For years, one of the watchwords for brand marketers has been loyalty. It has been a widely held belief that consumers who bought a brand and liked it would potentially become brand loyalists, demonstrating preference for that brand over brand name competitors or even generic store brands.
Some brand marketers took the concept of loyalty a step further, building programs that offered incentives for exhibiting brand loyalty which, in some cases, may have appeared as an effort to buy that loyalty.
Well here's a wakeup call for proponents of brand loyalty — the economy, in combination with online access to a wealth of brand information, reviews and consumer comments, is changing the notion of brand loyalty, at least for those consumers ages 25 to 49.
In a survey of 865 Gen X and Gen Y consumers conducted last Fall, Boston-based marketing agency, AMP Agency, studied baby products, consumer electronics, food and beverage, health and beauty, and fashion. According to the study, called "Inside the Buy," a meager 3% of consumers surveyed in this age group said they're loyal to a particular brand.
In every category, it seems, consumers were doing a fair amount of research (primarily online) prior to purchasing a product, from a high of 64% before buying electronics, to a low of 25% before purchasing food or fashion.
A whopping 94% of those surveyed indicated that their decision to buy was "positively influenced" by research. Around half of consumers visit a brand's website to research the brand prior to purchase, and 40% said they go to third-party review sites, but almost 75% rely on general consumer reviews as their first choice for research intelligence.
For half of the respondents, online consumer reviews "most influenced" their purchase. Interestingly, 30% claimed they couldn't find as much information as they wanted about brands online.
Allison Marsh, VP, Consumer Insights at AMP Agency, told Marketing Daily, "New consumer behavior is redefining what we view as 'contemporary loyalty.' With more information, consumers have seized control and are more open to the wide choices in the marketplace."
The results of the study suggest that purchase consideration is following a "new/modern path," regardless of brand category. This presents new opportunities for brand marketers to make sure they are getting their products in front of real influencers (reviewers and consumers alike).
It also means brand marketers may have to take a whole new look at their previously held views on brand loyalty.