Merkle’s Loyalty Strategy Director, Grace Sinclair, explains in four steps how data, authenticity and value-based interactions can keep brands’ customers loyal for generations to come.
Brand loyalty is driven by customer experience: research suggests a third of people will walk away from a brand they love after having just one bad experience. In the same way humans feel a sense of loyalty towards each other based on a bond built over time through shared experiences, mutual trust, and a sense of belonging, the same is true for brands and their customers.
Driven by emotion as much as logic, in the age of disloyalty we now find ourselves in, brands are having to fight even harder to keep customers loyal.
For brands looking to foster next generation loyalty, tapping into the emotions that bond their customers together through value-based interactions – such as authenticity, brand values, and creativity – is key. Progressive brands will increasingly look to blend mechanisms to achieve loyalty through deepening affinity between customer and organisation.
The winners will be those brands that can keep up with ever-changing customer needs in the competitive and fast-changing world we now operate in.
1. How to foster loyalty in your marketing
Brand success now relies on capturing the emotion of its target audience, which doesn’t come easy. You need to lean on data to not only make your communications personalised, but actually truly personal and meaningful to those receiving it.
This is where businesses with a holistic (vs. siloed) approach to data will win. The customer’s name and contact details aren’t the only data important to communication. To provide a seamless and engaging experience you also need to consider previous purchase history, individual context and where they may interact with your brand.
Once you’ve established this foundation of customer understanding you then need to consider how best to capture their attention and stand out from your competitors. Leveraging creativity in your campaigns is the best way to do this – appealing to their individual context, their sense of humour, what makes them feel nostalgic, and which stories they will enjoy. Relevant and personal advertising and marketing materials help to build a strong, consistent, and ubiquitous brand identity which customers can count on. Brands should see every interaction with a customer as an opportunity to build lasting loyalty.
2. Giving back
In an expectation economy, your business is likely to have to go above and beyond just a good marketing experience. Millennial and Gen Z’s preference for purchasing sustainable products from ethical companies is driving many businesses to rethink how they operate – increasingly your bottom line will become more and more emotion-centric.
It’s no longer simply enough to outline a brand’s stance on social values and then ’give back’. Sustainability, ethics, and standards must be interlaced into every aspect of how the brand conducts a relationship between themselves and customers in a way that the business authentically stands by.
3. Authenticity is key
No-one likes phoniness or faux-genuine sentiments. Just as being your authentic self gets you further in gaining someone’s trust, authenticity is key to securing customer loyalty because it helps to establish trust and credibility with customers. When customers have positive experiences with a brand that appears genuine – through showing action on social, community or sustainable affairs – emotional connections are more easily established.
Going a step further, having tailored and personal communications based on a brand’s values pertaining to sustainability, social and community affairs, or diversity and inclusion, can help tap into the personal values of the customer, creating a greater affinity enhancing trust and loyalty.
Our research shows that 64% of consumers believe it’s important to purchase from brands that inspire social responsibility and charitable giving, with 71% believing that a disconnect between a brands’ values and personal values is likely to be a barrier to them purchasing.
Consistency is also important at an individual level, so customers feel they are at the receiving end of a unique and authentic interaction with a company. Creating this emotional connection between the customer, truly understanding their personal values, needs, likes and dislikes, can help brands access next generation loyalty.
4. Value-based interactions drive lasting loyalty
Loyalty must be at the heart of every silo in the business that then filters down to every brand interaction with customers.
In an era of ever-increasing customer expectations, coupled with the troubling economic landscape, loyalty strategies must draw on a deep understanding of brands’ customers. By leveraging data and using creative communication that is not only customer-driven – but also socially and culturally – across every touchpoint, brands can foster lasting emotional connections which can turn into life-time loyalty.
By Grace Sinclair
Loyalty Strategy Director