The great toilet paper panic proves we're not loyal after all


The toilet paper panic buy of 2020 was a great example where our brand loyalty went out the window. And now researchers have verified what we really think about Australia's trusted brands.

Three separate studies released in September have come to the same conclusion that we're more likely to buy products that best serve our needs rather than stick with popular, well-known, and or trusted brands.

Trust versus distrust

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A March survey of 5000 consumers, conducted by Sydney-based researcher Fifth Dimension Consulting, says Australians continue to buy from brands they actually distrust. This is provided they personally gain from the purchase.

Lyndall Spooner, founder and managing director at Fifth Dimension, says brand trust is actually a poor predictor of consumer behaviour.

"A lot of people have a naturally distrustful attitude that doesn't actually translate into consumer behaviour," says Spooner.

"They say they distrust a brand but when push comes to shove, they will still use it. If you think about it, we all use brands that we distrust."

She cites Facebook as an example. You might not trust it but you still have an account.

Customer experience matters

Between March and May, consulting firm KPMG surveyed 2505 Aussies to find which companies were delivering the best customer experiences during the pandemic. Normally these kinds of lists are dominated by airlines and financial services organisations, but not in 2020.

First Choice Liquor, IKEA and Afterpay topped KPMG's survey and special mentions were given to Red Energy, Rebel and NSW Health for improving their service during the pandemic.

"First Choice Liquor got the basics right ... with customers highlighting product range, availability, value for money and an enjoyable purchase experience led by friendly, cheerful and helpful staff," says KPMG.

"IKEA benefited from the trend of Australians using their time in lockdown to set up home offices, gyms or generally upgrade their immediate environment, meeting the increased demand because customers found the transition to IKEA's website seamless and easy to navigate.

"As digital shopping became the avenue for Australians to interact with brands, survey respondents noted that Afterpay enabled the transition to eCommerce as seamlessly as possible."

Sudeep Gohil, partner at KPMG's customer, brand and marketing advisory unit says the research throws light on the need for organisations to put the customer at the heart of what they do.

Brand confusion

In July, consumer advocate CHOICE completed a two-day supermarket price survey across Aldi, Coles and Woolworths. Monitoring the pack size, price and unit price of 152 products, CHOICE found "national brands" (think brand names) were 20% cheaper at Aldi on average.

But what's more concerning to CHOICE is the difference in pack sizes across the three supermarkets. It feels this is where consumers are let down because they're not made aware of the differences and what it can cost you. It's up to you to look for and know what you're paying per 100 grams or per kilo (i.e. unit price) to find the better deal.

CHOICE says different pack sizes are muddying the waters for shoppers trying to save money on their groceries. And it's questionable whether this pack size practice is truly serving customer's needs or building any further trust in a brand.

Top 10 customer experience brands in Australia

According to KPMG these are the top 10 brands based on customer experience:

  1. First Choice Liquor
  2. IKEA
  3. Afterpay
  4. Boost Juice
  5. Rebel
  6. PayPal
  7. Red Energy
  8. Dan Murphy's
  9. ING
  10. Best&Less

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Darren Snyder was the managing editor of Money magazine from March 2019 to November 2020. Prior to that he was editor of Financial Standard.