With loyalty comes success. Having loyal customers provides a business with a base to build off and that can lead to great things, but achieving loyalty is no easy feat.

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has set a standard for pricing, service, and free shipping. Offering both of those has become a sort of basic standard for companies looking to build consumer loyalty and win customers away from the digital giant.

Consumers expect brands to provide frequent discounting (71%) and free shipping (58.4%) in order to earn their loyalty, according to Yotpo's 2018 State of Consumer Loyalty survey. The survey's 2,000 adult respondents also felt strongly about customer service with 67.3% saying that brands that responded in 24 hours or less had a better chance at earning their loyalty. Conversely, poor customer service was the second most popular reason brands lose customer loyalty at 23.5% behind only poor product (51.3%).

"No one is better at the transactional relationship than Amazon, who successfully engineered loyalty by making things like free shipping and discounted pricing table stakes," said Tomer Tagrin, Cofounder and CEO of Yotpo. "To win, brands need to be able to transcend transactions and offer a superior experience in every way, from product excellence, great customer service, to personalized experiences that foster a deeper connection."

A happy woman holds up a card.

Building loyal customers is not easy. Image source: Getty Images.

Loyalty matters

Most Americans (90.2%) consider themselves "equally or more brand loyal compared to a year ago," according to the study. Loyalty, however, is not easy for companies to cultivate.

The vast majority of respondents (87.7%) believe it takes three or more times shopping from the same company to be considered loyal with 37% feeling you're not loyal until you shop someplace five times. Only 12.4% believe that loyalty can be won after two visits.

There are, however, some things that can motivate shoppers to become loyal. The top drivers that led to purchases were "fair pricing" (64.5%), free shipping (61.3%), and online reviews (57.3%).

Once consumers become loyal they can become more valuable to a company. Approximately 60% will tell friends and family about the brand and 52.3% would be willing to join a loyalty program. In addition, 39.4% of loyal customers will spend more on a product even when there are cheaper options elsewhere and 37% will leave positive feedback or an online review.

"The survey findings reinforce our philosophy that although price and convenience are important for our customer, they are increasingly table stakes," said ThirdLove Retention Marketing Head Erica Richey in response to the survey. "More and more, consumers are looking to premium brands to provide value beyond the transaction."

What does this mean for retailers and shoppers?

Earning loyalty has become harder because consumers have a lot more choice due to the internet. A shopper who could once be won over by friendly service and decent pricing now requires more to be wooed.

That's an opportunity for retailers. By delivering service, quality, and a strong price/value proposition companies can win over customers. Once that happens the loyalty of those consumers can then be leveraged to build the brand.

Consumers are correct to be protective of their loyalty and companies must continually work to build and reinforce it. Brands that do that, however, should be able to benefit from word of mouth and a customer base willing to advocate for them.