Does loyalty still exist? Is the loyal shopper still a thing?

Certainly, the loyal shopper is not a myth. Loyal shoppers exist, but is brand loyalty more or less common now than it used to be? That’s what we’ll discuss in this article.

Article sections

What is a loyal shopper?
When loyal shoppers start shopping around
What goes into buying decisions?
How behaviors change
The difference in loyalty by generation
How can brands connect with that loyal shopper?

What is a loyal shopper?

A loyal shopper is a consumer that sticks with a brand for one reason or another. That could include:

Loyal shoppers still exist, but we also see consumers looking around more.

Toronto-based loyalty and research professional Greg Ambrose said that there are also different levels of loyalty:

  • The relationship might be mostly transactional because of a level of convenience. For example, when a specific product is just fine and is the only one available in the immediate vicinity of the consumer
  • The relationship is deeper and the consumer has a real emotional connection to the brand.

“You really want to understand the customers you have and even the customers you don’t have,” he said. “Why are they engaging with you? How is their frequency changing? What are their motivations, needs, states and attitudes?”

When consumers start shopping around

Loyal shoppers and consumers, in general, may start exploring other brands for several reasons. And that can happen more quickly and commonly with emerging brands entering the market, disrupting events like the pandemic and other trends influencing industries.

“Shopper promiscuity is the willingness by shoppers to explore, experiment, and try new things,” said Rebecca Brooks, co-author of “Influencing Shopper Decisions – Unleash the Power of Your Brand to Win Customers.” “It’s leading to a different way that consumers are evaluating brands and even where brand comes into play for them during the shopping decision.”

Greg adds that it’s also never been easier for consumers to move to a different brand. Want to switch from one streaming service to another? That’s possible after any month, for example. Good customer experience wins here, Greg said. The companies that add restrictions on top of restrictions for the customer that wants to switch might see short-term success, but it’s not a long-term strategy to keep customers, he said.

"The brands that succeed are the ones that double down on that customer experience. "

What goes into buying decisions by consumers?

The customer journey map can be complicated, and sometimes it’s not even about the product itself, said Sherwette Mansour, author of “Why no one is buying your product.”

“It could just be that their messaging is not right,” she said on the market research podcast “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “It could be that there’s just a small tweak in the experience that people may not even know about them.”

"There are so many factors that get people to buy or not buy the product."

Customers’ pain points, their Jobs to be Done, and it’s necessary to understand what impacts their buying decisions, Sherwette explained.

Look at the trigger that would encourage people to buy. For example, Sherwette mentioned the goal of relaxing. Well, there are a ton of products of different types that can help with that.

A larger volume of products than in the past can make the buying decision harder and contribute to the loyal shopper’s demise.


“In order to get anyone to do anything, it all comes down to two things,” Sherwette said.

Those two things are:


How motivated are people to do a specific task? Are they motivated at all to make their buying decision in your company’s favor?

“You either want to avoid pain or seek pleasure,” Sherwette said. “Or you want to melt in with others from a social perspective.”

And not all problems carry the same priority, said Jenn Mancusi, host of “Reel Talk” and chief revenue officer at Voxpopme.

“You might be trying to solve ten different problems at any given time,” she said.

Ease to take action

The second part of moving forward with a buying decision is how easy it is to take action. For example, let’s say you want to take a medication class but have to fight through traffic for an hour. That’s not an easy purchase.

“No way would I go there,” Sherwette said.

Read next: Interviewing an AI human: Does AI in research have a place?

How behaviors change

Consumer behaviors change, and we sometimes need research, so people believe the change is imminent or already happening. Even Google conducted research in 2011 to prove that people used search engines to make shopping decisions. That research was then released in the Zero Moment of Truth publication.

“This was around the idea that people have a path to purchase and where does search come in in that path?” Rebecca said on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “And what we saw was that there was no path. Everybody took very different steps in very different orders. It was a much more complex story than marketers were hoping for.”

While Rebecca and her team were looking at that path, they also noticed an increase in consumers willing to try different products.

