Danielle Pinnington is a founder, owner and managing director of Shoppercentric.
One of the most striking trends over the last few years has been the emergence of a savvier shopper, with savviness extending beyond being able to root out a good bargain into a more thoughtful and considered shopper. Being savvy can be a huge benefit to shoppers, as they work their way through the claims made by retailers and brands alike, whether on posters, packaging or promotional materials. But it is a thin line between savvy and cynical, with the latter mindset having the potential to undermine the trust between a shopper or consumer and the brands or businesses they interact with.
When trust issues arise and lead to a negative change in consumer behaviour they can have a real impact on business. Our latest research has revealed that 36% of UK shoppers have ‘stopped buying a brand or using a company’ because they were uncomfortable with something they did or stood for. Furthermore, having taken a stand in relation to one brand or company, 58% of these ‘boycotters’ say they are more likely to do the same again in the future. The fact that there is so much choice available these days means that it is a lot easier for consumers to walk the talk when they are unhappy or uncomfortable with the behaviour of business.
The kinds of businesses that our respondents said they had stopped using were varied – from big FMCG brands to coffee shops and banks (Fig 1).
These are not insignificant brands, so you might think they have the corporate governance to avoid banana skins. But the reasons given for boycott behaviour show the importance of being open and honest in this day and age of 24/7 media and social media:
- “It was about the horsemeat scandal”
- “When they took over and said they wouldn’t cut jobs… then did”
- “Due to their child labour”
- “They don’t pay enough tax”
Yet it isn’t all about the big PR pitfalls. Seemingly small irritations can be equally as impactful if experienced consistently over time – one company listed above was facing a backlash because of “the rudeness of the staff”.
And let’s not forget that action doesn’t have to be about ‘boycotting’, it can equally be about making active choices: 55% of shoppers now always or frequently look for products that are transparent about their contents e.g. see thru packs / clear labelling information and 32% always or frequently look for products that demonstrate their ethical policies.
So what can you do maintain trust amongst shoppers? Our data suggest there are four key areas to focus on:
- Don’t let the small issues become a big problem. Make sure that you have fair pricing, the right range and positive in-store experience and ensure that every touchpoint reflects the principles and behaviours stated corporate message.
- View the touchpoints on your shoppers purchase journeys through the ‘transparency lens’ – 1 in 2 of your shoppers could be arriving in-store with their cynical blinkers firmly in place – they will spot a ‘cover up’ a mile off. Also, make actions speak louder than words – consider integrity, transparency and consistency.
- Learn from the connections small businesses make with their consumers/shoppers.
The point is that if 1 in 3 UK shoppers have taken action, this willingness to act is not limited to a small minority, and that is the context in which trust issues need to be viewed. Unless retailers and brands understand the potential impact that trust issues – big or small – can have on shoppers, they run the risk of falling foul of shoppers who are increasingly savvy, thoughtful and willing to act.
Photo credit: JackF (Fotolia)