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02/01/2022

STUDY: Consumers Increasingly Choose Brands Based on Safety Measures, How They Treat Their Employees During the Pandemic

Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. consumers stopped purchasing from a company during the pandemic because their COVID safety protocols didn’t meet their expectations.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
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The pandemic has accelerated the degree to which U.S. consumers choose brands based on their health and safety standards and how well they treat their employees and customers, according to new research from Qualtrics.

Consumers expect brands to go above and beyond recommended safety standards. Thirty percent of consumers started purchasing from new brands over the past 18 months because they liked new safety measures that brands adopted, such as curbside pickup or delivery. Conversely, 22% of consumers have stopped shopping with a brand because they felt their health and safety measures were insufficient.

This is inline with HT's research. When it comes to selecting a hotel, 65% of consumers say clearly communicated COVID-19 procedures is of moderate or extreme importance , according to HT's 2021 Customer Engagement Technology Study.

The results underscore a trend among U.S. consumers who expect more of the brands they are doing business with, and who will switch brands if they feel they don’t share their ethical and social values.

During the pandemic, J. Dawgs, a Utah gourmet hotdog restaurant, began selling do-it-yourself gourmet hot dog kits and launched a number of new food trucks to safely reach their customers outdoors. Many customers said this move increased the likelihood they’d continue to purchase from the restaurant and now they are making those changes permanent because of continued customer demand.

“We found that 72% of our customers who purchased DIY hotdog kits said they would not have purchased from the restaurant during the pandemic otherwise and were keen on seeing the kits continue, even after we reopened,” said J. Dawgs founder, Jayson Edwards. “We also discovered that our new food trucks were massively popular with customers and that they wanted to see them more often, which completely changed our strategy long term.”

Consumers not only care about how they are treated, but also how businesses treat their employees. Nearly half of consumers (47%) said they would trust a brand more if they took care of their employees, which was just behind taking care of customers (66%).

Consumers care about how brands approach societal challenges and whether they fulfill their brand promises

More than half of consumers (57%) said they are aware of the brand values of the products and services they purchase or use. A third (36%) said they would likely stop purchasing from a brand if they felt disconnected from the company mission, values or stance on societal issues. In fact, only 27% of respondents felt that the companies they do business with were doing enough to address environmental and societal challenges.

Consumers are also quick to ditch brands that underdeliver on their promises. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of consumers have switched brands because their experiences did not live up to an advertised brand promise (such as “fast delivery” or “great customer service”). When asked what factors would cause them to stop purchasing from a brand, 69% said poor customer service – ahead of product quality (50%) or price increases (42%).

Word-of-mouth referrals matter more than ever

A majority of consumers (78%) look at customer reviews before buying from a new brand. And when considering a new brand, 83% said they were somewhat likely to purchase a new product if it has good reviews – compared to just 16% who said they may still purchase from a brand with poor reviews.

In addition to online reviews, consumers were also heavily influenced by their friends, family and colleagues when considering whether to purchase from a new brand. Two-thirds of consumers said they were at least somewhat likely to purchase a new brand if recommended by a friend, family member, or colleague. As it turns out, more than two-thirds have purchased from a new brand recommended by someone they know in the last year.