Coronavirus - Mon Aug 10, 2020. Carmel Flanagan with her daughter Ella Copper shopping in the Joules in Belfast while wearing a face mask as face coverings are now compulsory for shoppers in Northern Ireland. Picture date: Friday August 10, 2020. See PA story ULSTER Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire URN:54942637 (Press Association via AP Images)

Braze’s latest consumer research shows “permanent shifts” in consumer behavior triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, which includes a propensity to try new brands, a “renewed focus” on brand values and an overall cautious approach to spending.

The customer engagement platform provider teamed with Wakefield Research, which surveyed over 8,000 adults in 10 markets across the globe.

The report, titled “The Future of Retail: Opportunities for Brands in the New Normal,” aimed to assess COVID-19’s “immediate and long-term impact on the industry and serve as a resource for retailers navigating uncertain times.” The findings mirror other recent studies from Accenture, Deloitte, Adobe and Coresight Research that show how the pandemic has influenced consumers — which includes avoidance of physical stores, ordering products directly from brand sites and embracing curbside pickup, among other changes.

Trying new brands was one of the key findings in the Braze research report. The authors of the report found that 26 percent of respondents “tried at least one new brand during the pandemic” while “a whopping 95 percent reported intentions of buying from one of these new brands again in the future.” And while an increase of online shopping was not surprising to researchers, the survey showed that “even as physical stores open back up, 83 percent of consumers intend to shop online the same amount or more.”

Myles Kleeger, president and chief customer officer of Braze, said the pandemic “has changed the consumer retail experience forever, as consumers are pulling back on spending, brand loyalty has been upended, and expectations are high.”

Other findings of the Braze report show that brand values and “corporate empathy will play an increasing role in consumer loyalty and purchasing decisions.” The firm noted that only 10 percent of consumers “consider ‘familiarity’ as a top consideration when deciding where to shop,” which is in sharp contrast to “89 percent who responded that a company’s response to the pandemic, especially towards employees and customers, was an important criterion.”

“Companies that mistreat employees, contribute to pollution or take opposing political stances were also revealed as top reasons for consumers to shop elsewhere,” authors of the report stated.

The research also showed generational differences in consumer preferences as well as the overall sentiment of shoppers in regard to the upcoming holiday shopping season.

The report found that retailers and brands “should anticipate a holiday season marked by a pullback in spending, increase in consumer expectations and focus on supporting small businesses.” The survey showed that 42 percent of global consumers “said they expect to slightly or significantly decrease their spending this holiday season.”

And as online sales continue to grow in importance, the Braze report found that 48 percent of respondents said “‘supporting local retailers’ is one of the reasons that would convince them to shop in-store.”

“These headwinds mean that retailers should be designing campaigns now to deepen relationships with customers in the months leading up to the holidays,” the report stated. “Building out effective onboarding and lifecycle marketing programs allow them to lower overall acquisition costs while increasing chances that customers are making purchases this holiday season and beyond.”

Kleeger added that in order “to effectively serve customers and drive future growth, prioritizing customer engagement is more important now than ever. Brands that put personalization, empathy and convenience at the heart of their customer engagement strategy will emerge from the pandemic stronger than before.”

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