Most Purchases Are Made While Shopping Around, Not From Loyalty

March 10, 2017

Do consumers tend to make the same brand choices time after time, or do mostly shop around with successive purchases? Recent research from McKinsey comes to a troubling conclusion: few purchases are loyalty-driven, and the myriad new ways for consumers to judge brands and comparison shop doesn’t seem poised to change that.

To arrive at this conclusion, McKinsey dug into its CDJ database, which it says covers more than 125,000 consumers shopping for more than 350 brands.

After analyzing the data, it found that of 30 categories, just 3 were primarily loyalty-driven. Mobile carriers, as it emerges, stand to benefit most from brand loyalty: 81% of purchases in this category were driven by brand loyalty as opposed to shopping around.

Not far behind, about three-quarters (76%) of purchases in the auto insurance category are loyalty-driven, per the report. That’s corroborated by recent research indicating that few auto insurance customers actively seek out better deals when their policy is up for renewal.

Finally, the only other category of the 30 analyzed that was found to be loyalty driven was investments (69%).

Once you have a plan, you stick to it, it seems…

By contrast, most categories are skewed just as heavily – if not more – towards shopping than loyalty. The most competitive categories of all are shoe retail and cosmetics, with 97% and 96% of purchases, respectively, the result of shopping around.

The vast majority of consumer electronics purchases also appear to be from shopping around rather than sticking with the same brand choices: personal computers (91%), laptops (88%) and tablets (82%) each skewed heavily towards shopping around.

Loyalty is “Ephemeral”

The researchers delved further into the data to further analyze buying behavior, this time looking specifically at the 27 categories in which more purchases were the result of shopping around than loyalty.

Across these categories, an average of 87% of consumers shopped around, while 13% could be considered loyalists. Among those who shopped around, only one-third (33%) ended up remaining with the incumbent brand, while the remaining two-thirds were “tempted” away to another brand.

Overall, consumers’ purchase behavior across those 27 shopping-driven categories broke down as follows:

  • 13% – loyalists, who didn’t shop around;
  • 29% – shopped around, but ultimately stuck with the incumbent brand; and
  • 58% – switched to a different brand.

Finally, there’s an important note to the data: it’s extremely important for brands to be top-of-mind. The analysts discovered that brands in the “initial consideration set” were twice as likely to be ultimately purchased as those brands that were considered later in the purchase journey. Overall, almost 7 in 10 brands purchased by those who switched were part of those consumers’ initial consideration set.

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