to COVID-19
  • Almost all (97%) of shoppers that tried a new brand in lockdown would buy again
  • 8 in 10 Brits not confident shopping in person yet
  • 6 in 10 consumers have walked away from a brand that doesn’t align values
  • Of those that dropped a brand, the reasons included:
    • Bad or abusive customer service for 28%
    • Mistreating employees for 27%
    • How their products are made for 21%
    • Polluting or damaging the environment for 20%

Renewed focus on brand values and trustworthiness

The report highlights a movement of consumerism in which shoppers are purchasing with brands that best align with their values. In fact, the report also found 6 in 10 (61%) UK shoppers, and 9 in 10 (86%) of UK Gen Z shoppers specifically, have already walked from a brand because they have heard or experienced something they didn’t like. Of those that dropped a brand, the reasons included: bad or abusive customer service (28%), mistreating employees (27%), how their products are made (21%), and polluting or damaging the environment (20%).

Despite a focus on brand values, consumers still place quality (91%), price (84%), availability (56%), and familiarity (40%) above values or actions (29%) as their top considerations when purchasing from a certain brand.

A disruption to brand loyalty

“The pandemic and recent social movements have changed consumer behaviour, making it harder than ever to win customers’ loyalty,” James Manderson, General Manager Braze EMEA said.

“Brand loyalty has been disrupted, shoppers are increasingly looking at how brands are responding to the world around them and their expectations are higher than ever.”

Rather than finding comfort in the familiar, many consumers have gone in search of something new during the pandemic. A third (32%) of UK consumers say they’ve tried a new brand during COVID-19, with millennials experimenting the most (43%). What’s more, 97% of shoppers who tried a new brand in lockdown said they intend to purchase again from that brand. 

The UK still high-street cautious

The findings revealed that UK consumers are still much more cautious about COVID safety than its European neighbours. Findings show 8 in 10 (78%) UK shoppers are still not comfortable with shopping in person. In addition to this, 6 in 10 (63%) UK shoppers admit it will be 1-6 months before they will be comfortable. In comparison to shoppers in France (29%) and Germany (66%), the UK is the least comfortable heading back to the high street.

A much higher percentage of UK shoppers (47%), compared to those in France (22%) and Germany (27%), say they prefer to shop online as opposed to in-person at a store, as it limits exposure to their health.

If UK consumers are to shop in-store, a retailers’ safety precautions will heavily sway which brand they decide to visit. Half of UK consumers say that “in-store safety precautions” is a top reason why they would shop in-person instead of online, in comparison to 38% of consumers in France and 29% of consumers in Germany.

However, despite many Brits saying they feel uneasy about heading back to the high street, only a third (29%) say they will shop online more following lockdown, making it an increasingly fragmented shopper landscape for brands to operate and communicate accordingly in.

“With brands and retailers continuing to navigate uncharted waters, it’s essential they prioritise customer engagement,” Braze’s Manderson added. “Those that listen to their customers and put personalisation, empathy and convenience at the heart of their customer engagement strategy will emerge as winners.”

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