Today’s shoppers have lost their loyalty as they hunt for the brand with the best selection, the best prices and the best overall experience following two uncertain and unstable years, when consumers made purchases out of necessity and panic—which has resulted in transactional relationships with brands. According to new research from end-to-end digital experience software Sitecore, 70 percent of Americans crave deeper, more personal connections with brands—signaling that the future of brand experience is all about authenticity and empathy.
According to the firm’s new Brand Authenticity Report, only one-third of US consumers or fewer describe themselves as “very loyal” to their favorite brand today, and two-thirds say that they have stopped shopping with a brand, never to return, following a poor experience (66 percent).
These sentiments illustrate an opening for brands to capture new customers
US consumers also have strong opinions about how brands can improve loyalty dynamics. More than four in five say they will be more loyal to a brand with customer service agents who can ditch the script and have the autonomy to effectively resolve their unique issues (82 percent). Further, nearly nine in 10 say that showing empathy and understanding of what they need in the moment is powerful in building a stronger relationship with the brand (86 percent).
“Brand loyalty has been put to the test over the last two years. Consumers’ values today are much different than they were pre-pandemic, and every type of shopper—from the bargain hunter to the die-hard brand advocate—is now second-guessing which brands they’ll spend with,” said Paige O’Neill, Sitecore CMO, in a news release. “To re-engage and retain shoppers, brands must take a new approach to enhancing experience with empathy and transparency at the core. By forging humanized connections, brands can take their customer relationships from transactional to personal.”
Rising prices are not a deal breaker when shopping with a brand, but transparency is key
Consumers are feeling the impact of inflation in their daily shopping habits, but the majority are understanding that brands may pass along added costs for products and services to consumers (86 percent). However, most US consumers will not blindly accept price hikes as nine in 10 demand brands are transparent about communicating new prices (91 percent).
One-size-fits-all customer experiences set brands up for failure
Shopper preferences remain fairly split as nearly one in three claim to be digital-only shoppers (30 percent), while almost half say they live for the experience of in-store shopping (46 percent). This means that brands must enhance the customer experience across every channel to support every type of shopper.
When it comes to digital experience in particular, the report found that online interactions play a powerful role in driving personal connections between brands and customers (61 percent). To continue improving the e-commerce experience, brands must keep in mind the variety of preferences from all consumers and create a customized experience that can work for every customer.
Americans are holding brands accountable for their values and actions
Diversity and inclusion are top priorities for businesses and society at-large today, and this survey shows consumers demand more effort from the brands they shop with. More than four in five US consumers believe brands should make a conscious effort to ensure their marketing and communications are representative of their customers (81 percent).
Beyond external communications, US consumers are calling on brands to improve representation in the products and services they offer. Only one in three consumers say they are seeing more minority-owned products and services, yet three in four say it is important that retailers offer more of these products (75 percent—a big increase from last year’s 62 percent).
In addition to diversity, consumers also expect brands to be transparent about their values and causes they support. In fact, 84 percent say brands need to prove they treat their customers and employees fairly, and 68 percent agree that brands should be forthcoming about the political parties and social issues they financially support.
Sitecore commissioned Advanis to conduct a survey among US consumers reflecting on new shopper behaviors and the ways that brands can enhance the digital experience to align. The study polled 1,174 US consumers in April 2022.