Covid-19 and supermarkets: how to build emotional connections for the long term.
Everybody has a new appreciation for supermarkets and the food supply chain as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We see that supermarkets have had to take big decisions to ensure fair distribution of products to the many. Stores may not be visually looking their best right now, but that doesn’t mean your customers don’t appreciate what you are doing. Whether it is in-store, or online, it is likely that engagement with customers will be changing significantly.
It is possible that through these changes we may see a stronger, lasting emotional connection with your shoppers. This is because, as humans, we tend to remember things more when they are attached to a significant event. This means that current decisions (both your business decisions and your shoppers’ decisions) are likely to have a long-term impact on brand affinity and equity.
These are interesting times for insight, as it is important to interpret shifts and changes in any data you are already tracking. We wanted to share some thoughts on human understanding from us here at Walnut, which may help you interpret trackers or other research. There are several important factors to consider, outlined here.
You will have seen how shopper expectations affect perception and brand equity. A great example is at Christmas. Customer satisfaction in stores can increase at Christmas, despite the long queues and out of stock products because the shoppers expected it to be worse than it was. Behavioural science tells us that emotion is more ‘sticky’ when there is a significant event. When we evaluate those unconscious emotional connections to brands it feels very likely that supermarkets will emerge from the current crisis in a stronger position than before. This is due to the decisions the supermarket brands are making, the regular communications and the impact these are having on shoppers. Although not all retailers are likely to come out positively, we’ve all seen people on social media appreciating the supermarkets in their response to the crisis and recognising the importance of their current role.
Causing less ‘pain’ / making it easier.
At the same time as shoppers acknowledge the efforts being made by retailers, we also need to remember that shoppers still want the experience to be as easy as possible, causing them less pain. They may still go out of their way to a store that they perceive will be an easier place to shop at or a more pleasant experience e.g. a shorter queue to get in or more spacious parking area, away from others. Anything that can be done to support this will pay back dividends.
We have undertaken our own research to form an Implicit Needs Model enabling us to understand what shoppers want from an ideal supermarket. Whilst this research was undertaken in ‘normal’ times, one of the elements it highlighted as a strong driver was ‘Idealism’. People appreciate such aspects as contributing to local communities and being a responsible employer. These will have gained weight in the last few weeks and become crucial.
Other key factors for supermarkets are respect and understanding. The current times are putting supermarkets to the test regarding these features. How brands handle these emotions and how they can shape attitudes at the moment might be very important in terms of how the brand images of main players will shift after the events are over.
Walnut’s approach to understanding this for your brand.
On the surface, with an explicit level response, it’s difficult to gauge true feelings towards a brand or retailer. With the use of reaction time testing (RT) we can find a customer’s true beliefs. In these unusual times it’s more crucial than ever to understand people’s true feelings. Someone may rate Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s responses towards this pandemic on a similar level explicitly, but their implicit response to this can be drastically different. Of course both sides –explicit and implicit –need to be addressed but knowing the emotional side of customers’ opinions allow us to tap into the attitudes that are key to shaping behaviour. RT can help to understand which motives and potential actions supermarkets might take which have the greatest potential to create the strongest bond with the customer.
We can undertake a brand analysis of both implicit and explicit data and track these with regular dips to help you understand the impact and longevity. Alternatively, with our Implicit Needs Model we can assess where your brand sits compared to the ideal, and help you identify how to close any gaps.