“There were a lot of reasons for this,” she said, breaking it down into these areas:


Innovation is training shoppers to go into a category and expecting there to be something new. - Rebecca Brooks

Many markets and companies have stepped up innovation over recent years. Consumers assume that the next time they buy a new item – say a toaster oven – it will be better than the version they bought 10 years ago.

“Consumers will assume that there have been significant updates in toaster oven technology,” Rebecca said. “So people go out and see what’s new rather than going out and buying the same brand from before.”

And the concept of innovation has spread across many product verticals – from toaster ovens to foods to most everything people can buy.

Read next: Do this to be innovative in business

“Even something simple requires a shopper to look,” Rebecca said. “Brands have gotten much better at innovating and iterating.”


The channels of how consumers can interact with brands and buy their products have also exploded. From online grocery shopping to drone delivery to better in-store experiences.

“How consumers come across brands in their shopping process is quite different,” Rebecca said, adding it’s not always consistent even for a specific person.

Some shop on social media for some products but shop elsewhere for other products, for example.

The need to be informed

Rebecca said her research found that three-fourths of consumers want to be as informed as possible before making a decision. That means they research, check out brands and see what others say about the product.

“What all this chaos has done is create an anxiety-ridden shopper who wants to make sure they are making the best choice,” Rebecca said. “In the past, you’d go to Sears and get a Black + Decker because that was the best product on the market. That was the one everyone went to. But now there are so many challengers and so many options that I might wonder, ‘is that the right one?'”

"It's turning us into these information-hungry shoppers to combat the chaos that's happening in the market place." Rebecca Brooks

The difference in loyalty by generation

Rebecca said there’s a big difference between the generations born pre-online shopping and post-online shopping.

“For those growing up post-online shopping – the Gen Zs – their brand loyalty is incredibly low in comparison to Boomers and Gen Xers,” Rebecca said. “Millennials have adapted to this new way of shopping but are still carrying some old traditions and patterns.”

The way generations after Gen Z will think about brand loyalty is going to look very different from older generations, Rebecca said.

How can brands connect with that loyal shopper?

It certainly does start with understanding the market, the target consumer, and how the company’s product can stand out in the vertical.

“Brands have to do very specific research to their category and their consumer to understand how they are thinking,” Rebecca said.

Read next: 7 steps to conduct research successfully

Rebecca calls the phenomenon shopper promiscuity – the act of being open to using other brands and following through with that purchase. But the more brands can truly understand their target consumers, the more likely they are to build that ongoing relationship with loyal shoppers.

Also, understand how loyalty looks in your specific vertical. For example, soda drinkers as a whole are very loyal to specific brands. But certain other verticals have a loyalty rate of under 20 percent. Understanding the industry average can help us understand what is or isn’t a good goal.

“And then where does your brand sit – are people over-indexing or under-indexing when it comes to promiscuity?” Rebecca said.

Build a community around a product consumers love

Jason Alleger, former consumer insights and strategy at Traeger, said on “Reel Talk” that the company has been successful by building an authentic community around a product that he says the average owner uses 50 times a year.

“Traeger is a lifestyle brand,” he said. “I get to meet people who named their baby after Traeger; get sent pictures of people’s Traeger tattoos; I get sent obituaries where their Traeger is mentioned; get sent wedding invitations, and people say ‘we couldn’t imagine spending the day without you guys.'”

“I’m leading insights for this brand that is such a part of people’s lives that people are naming their children after us,” Jason said.

Jason said the brand had earned that place in people’s lives through product innovation, integration into people’s lives, and fostering community.

“People are sharing recipes and are trying to become better cooks,” he said. “By us fostering that community, it drives that brand.”

Understand why people purchase

Consider research including the people who have recently purchased or even returned for another purchase. Ask them about their need, she said, as opposed to questions focused on the brand.

"Walk us through what they did and why they did it." Rebecca Brooks

Certainly, it can be harder to keep shoppers loyal to our products than in the past, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try understanding them and working on building that ongoing relationship.

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