Developing and maintaining relationships is surely the heart of humanity. Aristotle studied interpersonal relationships more than 2,300 year ago and we are still at it today, trying to figure out how to maintaining relationships when life throws us those curves. The COVID-19 epidemic has not only challenged our personal interactions, it has also turned our consumption behavior on its head. The pandemic completely tests our loyalty to the brands we love. And that applies to the food industry more than in any other business sector.
According to recent Yotpo brand loyalty consumer poll of 2,000 U.S. consumers, loyalty has either remained the same or increased for 90% of those polled. A full quarter of respondents (24.8%) say their brand loyalty increased compared to last year. Repeat purchasing is considered the major element defining brand loyalty and more than a third (36.4%) of those surveyed reported that they don’t consider themselves brand loyal until they’ve made five or more purchases from a brand.
The current trend in the food business to leverage an omnichannel strategy, not to be confused with a multi-channel strategy (selling across multiple channel segments), is being accelerated by the current COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on supply-chains. There is not a food manufacturer across any product segment that is not attempting to go direct to their consumer. After all, they realize that the supply-chain punishes those without a very large, resilient community of consumer loyalists.
Brands of all sizes that prioritized their investments in building integrated omnichannel infrastructures are now reaping rewards and leaving competitors in the proverbial dust as they ride technology to the heart of consumers’ wallets. Who knew that the simple act of developing a Facebook page in the early days of a brands life, could ultimately become the anchor of an omnichannel platform?
Brands like Oatly with 197,000 Facebook followers, Jeni’s Ice Cream with 134,000, Califia Farms with 211,000, Beyond Meat with 428,000, Innocent Drinks with 600,000, and Halo Top Ice Cream with 774,000 Facebook followers have been hyper-focused on strengthening their bonds of loyalty through sophisticated and uniformed omnichannel platforms. The ability to integrate their communication, service, and satisfaction resources to fulfill even the most demanding request gives them a sustainable competitive advantage. Appropriate, diverse and engaging messaging through various social media platforms enables a collective brand story to be told. It’s the on-going interconnectivity that endears loyalty and generates purchase. Imagine driving the behavior of hundreds of thousands of followers and the impact that has on all links across the supply-chain.
It took the disruptive nature of COVID-19 to accelerate trends towards a more direct path to purchase between shoppers and their favorite brands. Successful specialty food brands were building large scale followers across multiple social platforms and have been nurturing shoppers’ habits, making sure products are within a click to purchase – the shopping cart feature has become the core of a direct purchase relationship for these resilient brands.
The times now enable an unimaginable world of options that enhance an omnichannel platform in ways that may not have been foreseen. Access to product through the experience of ordering and receiving, and interdependence on preparing product, has never been so immediate and interconnected. With retail reinvention in the areas of online ordering, home delivery, click & collect pick-up options, shopping services that portion meals and customize to dietary restrictions, as well as the transformation of the restaurant into a “grocery-rant,” the ability for a shopper to engage with and experience their favorite brand has never been so seamless.
The lessons being taught by specialty brands is how they nurture their loyal consumers and lead them through affiliated “intermediaries” without being disrupted in the final mile of the supply-chain.
Questions about the post-COVID world abound! Will GrubHub
Manufacturers’ must respond to all sorts of variables as consumers continue to adopt and alter behaviors. Those brands that have cultivated interdependent relationships that enable the intermediaries to survive and grow will extend their leadership positions incrementally faster than brands that allow others to lead them into the marketplace.
For now, continuing to build and manage intimate relationships with shoppers, relies on reliable partners that satisfactorily complete the brand’s journey into the shoppers’ arms. Those that master the omnichannel approach will be the ones that survive to dominate product categories and consumers’ hearts.
This, like nearly all transitional times in our history, requires courageous and connected thinking. The cultural issues that are facing us as a society today, require brands to speak out and declare what they stand for – a cohesive omnichannel strategy allows that voice to be heard in the authentic manner the brand is perceived.