Brand loyalty drivers shift as consumers trade cost & quality for safety & personalization

by | Jan 22, 2021 | Public Relations

As we have reported, consumer behavior and opinions have undergone significant shifts in the COVID age. In response, a majority of brands are rethinking superior customer experience and accelerating their technology development and deployment plans to meet the needs of the evolving consumer, reveals a new study from SAS.

The new report, Experience 2030 Pulse Report: The Acceleration of Digital Engagement, Personalization and Trust, conducted by Futurum Research and an update to the 2019 research Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience, takes a close look at changes in loyalty drivers and the acceptance of immersive tech.

Loyalty drivers have changed

In 2019, the top drivers of customer loyalty reported by consumers were low cost, quality products and same-day delivery. 2020 has heralded in a whole new set of concerns for consumers, and this is reflected in new loyalty drivers.

Consumers now want safe, fast and human experiences. The top loyalty drivers now are:

  • Personal safety – ensuring social/physical distancing in a facility: 65 percent
  • Scheduling needs – delivery within a few days: 57 percent
  • Relevant suggestions – special recommendations that meet a consumer’s current needs: 56 percent
  • Human touch – having a live person, rather than a bot, available to talk: 54 percent

The good news is the research found that brands are on board with these changes, with 83 percent rethinking what it means to deliver superior customer experiences moving forward.

Brand loyalty drivers shift as consumers trade cost & quality for safety & personalization

Pandemic accelerates immersive tech acceptance

In the original research, consumers expressed acceptance of augmented reality and virtual reality becoming part of the consumer process over the next decade, but that has been greatly accelerated in 2020.

  • Drones – last year 23 percent of consumers expected delivery by drone or autonomous vehicle in the coming year; now 60 percent expect it by 2022.
  • Smart assistants – last year 65 percent of consumers expected to use them by 2025, but now 70 percent plan to use them by 2022
  • Chatbots – last year 36 percent of consumers expected to use chatbots to have questions answered or receive customer support about a brand, products or services. Now 54 percent want a live person, and not a bot, available to talk to them.
  • AR and VR – 69 percent of consumers surveyed expect to use AR and VR to sample products in 2021. 63 percent of consumers are willing to use AR and VR to visit remote locations, up from 56 percent in the previous survey.
  • Telemedicine – 67 percent of consumers are open to telemedicine.

Brand loyalty drivers shift as consumers trade cost & quality for safety & personalization

In response, one-third of brands surveyed are speeding up investments in technology over the next two years. The top immersive tech areas that brands are prioritizing are:

  • Voice-based AI assistants for sales and marketing.
  • Holographics for customer support or instruction.
  • Voice-based AI assistants embedded in products or services.
  • AR and VR for customer instruction and support.

“The Experience 2030 global study, released in late 2019, clearly indicated that brands are planning to invest heavily in immersive CX technologies and AI-fueled automation over the next decade,” said Wilson Raj, global director of customer intelligence at SAS, in a news release. “This Pulse report stresses that organizations have not changed these priorities, but urgently stepped up these investments to respond to the pandemic and ensuing disruptions. Brands have chopped timeframes in many of the areas identified in Experience 2030.”

The disruption is real

Six out of 10 brands report that they’re unable to deliver their regular products to their customers.

Brand loyalty drivers shift as consumers trade cost & quality for safety & personalization

Overcoming these challenges, and meeting increasingly tech-infused consumer expectations, requires an agile mindset, the right technology solutions. Brands have had to accelerate tech development and deployment in many more areas than immersive tech as consumers seek greater digitization to ensure safety and convenience.

Where are most brands accelerating their technology development and deployment plans?

Brand loyalty drivers shift as consumers trade cost & quality for safety & personalization

In addition, more than half of all brands surveyed reported they have accelerated plans and initiatives involving alternative payment apps, offline consumer intelligence (behavioral tracking), AI and predictive analytics, automated subscription or delivery plans for consumers, chatbots, 5G, encrypted communications and/or distributed ledgers (blockchains).

Top industries trusted by consumers

As customers change the way they want to engage, the factors driving both loyalty and trust also change. In a “socially distant” market, hybrid digital/physical experiences have become increasingly common as both brands and consumers look to technologies that provide convenience and safety—from the increased use of telemedicine to contactless payments and online ordering combined with curbside pickup. Brands that want to deliver truly personalized experiences must pivot to include these forms of engagement in the customer experiences they provide.

Brand loyalty drivers shift as consumers trade cost & quality for safety & personalization

The top two industries that consumers rate as delivering both digital and physical safety are health care followed closely by grocery and food.

“Because of COVID-19, all brands are now in the health and wellness business,” said Raj. “Other industries now follow grocery chains and quick-serve restaurants that were quick to adopt health precautions—amidst digital defaults such as contactless payments. Moving forward, brand trust for all industries must involve both physical and digital well-being of their customers, through health safety protocols and data privacy measures respectively.”

Brand loyalty drivers shift as consumers trade cost & quality for safety & personalization

Download the full report here.

In June and July 2020, Futurum Research surveyed more than 600 global consumers, executives, marketers and technology professionals.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter