COVID-19 has had a seismic effect on consumer sentiment, with shoppers gravitating towards brands that demonstrate purpose. Recent research released by Capgemini underscores this point with more than half of respondents reporting that they expect organizations to showcase their sense of purpose and give back to society both during the crisis and beyond.
For brands, this concept is the foundation of emotional loyalty—the act of connecting with customers on a deep and personal level within their daily lives. More than ever, people want to know what companies stand for and how they advance those values in society.
Demonstrating purpose: What consumers look for in brands
While many brands effectively communicate their brand promise, far fewer are able to demonstrate it through action. In the COVID era, this is no longer enough. Our research identifies the following ways that organizations live their purpose, as well as examples of brands that have done so especially well recently:
Supporting staff: Making sure workers have the necessary health, safety, financial and logistical resources. For example, in the UK, Tesco increased staff discounts to 15 percent to show workforce appreciation and help alleviate financial hardship.
Assisting at-risk groups: Offering exclusive hours or designated channels for the elderly, immunocompromised or essential workers. In France, Carrefour set up a telephone ordering service for shoppers unable to place online orders.
Bolstering suppliers: Providing financial support for struggling supply chain players, especially smaller organizations. For instance, Unilever has offered a €500M cashflow relief fund to support small- and medium-sized suppliers.
Community donations: Demonstrating a commitment to society by addressing product scarcity, mobility or other underlying widespread challenge. One example is PepsiCo, which directed $45M to communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
Building emotional loyalty by creating value for consumers
While many consumers will appreciate brands that demonstrate their purpose for society at-large, emotional loyalty will also be driven by the value the brand creates for the individual. This means being able to reach customers on a personal level, providing relevant and timely offers and doing so with authenticity and credibility.
To drive emotional loyalty, brands must not just sell products, but solve problems. For example, delivery service Instacart addressed the lack of delivery windows during stay-at-home mandates with a “Fast & Flexible” option. This feature enables customers to have their order delivered in the first-available delivery window, which provided more flexibility to the organization. As a result, delivery options increased by 50 percent and 85% of orders were delivered during the earlier part of the estimated delivery period.
Another area of value creation is through simplifying the shopping experience, particularly on digital channels. Bundling, or grouping together frequently purchased items in a single order, is one way that grocers and other retailers can help busy shoppers get the products they need. For example, Carrefour has created two grocery boxes specifically for elders, one with food and the other with cleaning products.
Another means of simplification is through product recommendations, which helps shoppers select items more quickly based on data-driven insights, local trends and other variables. For instance, in China, Yonghui supermarkets provides online recommendations to help consumers choose combinations of fresh produce rather than select items individually
Finally, brands can drive engagement through content. Many retailers are experimenting with live streaming during COVID-19, often helping consumers adapt to quarantine living. For example, Nike engaged its customers through its fitness app which streams training programs and workout videos. UK-based brewery BrewDog has created an online virtual bar experience to encourage social distancing, opening online locations and hosting digital events such as beer tasting, pub quizzes, music and comedy shows.
It is through this combination of value creation for the individual and a demonstrable commitment to society that brands can begin to build emotional loyalty, reaching consumers on a deeper, more personal level.
For more information on building emotional loyalty, please contact Chloe Buckland—and stay tuned for our next post: Creating a high-impact loyalty program in a touchless way.