Re-defining loyalty in the world remade by COVID-19

Guest Column: Ashvin Vellody, Partner, Deloitte India & Jay Bhuva, Director, Deloitte India, say brands need to rewrite the definition of loyalty by putting the customer’s interest first

e4m by Ashvin Vellody & Jay Bhuva
Updated: Jul 9, 2020 5:15 PM
Ashvin Vellody & Jay Bhuva

As the world joins forces to contain the current Covid-19 situation, brands are generally seen to be concerned with customer optimism. The dual-front crisis of personal safety and financial well-being is making us all live in collectively anxious moments. What once were deemed ‘basic’ human needs, overnight appear to have changed into ‘priority’ human needs – safety started to matter more than convenience, availability more than cost and needs more than wants.  In this scenario, it is natural for a change in expectation of loyalty. It has now acquired an even more precious currency during these times and marketers and brands are trying to figure out how best to deal with loyalty in the Covid-19 era. As an example, the fundamental aspects of shopping have changed – and as a result, the key elements of customer loyalty - trust and confidence, are being put to the test.

In many ways, Covid-19 has pressed a reset button on consumer loyalty, allowing a window for new and nimble players to make disproportionate shifts while the established players are putting together the renewed recovery strategies and measures in place. The Deloitte Global State of Consumer Tracker* indicates that 64% of Indian consumers are likely to buy from brands that have responded well to crisis1. The Indian shopper is more likely to be loyal to demand fulfilment and authenticity of brands than being brand loyal during these times.

For brands to instill confidence and deeper relationships with their customers, a five point T.R.U.S.T. strategy needs to be considered:

Talk About Values And Purpose

More than ever before, consumers are seen paying attention to what, how and why brands do what they do. Unlike pre Covid-19 era, consumers are seen taking keen interest in knowing more about the value system and purpose of brands. While this might be a way for them to feel confident and safe about what they are consuming – it is a great opportunity and responsibility for brands to communicate about who they are and what they stand for. For example, if cleanliness and hygiene is what a restaurant lives by – now is the time to say it out loud and demonstrate how it is done even for delivery and take away orders. The key is to be consistent and brief, but not overdo!

Realign Ways Of Working

As regulatory guidelines direct specific business operations, it is important to let customers know about the new ways to interact and shop. Being transparent with customers and employees about some of the decisions being made (difficult, or otherwise) and putting in place new operating procedures tailored for virtual working are likely to go a long way. As Peter Drucker wrote in one of his books - “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. Businesses need to employ new logic both internally and externally to emerge stronger out of the current situation.

Upgrade To Digital

As many as 51% Indian respondents to The Deloitte Global State of Consumer Tracker feel the trend of online buying and picking up in-store to be a safer option. Brands need to consider rapidly setting up direct to consumer engagement channels and bolster the platform with advanced demand forecasting and responsive supply chain capabilities. Enabling front-line teams with decision support systems and scenario planning tools to be on top of inventory, orders and fulfillment are likely to become fundamental to running business effectively. For example, one of the leading consumer electronics brands witnessed superior results in demand generation and order fulfillment on the back of a scaled omni-channel platform. A media and entertainment giant fast-tracked plans to revamp their OTT streaming services with personalized content recommendation to reach more consumers outside their traditional linear business.

Serve More Than Selling

It is okay to take a short-term hit to the bottom line, putting flexible refund, pricing, and change policies in place, and finding other ways to help customers through this crisis. By focussing on providing the best human experience, and staying true to it, brands are expected to be in a stronger position to build a loyal customer base. The flexibility and goodwill shown in these trying times is likely to be beneficial in the long-term health of businesses. If the financial health of the business doesn’t allow serving all customers with flexibility, prioritizing loyal customers and trying to ensure that they get the same services which they have received while patronizing the brands over the years is very important.

Transform Offerings, Embrace Digital

There could not have been a better time to innovate and experiment with products and services mix. Use of technology to position products / services, allow customization, enable frictionless payment and order fulfilment could be a game changer. Touch-less experiences enabled through thoughtful use of digital technologies such as AR (Augment Reality) can provide much needed alternative to items that otherwise need involved selling. Launching new products / services and digitizing existing ones along with right marketing strategy can help accelerate revenue generation and help manage cash flows.

While this is turning out to be the new normal, the fact is that anxiety is high and people are generally seen to be scared. This global crisis is truly about the moments that matter to a customer.

It is time for brands to now re-write the definition of loyalty by putting the customer’s interest first that can be established with a thoughtful T.R.U.S.T strategy.

Brands that earn their loyalty are likely to pivot and rise, while the ones who don’t step up could perish!

  • Wave3 is the time-period of bi-weekly survey during 16th May 2020 from Global Consumer tracker survey insights.

    Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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