In times as difficult and unprecedented as these, it’s comforting to stick to things you know and understand.

New survey results from Toluna and Harris Interactive reveal consumers are trying to stay loyal to their favorite brands, but it may not always be possible given product shortages.

When consumers’ usual brand is out of stock, and they have to choose an alternative, survey respondents were fairly evenly split on whether the specific brand was critical, with 56 percent feeling it was and 44 percent noting it was not. 

The survey, conducted between April 9-14 with 1,047 U.S. consumers, also revealed they’re willing to buy a different brand but not a different product in specific instances, particularly when it comes to personal toiletries, paper and canned goods.

Nearly half (49 percent) will not buy a different product when it comes to personal toiletries such as deodorant, toothpaste and shampoo, but they will invest in a different brand. Meanwhile, 47 percent of respondents will purchase a different brand of paper products but not a different product. Just over 40 percent of people are willing to buy a different brand of canned goods, such as peas, but are not willing to switch to a different product such as spinach.

When asked about how lockdown measures have affected their usual shopping habits, 60 percent of respondents have either gone without products or services or paid more (47 percent) for something than they usually would. Consumers ages 18-24 years old are more adventurous than older Americans when it comes to trying new products as a result of not being able to access a product or service.  

Though reports have indicated online shopping is increasing, most consumers (70 percent) are braving the current environment to purchase groceries in store. Even with government orders to limit trips to essential businesses, it appears consumers still want to pick out their own tomatoes and choose their own loaves of bread.

Visiting stores in person may also give consumers a chance to see other people face-to-face, which can be critical for those who are self-isolating alone and have diminished social interaction.

“Despite the social distancing and government warnings to stay home, Americans are still shopping for their groceries in store, and if they can’t easily find what they need, they are willing to pay more,” said Lucia Juliano, head of CPG and retail research at Harris Interactive and Toluna. “The survey also reveals that paper and cleaning products continue to top America’s shopping lists which could explain why many stores and online retailers are experiencing shortages in these respective areas.”

And while consumers’ may be focused on essential items — such as frozen foods (65 percent), cleaning products (56 percent) and toilet paper (53 percent) — in-store trips offer more opportunities for impulse purchases, particularly in confectionery. I’m certainly more inclined to throw a candy bar onto the belt if I’m feeling stressed or anxious, and I imagine other consumers are, too.

The next couple months will be difficult to navigate, and the pandemic will likely leave lasting changes on retail as a whole, but in the meantime, retailers, manufacturers and brand owners are making laudable efforts to help us get through it.

“It’s very clear that consumers recognize retailers, service providers and brands are doing a phenomenal job working to get the public what they need and are communicating to their shoppers regularly and appropriately,” Juliano said.