3 Weak Links That Can Lead to Brand Switching

The challenge of retaining customers and building brand loyalty is nothing new. What’s new is how the shifts in consumer needs and expectations, based on the events of 2020 that have bled into 2021, are affecting brand perceptions and purchase decisions. These shifts are prompting an increase in brand switching behaviors across many categories, which can ultimately lead to weakening brand loyalty. Before that happens, it’s important to take a close look at the key influencers of your brand loyalty including brand perceptions, preference, trust, and repeat purchase. Marketing research can help you identify the root causes of brand switching behaviors by checking for these three weak links to brand loyalty:

  • Vulnerable Customer Journey Touchpoints
  • Perceptions of Competitive Advantages
  • Brand Messaging Disconnects

Gaining insight into these potential weak links to brand loyalty will help you pinpoint where action is most needed to tip the scales back in your favor.

Today’s Brand Switching Goes Beyond Customer Pain Points

The underlying reasons for brand switching decisions typically come from a customer’s experience such as an unaddressed pain point, poor service, cost and value for the money, among other factors. However, in today’s environment, many of the reasons leading to shifting purchase behaviors were prompted by the events of 2020, not necessarily as a result of poor customer experiences. Of course, this gives marketers small comfort.

“We’re finding in our consumer research that 75% of consumers report changing either a brand, a retailer they shop, or a place they start their journey. The amount of human routine and behavioral change that’s happened in the last 90 days is just unprecedented.”

(McKinsey & Co., 11.4.20)

“According to a Ketchum July 2020 report, 45% of shoppers have altered their brand preference amid the rapid changes in the world and 62% expect that their brand preferences will change permanently before the pandemic is over.”

(Fortune, 10.21.20)

The good news is that once you gain a deeper understanding of the ways your customer needs have changed, you’ll have a better handle on where to focus efforts to strengthen retention while also driving new customer acquisition. A good way to start is by taking a close look at three potential weak links to your brand loyalty: vulnerable customer journey touchpoints, perceptions of competitive advantages, and brand messaging disconnects.

Weak Link #1: Vulnerable Customer Journey Touchpoints

The circumstances, experiences, and emotions that impact changing needs can be identified along the customer journey. It’s critical to pinpoint the specific touchpoints where shifts in customer attitudes, beliefs, and brand perceptions have taken place. Zero in on the key moments where customers may be turning away from your brand. Then you’ll have a greater understanding of the activities and experiences that may be negatively influencing how customers are thinking and feeling about your brand.

Weak Link #2: Perceptions of Competitive Advantages

An essential step in turning around brand switching behaviors is learning which competitors your customers are most likely switching to and what factors are tipping purchase decisions in their favor. Conducting win/loss research will shed light on these questions and more. It can help you identify which types of customers are most likely to switch brands. Plus, you’ll be able to see at what point in the customer journey your brand is most vulnerable to a competitor’s brand proposition. You can also learn valuable information about where your brand strengths lie and uncover opportunities to leverage them further.

Weak Link #3: Brand Messaging Disconnects

The third piece of the puzzle is to evaluate your advertising and communication effectiveness. Given potential shifts in brand perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs, you may find that your brand messaging is not connecting as closely with your audience as it has before. If that’s the case, you’ll gain a richer understanding of what types of messages will resonate more deeply with your customers’ wants, needs, and beliefs. Let those insights guide refinements to your brand positioning and communications, where needed, to ensure your brand is coming across as being relevant, meaningful, compelling, and differentiating.

Take Action and Track Results

Identifying the likely root causes of brand switching behaviors can help you decide which actions will have the greatest impact on driving consideration, purchase, and retention. Here are just a few:

  • Remove friction from customer touchpoints to enhance CX, particularly with digital transactions
  • Identify ways to improve product and service offerings or jumpstart new product development
  • Refine communications and key messaging to resonate more closely with your audience
  • Monitor advertising effectiveness to drive positive brand perceptions, preference, and trust

What Lies Ahead

There’s no doubt that the events of 2020 and 2021 prompted dramatic changes in our society, economy, and consumer behavior. What first seemed like a temporary shift has given way to a new direction forward. Now’s the time to take stock and re-examine the changing dynamics of brand choice, preference, and loyalty to confidently steer your brand towards future success. Marketing research insights can help you determine the right strategies, which steps to take, and where to focus your efforts to strengthen brand loyalty. It’s true that no company could have predicted the paradigm shift we’re all experiencing. However, where your brand goes from here is now squarely between you and your customers to determine.


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