Most consumers are trying new brands during social distancing, study finds

And many plan on continuing to buy from the brands they've recently discovered.

While being stuck inside with nowhere to go, the majority of consumers have decided to try some new brands, according to a new online study.

More than half of the people surveyed said they’ve tried bought products they’ve never tried before from categories including baby, food and beverage, health and wellness, household, personal care and beauty and/or pet in the past month. 

The COVID-19 Brand Sentiment Navigator from Social Media Link gathered insights from 5,400 U.S. consumers within its peer-to-peer influencer community, Smiley360, from April 10 to April 24. Last month, the agency surveyed its community to find brand sentiment differences across different generations during the pandemic.

Gen Z has been trying the most new products, while almost one in five Millennials surveyed said they’ve tried new baby brands in the past month. 

According to the research, brands have an opportunity to make lasting impressions, with 48 percent of consumers saying they’d definitely continue to use the new brands they’ve discovered. Gen Z and Millennials are more open to switching to the new brands than other generations, at 55 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

 "This is a formative time for consumers and brands alike. Brand affiliations and buying habits that were otherwise hardened, sometimes over decades, are being reshaped in-store and online," said Susan Frech, CEO and co-founder of Social Media Link. "Marketers who jump at this opportunity to acquire new customers and invest in a brand infrastructure focused on loyalty and connection could find themselves in an advantageous position in the future." 

The study also found that brand values and availability are key in creating lasting consumer relationships. Consumers surveyed said they would most like to see good value from brands (79 percent), followed by quality (71 percent), safety for customers and employees (58 percent), ready availability (58 percent) and giving back to the community (47 percent).

Participants also said they prefer brands to communicate with them via social media, at 56 percent, with email coming in close second at 55 percent, followed by brand websites at 52 percent. Millennials are most likely to look for communication from online communities (31 percent), while Gen X and Boomers prefer TV commercials (48 percent). 

"As the weeks roll on, it’s becoming more clear that new habits are taking shape, but more importantly, new expectations are being set. Consumers are paying attention to how brands conduct themselves," said Frech. "This includes not just messaging tone, but also the actions that are taken and the values that are demonstrated." 

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