LONDON: Half of consumers tend to remain loyal to brands they like, but the vast majority still spend time researching products to make sure they get the best deal, according to DMA research.

The Customer Engagement 2017, conducted by the DMA and Foresight Factory ahead of an event in London today, found that 55% of consumers agreed that they tend to use the same brands/shops/sites without looking for alternatives.

But at the same time eight in ten (81%) were willing to spend time researching products to get the best deals.

A major issue, however, is that at a time of rapid technological change, nearly half of consumers (46%) said they found it difficult to know which brands or companies to trust.

"To a certain extent, it [trust] can be bought through rewards and cashback," noted Scott Logie, Chair of the DMA Customer Engagement Committee.

But he argued that sustainable loyalty and trust could only be built through brands being more genuine and demonstrating strong values.

They can also make loyalty rewards more relevant – 72% of respondents wanted loyalty offers to relate more closely to what they actually like, up from 62% in the equivalent 2016 study.

That in turn raises questions about personal data: three in ten ranked receiving discounts as "very effective" in encouraging them to share personal information with brands, a description that a quarter (25%) also applied to choosing what data is shared from a menu.

In addition to personalised loyalty programmes, authenticated customer reviews can also help address the trust issue.

Beyond these, the fast-evolving use of artificial intelligence has added another layer of complexity – the DMA's research indicated that four in ten consumers were interested in using a personal virtual assistant that knows their tastes, which they could use to research or buy items on their behalf.

"The introduction of new technology could well become a bridge to help brands increase their emotional connection with consumers in what is becoming a very non-personal world," Logie suggested.

"The appetite from consumers for new ways to engage appears to be increasing, but we'll have to wait and see if this interest transitions into usage in the coming years."

Data sourced from DMA; additional content by WARC staff