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Supply chain issues leaving customers frustrated, with brand loyalty at risk

According to new research by the consumer intelligence platform Toluna, supply chain disruptions continue to impact Australians, affecting their mood and shopping behaviour.

The research, which surveyed 1031 Australians between 4-9 February 2022, found that many shoppers are happy to switch brands if their preferred brand isn't available, leaving long-term brand loyalty in question.

Toluna says 73% of those surveyed have recently experienced product shortages because of ongoing supply chain issues. And in stores, shoppers continue to experience empty shelves (88%) and buying limits (66%), while online shoppers experience delivery delays (50%) and brand unavailability (51%).

Grocery stores appear to be the most affected, with 85% of respondents citing availability issues. However, shoppers have reported product shortages in clothing and footwear retailers (19%), homewares (16%), and electrical stores (14%).

Two-thirds of respondents (64%) say fresh meat is the most challenging item to source, with pantry products (44%), fresh fruit and vegetables (40%), and household cleaning products (33%) also difficult to find.

Almost half (47%) of respondents say they are willing to go back to in-store shopping because products are temporarily unavailable online.

Brand loyalty and changing behaviours 

When their preferred brand is unavailable, most people say they are willing to substitute for a new brand, which may pose an issue for long-term brand loyalty. Across the various categories, shoppers were happiest to switch to a different brand of chilled dairy (54%), household cleaning products (49%), or alcohol (44%) when their preferred brand was unavailable. However, Aussies are more likely to shop around in search of their favourite fresh meat (40%), pet food (40%), or baby products (35%).

As well as switching brands, half (50%) of respondents are also now shopping in other locations, such as local butchers or farmers' markets less impacted by supply chain issues. While just under half (43%) buy extra once products they need are back in stock, one in five (20%) are stockpiling products such as canned goods, paracetamol, and toilet paper to boost supplies.

Stressed out and in prep mode 

More than just an inconvenience, Toluna says supply chain issues affect shoppers' moods. Two-thirds (67%) of Aussie shoppers feel disappointed and frustrated when they see empty shelves and missing products, while for some, it can make them feel stressed (35%), anxious (36%), or even angry (27%).

Shoppers are also preparing themselves in case they get sick and need to isolate themselves. One in three (30%) have created a COVID-19 kit, while one in four (26%) ensure they have enough pre-prepared food in the fridge, so they don't need to cook if they feel unwell. A quarter (27%) of respondents also ensure they have a supply of rapid antigen tests (RAT) available on hand.

"The ongoing issues with product unavailability impact shopping behaviour," says Toluna, ANZ country director, Sej Patel.

"Australian shoppers are frustrated by the continued supply chain issues and are changing their behaviour as a result. Our research shows that people are brand switching more than ever and shopping around to find the items they need. For brands and retailers, this may have serious implications for brand loyalty."

He says while some shoppers will happily revert to their favourite brands when they return to the shelves, other shoppers will just as happily stick with substitutes. "Even once the supply chain issues are resolved, the next six to twelve months will be a challenging time in retail as brands fight to retain new customers while trying to win back old ones."

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