At this point, we’re well entrenched in a customer-first landscape — and that customer is always on and has a heightened sensitivity to every touchpoint and every brand experience that comes his or her way. For today’s consumers, the last millisecond is a very real, very compelling force — if they don’t get what they want or need from a brand or experience, they’ll immediately move on to something else. And, most likely, they won’t be back anytime soon.
Given these shifts, all eyes have — understandably — turned to customer loyalty and what it means in this fierce new landscape. If consumers are so sensitive, so on, so in control, and so deeply invested in the notion of the last millisecond — is customer loyalty even possible? And, if it is, how do brands and marketers connect and engage with today’s consumer — a consumer who seems anything but loyal?
Can Today’s Consumers Be Loyal?
The short answer is yes. Yes, customer loyalty is possible — even deep, long-term advocacy is possible. Marketers who approach their audiences strategically are the ones who will be most successful in this arena. And those strategic approaches need to be anchored both by the acknowledgement that customers are in control, and from there, the creation of meaningful connections with those customers.
How Do You Build Customer Loyalty?
So, what specifically does a customer-loyalty strategy look like today? Ultimately, it boils down to three things:
1. Understanding and Treating Each Customer as an Individual
It’s essential that marketers understand how audiences engage with brands both on an ongoing and real-time basis — including everything from the platforms that brands use to engage customers to the offers and messages they put in front of them. Everything matters, and everything needs to resonate.
Think about it. What works for Bob in New York City might not work for Jane in San Francisco — now multiply that by the hundreds, thousands, or even millions of consumers who visit your brand each year. An iterative testing process is essential to understanding your customer segments and addressing their unique needs — needs that grow, shift, evolve, and flat-out change with time. By delivering their individual wants and needs today — and then meeting them wherever they land tomorrow — you’ll naturally build deep, meaningful, ongoing loyalty and advocacy. Why? Because it’s clear to your customers that you “get” them. And, in this relationship-centric era we’re all living and operating in, that’s incredibly powerful.
2. Operationalizing Experiences so They’re Easy for Your Customers
I’m loyal to brands that make things easy for me — and you probably are, too. For example, if a brand allows me to stay logged in on their site, I never have to retype my credit card and shipping info. It’s simply a better, more seamless experience that removes a few extra steps from my busy day. And guess what — as a result, I am more loyal to the brands that are delivering those experiences. If you want your consumers to not only become, but also remain loyal, you need to follow suit. Create engaging, well-optimized experiences — and make them easy for consumers to navigate.
3. Ensuring You Recognize the Customer — Regardless What They Look Like Now
We’re in a multiscreen, multiplatform universe where everyone is connected around the clock. Customers who always use your app could just as easily access your brand experience via mobile web, desktop, or tablet — and you’d better recognize them when they do. Consumers not only want — but also demand — cohesive, consistent experiences that cross platforms and mediums. Is this a big task? Absolutely. Do we have the capacity to deliver, though? Absolutely. And, the more we can deliver, the more we’ll cultivate organic loyalty and advocacy — in addition to increased engagement and conversions.
Why Does Retention Matter Most?
Years ago, brands were heavily focused on customer acquisition, which makes sense — you need an audience first and foremost, right? But, as brands began to grow and evolve the power of retention, the tables turned a bit. Today’s customer journey has become increasingly cyclical with constant opportunities to engage and reengage as customers travel through their own brand lifecycles — lifecycles that, done right, spark meaningful, long-term relationships with plenty of value for both sides.
It’s what we aim to do every time we architect targeted customer-loyalty programs — connect the dots on what individuals and segments are looking for and deliver relevant experiences, touchpoints, and journeys that align. Done right, this is incredibly powerful because you’ll build out a loyal customer base. Loyalty programs not only represent long-term value for your brand, but also create ripple effects that draw new consumers into that cyclic brand journey —consumers who come to the table ready to engage, ready to take action, and ready to become your next loyalists.