customer loyalty

Customer Loyalty: Is It Dead or Just Different?

We live in a world where anything can be bought with the click of a button. With online shopping taking over from traditional retail, many marketers are wondering if there is any point in investing in a brand’s identity anymore. 

After all, a customer might be more inclined to buy what’s trending on social media than buy from experience. So, is customer loyalty dead? Or, could there be an opportunity for you to stake your claim in your respective industry right now? 

This article will explore how brands can help build and keep a loyal base of customers. You’ll also learn essential advice on handling today’s important issues, including cybersecurity, consumer trust, and avoiding PR nightmares.

Has customer loyalty died?

Unfortunately, growing research has shown that brand loyalty is steeply declining. Statistics from Sitecore have shown that 80% of the Gen Z population are willing to try new brands online. 38% said they’d offer a brand just one-second chance before moving on, while 83% want online shopping to feel like an experience.

These kinds of findings can be devastating for brands. Not only are you expected to provide better and better experiences, but you’re less likely to keep those customers for very long. Markets at most risk of decreasing brand loyalty include clothing and fashion, food, beauty and skincare, alcoholic drinks, food delivery, and furniture. 

While many brands are trying to navigate this uncertain time, it can be an opportunity for some to capitalize on changing consumer habits and poach customers from their competition. If they know what to do, that is.

Four ways a brand can build loyal customers

There are many ways that a business can help expand its reach and create loyal, repeat customers. Below are four simple but effective methods you can try, regardless of your niche or size:

1. Ensure supply & superior customer service

Choice is a powerful thing in business. But sometimes, businesses make the decision easy for customers by running out of a high-demand item or being unable to perform a service.

By not fulfilling a promise, you’re damaging your reputation and will appear unreliable. Customers will not think twice about going to a competitor if this happens.

Part of building brand loyalty is centering yourself as a dependable business. Whatever your niche, focus on ensuring all suppliers, production, transport, and other stakeholders are in place and working efficiently. This will ensure that when customers need you, you’re in a position to help.

That said, if there is a period where your service is offline, a product has to be recalled, or something else that impacts your brand, providing a high standard of customer support can help mitigate long-lasting damage and protect a brand’s image.

2. Offer exclusive and personalized experiences

To stand out from competitors, you must offer something unique to customers. Nowadays, they expect personalized experiences from shopping and to get a reward for sticking by you.

Simple, cost-effective ways of creating a unique experience for shoppers include:

  • Loyalty programs that incentive building points with repeat purchases
  • Offering exclusive first-purchase options on popular items
  • Provide discount codes & free samples periodically
  • Personalized emails with relevant shopping items tailored to each customer.

While many businesses might think personalized experiences can be expensive, they are a major deciding factor for consumers buying from shops. A report from Salesforce found that 56% of consumers said they were more inclined to buy from a brand with a loyalty program.

The report said that the better the program, the better the customer satisfaction. Additionally, personalized rewards, simple terms and conditions, and ease of tracking are crucial to making a great loyalty program pay off.

3. Protect customer data and offer assurances

Consumer data is an integral part of planning for the future. It lets you know what’s working well with your brand, what could need improvement, and, most importantly, what your brand is missing.

But to get this critical data, you must ensure total privacy and customer protection. They will not want to divulge their data to you if they fear the risk of the information being breached. So, how exactly can you protect their information? 

One easy, effective way is using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is a helpful cybersecurity tool that encrypts your internet connection. When working on sensitive information like customer data, a VPN prevents hackers from intercepting this data, thus preventing a costly data breach.

Because they can hide your IP address and offer total anonymity, many businesses might wonder, “Are VPNs legal?”. The good news is that in most countries, VPNs are legal to use (and often encouraged!) because of their enormous cybersecurity benefits.

Avoiding a PR crisis on world issues

From climate change to the war in Ukraine, world events have significantly impacted how brands operate and how consumers perceive their actions.

In their report ‘The New Cascade of Influence 2022’, Edelman found that customers have been heavily influenced by a brand’s choices when it comes to world events, including the global pandemic (48%), climate change (32%), and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (29%).

Take the War in Ukraine as a core example—brands such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola all took firm stances against Russia, suspending their operations there. On the other hand, ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s earned widespread criticism over their alleged ‘pro-Putin’ stance.

Brands must become socially sensitive to issues and withhold talking about themselves for the period, instead being empathetic and helping tackle rising issues. This will require everyone across the business, including marketing and social media teams, to undergo relevant training and reevaluate their plans cohesively.

To help this, brands should develop a ‘crisis response plan’ that is reactive to world events. This plan can help you adjust your tone and messaging and also help demonstrate your values. Customers can then feel empowered when making a purchasing decision around your brand.

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