Brand Loyalty is King – But Can You Command It?
The Internet, and social media in particular, have drastically changed how consumer develop their loyalty, or lack thereof, to brands. Before technology took over our lives, a potential customer’s only real brand engagement happened within the pages of a magazine or during a TV commercial.
And while those still exist, the terms of engagement have been rewritten by the likes of Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Not only are consumers talking directly to brands online, they are having conversations amongst themselves via user-generated posts and videos that the whole world can see and contribute to.
This new dynamic means brands have to work a whole lot harder to cultivate a relationship with customers to earn loyalty. When this challenge is viewed all at once, it can seem extremely daunting. So, we’re going to break it down into three simple steps to help you navigate today’s winding road to brand loyalty.
It’s all about the experience, so sell it!
Before social media, it made sense to focus on strategies that resulted in direct sales, since the job of advertising was to get customers into stores. Today, how people feel about a brand and what it stands for play a huge role in whether they will even consider a brand. Shopping has become much more of an emotional decision, especially when most every product has a multitude of competitive options.
Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman backs this up as he found 95% of buying decisions are purely subconscious. In other words, people often choose products based on how it makes them feel.
So, while you may have an exceptional product, you need to start by selling the experience. What does your brand stand for? How do you value your customers? What makes you better than the competition?
Start by addressing these questions through your website and social media. Also track key metrics to see what your customers are saying about your brand online and you’ll have a great starting point to begin crafting an experience that speaks to your target demographic.
Make your brand story consistent
Once you’ve nailed down a brand identity and philosophy, share it and share it consistently. When you earn a customer’s trust, you want to maintain that relationship by staying true to your values and story.
Let’s take a look at L.L. Bean’s Instagram. Here’s a brand that celebrates the outdoor lifestyle, while guaranteeing customer satisfaction, and it’s reflected in its posts. L.L. Bean goes to great lengths to showcase regular customers using its products and aligns itself with passionate professionals such as local fishing guides – who of course also use its products (what an endorsement!).
L.L. Bean shows it cares about customers, while backing it all up with one of the best satisfaction guarantees in the business. This has resulted in loyal consumers that feel good about supporting the brand and its success speaks for itself. L.L. Bean entered Canada in 2019, doubled its customer base in 2020 alone and opened four new stores in 2021.
Pivot and adapt
What works today might not work tomorrow. Trends change fast online, but if you pay attention, you’ll usually see it coming. Being ready to pivot with change is critical. Take buy now, pay later (BNPL) for example. This alternative form of consumer financing is so new, Amazon only added BNPL as a payment option in late 2021.
Fact is, many businesses offered BNPL long before Amazon because they noticed that Millennials and Gen Zs were weary of applying for credit cards and carrying debt. As a result, their spending was limited by the funds available on their debit cards. BNPL appealed to younger consumers because it increased their buying power by spreading purchases into four equal payments without the fear accumulating debt and interest. And the businesses that adapted grew sales by offering a solution these anti-credit card consumers were looking for.
By paying attention to what customers are saying online, tracking what motivates purchases (be it sales or social media posts) and constantly reviewing your relationship with customers, you’ll be able to adjust on the fly and adapt your strategy to today’s everchanging speed of business.