UK consumers paid close attention to grocery retailers’ efforts to protect staff and shopper health and safety, and initiate charity efforts during the public health crisis. In the days ahead of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, grocery retailers experienced an increased volume of shoppers looking to stock up on essentials. Online, lockdown saw Twitter conversation volumes increase by 12.9% and 113.4% for traditional and online retailers, respectively.
CSR and relief efforts drove consumer praise
Consumer Net Sentiment trended upwards due to Covid-19 volumes, increasing the industry’s Net Sentiment score by 2.4 percentage points. Online retailers benefited the most from positive consumer feedback. Much of this stemmed from retailers’ CSR initiatives and relief efforts.
Comparison of overall Net Sentiment, COVID-19 Net Sentiment, and Net Sentiment excluding conversation about the pandemic.
Commenting on the findings, DataEQ chief executive, Nic Ray said that “Brands cannot afford to ignore what’s being said about them on social media. Around the world, we’ve seen heightened consumer attention on the actions of the brands they buy from and support. With so many ordinary consumers and front line workers making extraordinary sacrifices in this crisis, consumers are looking for brands and their leadership, to do the same. This level of scrutiny may force better conduct from brands but it will require that they listen to consumer feedback.”
Growing consumer concern for staff and customer safety
Employee experience had a direct impact on customer experience satisfaction. Initiatives geared towards employee well-being, such as bonuses, working conditions and access to PPE had a positive impact on consumer sentiment and brand reputation. Charitable causes also drove positive consumer reactions.
Health and hygiene remain crucial points of differentiation
Consumers have become very conscious of personal hygiene and well-being. Retailers need to provide security and comfort in the shopping experience for both customers and employees. These demands impact everything from entering a store, interacting with products, to queuing and paying in-store.
Peter Ballard, co-founder of London-based customer experience firm, Foolproof says retailers must prepare for a post-pandemic future with new consumer expectations around hygiene. “Consumer behaviour has shifted during the pandemic toward experiences that mitigate health risks. We’re likely going to see a great deal of innovation toward touchless technology in the customer journey. For retailers this will require re-design of ATMs and self-service checkouts and other channels that could instead be accessed via mobile phones or voice-activation” said Ballard.
Covid-19 had a minimal impact on retailers’ online response rates
Retailers experienced a momentary decrease in social media response rates close to the lockdown announcement. However, both traditional and online retailers managed to recover and marginally improve response rates. Sainsbury’s and Amazon improved their response times during this period.
Consumers share similar complaints across both traditional and online retailers’ delivery services
Issues such as availability of delivery slots, back-logs and product availability were all common drivers of complaints about traditional and online retailers.
What themes were driving consumer complaints and compliments?
Grocery retailers must pay close attention to customer expectations that developed during the crisis, particularly about in-store hygiene for customers and staff, and optimised home delivery services. Some of these expectations may continue long after the pandemic and the retailers that manage to act upon this feedback and deliver customer-centric experiences stand to differentiate themselves in the market.
Most spoken about topics regarding online and traditional retailers
Twitter was the primary data source used for this analysis. The date range for analysis for the volumetric and responsiveness analysis sections was 1 March – 10 May 2020. For this period 1.1 million mentions were collected, of which 74 743 were about Covid-19. For Sentiment and Topics analysis, the date range was 23 March – 6 May 2020. 6 497 mentions were distributed to DataEQ’s crowd of human verifiers for sentiment analysis. Of these mentions, 2 322 were analysed by DataEQ’s crowd for topic analysis to uncover the conversation themes.