Report: Pandemic shapes habits and shakes brand loyalty

​Toluna's latest study shows shoppers now consider brand ethics and values as part of the price-value equation

Covid changed consumers’ shopping habits and some new habits look set to stay, according to a new report. 

Toluna's Understanding the 2021 Consumer study of more than 1000 Australians in May shows the pandemic up-ended consumer loyalty and that, while watching prices, Australian shoppers are now more inclined to look for brands that align with their own values. 

While initial temporary responses to the pandemic included panic buying, this behaviour has left a residual effect: 28 per cent of Australians now keep their pantry more stocked up these days and 17 per cent now choose cleaning products much more carefully.

Traditional priorities such as value for money (56 per cent) and customer support (37 per cent) are still deciders but ethical ideals are weighing in. 

While one-third are more price-sensitive post-Covid, people are increasingly considering a brand's reputation and values as part of a wider value equation. The study found more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of respondents go out of their way to engage with brands which align with their own values, and 34 per cent said they’ve stopped supporting brands with values that don’t fit.   

Sustainability issues are also top of mind when shoppers reflect on these wider values. More than half 51 per cent now actively try to buy foods and drinks with less plastic packaging and almost half (45 per cent) prioritise environmental friendliness.  

Other ethical values shoppers consider when deciding between brands include whether a brand supports humanitarian issues (26 per cent), racial equality (25 per cent) and gender equality (23 per cent).

“What drives brand loyalty is changing. Consumers are now more inclined to support brands whose values align with their own, and stop shopping with brands that don’t,” said Toluna country director A/NZ, Sej Patel.

"As we get back to business, brands will increasingly need to stand for something - to participate in culture, society and politics; to show that they are environmentally friendly or support humanitarian issues." 

Whether or not favourite brands became thin on the shelves during Covid, people are more open to buying new brands. One-third of Australians surveyed told Toluna they are now more price-sensitive compared to their pre-pandemic habits, contributing to this trend. This is particularly true of food and drink categories, where 17 per cent of shoppers reported trying new brands. And the habit looks to be a keeper, as 13 per cent  continued to keep purchasing new brands they tried due to restrictions against Covid.

The research also looked into wider consumer trends and found while there have been a few spikes in vaccinations, quarantine problems have dampened travel plans. Although the large majority (84 per cent) misses travel, almost half (47 per cent) said they were not comfortable about booking holidays before May 2022. 

Unsurprisingly, domestic travel is more likely than overseas, with almost a third (27 per cent) keen to treat themselves to an Australian holiday in coming months.   

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