Under normal circumstances there are very few times in a person’s life when they’re open to changing brand loyalty: New parents transitioning from life without kids are typically the most open to changing their brand loyalty and shopping habits. But in recent months, demand for certain products (like hand sanitizer and toilet paper) surged, leaving some household name brands missing from the grocery shelves. Things aren’t exactly normal right now. And brands who have made even modest efforts to adapt and communicate during these unprecedented times have a unique opportunity to shift customer shopping habits—building brand loyalty that will likely pay off for years to come.
Forming New Attachments
Most people don't go into their wedding planning process thinking about brand loyalty—and I certainly didn't go into my wedding planning process anticipating a pandemic. But as I worked to adapt our May wedding for these unique times, I started to reflect on brand loyalty.
About two weeks before the wedding, I received a package of makeup products from Arch, a local beauty boutique. I had reached out to them (via their Instagram channel) after realizing all of my wedding day and pre-wedding hair and makeup appointments were cancelled, to see if they'd be willing to help me figure out what makeup I needed for my special day. They did me one (or two) better! They took the time to help me figure out what products would help me achieve the look I was going for; they sent some nice gifts including a handwritten note and "tissues for happy tears;" and they provided a video tutorial for me so that I was all set for my big day.
It should be noted that - prior to my wedding - I had never been to Arch before; but from now on, I'll be going to go to them for all of my makeup needs. And I've stopped considering my current salon for those types of services.
No E-commerce Site? Don’t Despair.
Businesses, large and small, that have made efforts to communicate and adapt to doing at least a small part of their business online are likely to gain new customers and build their loyalty. Small efforts can yield significant results.
Some businesses, like a local gift shop, don't have a full ecommerce site built out, but were able to do live videos or Instagram posts showcasing their products, and invited their customers to do "personal shopping" via Facetime, as well as contactless pickup.
In branding, feelings play a big role in the development of brand equity. Think about how television advertising works: When you're first getting to know a company or product, heart-strings and humor can play a big role in whether a certain product or company first grabs your attention. Positive feelings matter in the attachments that we form, and the loyalty we develop, to brands.
I'd walk through fire for our minster (and our faith community), who promised me we'd figure out a way to get married on time, even if we had to adapt what our ceremony looked like. We drove out of our way to do curbside pickup from a wine shop that helped us, via a quick email exchange, pick out budget-friendly sparkling wine from France, where our honeymoon was supposed to take place.
Communicate, Even When Things Aren’t Perfect
My husband's already-purchased-wedding-day suit is still stuck in a locked down men's suit chain, and communication never happened. Despite the fact that many retail shops have re-opened, we still (in mid-June) don’t know when we’ll see that suit.
And while some customers are always going to be unhappy about external factors that are beyond a business’s control, for many others a sincere apology and basic explanation of the circumstances goes a long way. That suit shop has lost our business for good, and likely the business of our friends and family as well.
My husband's wedding ring, which we found out also wasn't going to be done on time, was another matter. The small business making the ring communicated at each step in the process about what was happening—what stage of production the ring was in, whether there was a chance they could get it to us, and then, as stay-at-home orders were extended, a kind offer to send an in-stock replacement ring in case they couldn’t get it to us on time. (The original ring magically appeared in our mailbox on our way out the door to the church).
For our clients, we invite them to consider the opportunities presented at this unique moment in time to foster relationships with customers that will pay off for many years to come. It's not about being perfect, it's about being present.