Attracting new customers is difficult. After going to so much effort to win customers over, you certainly want them to stay loyal to your brand.
There are hundreds of books on how to build a brand, which only points to how complex this field is. Brand loyalty escapes easy definition, because it is both pragmatic and emotional.
What is it that keeps customers coming back to the same brand time and again? It’s partly down to habit, but it’s a conscious choice, too.
In the digital age, customers are overloaded with choice, with plenty of options at their fingertips. And yet, for you, brand loyalty is more important than ever before. Below, we set out the steps to build brand loyalty for your business.
Overview: What is brand loyalty?
Brand loyalty is the tendency of customers to keep buying from the same company, regardless of competitor activity or changes in the market environment.
Once a customer develops this brand allegiance, they will continue to purchase from their preferred company. Think of the customers who always buy the same brand of coffee, soda, or detergent.
Customers are loyal to a brand for many reasons. They may have an emotional attachment to the company, based on shared values. Or, they may simply prefer the quality of service they receive from the company.
Today, there are new drivers of brand loyalty. Social media content can build relationships, and loyal customers can even act as brand ambassadors on their own social media accounts. At the same time, there are more threats than ever to brand loyalty today.
When everything can be purchased from Amazon with one click and delivered for free, some would argue that loyalty is an outdated, nostalgic concept. Pragmatism has trumped emotion, they would argue.
The evidence suggests otherwise. Brand loyalty has not gone away, but it has certainly taken on new forms. Before we dive into the tips, let’s separate brand loyalty from customer loyalty.
Brand loyalty vs. customer loyalty: What's the difference?
Put simply, brand loyalty is about customer perception, preferences, and attitudes. Customer loyalty is more closely related to consumer spending.
A customer that is loyal to a brand will also purchase from the company, so there is clear overlap between the two fields. However, customer loyalty retains a narrower focus on spending patterns.
To put it another way, brand loyalty will be defined by your values, your reputation, and the customer’s previous experience with your company. Customer loyalty is driven by low prices, discounts, and rewards.
Price will always be important to the customer, but depending on this as a competitive advantage puts a company in a weak position. A competitor can simply discount their products further. Building customer loyalty to your brand is a longer-term strategy with a wider range of benefits.
5 ways to build long-lasting brand loyalty
These five strategies will keep customers coming back long after their first purchase.
Strategy 1: Incentivize purchases
You can’t buy loyalty. Sure, you can offer your customers financial rewards to entice them to make a one-off purchase. But to engender true brand loyalty, you must offer more.
Decades of brand psychology research show that loyalty is built on a value exchange between customers and companies. We see this everywhere today.
For example, The North Face has a loyalty scheme called VIPeak. Apart from a relatively good pun, it also offers early access to new products, free tickets to events, and competitions.
The emphasis is on community, even if a financial incentive is offered up front to pique customers’ interest.
There are lessons for social media strategy here.
Rather than broadcasting to an audience about why your company is the best, focus on the incentives you can provide them. Why should they stop scrolling and care about what you have to say? Loyalty is a two-way value exchange.
Strategy 2: Share customer stories
To engage with people, you need to show your humanity, the human side of your company. A corporate logo will only do so much for brand loyalty. There are many ways to achieve this goal.
GoPro, for example, gives customers the tools they need to create great videos. Then it allows them to share the content, all including the company’s logo. These videos essentially become free advertising for the company and its capabilities, while giving customers a shot at online glory for their creations.
Airbnb takes a different route. It asks customers to collaborate and build their brand through personal stories.
At its core, Airbnb is a technology platform that connects spare rooms with travelers. The company looks beyond this to explore what this platform enables for its audience.
This develops brand loyalty because of the emotional attachment these customers feel for the service. It is also attractive to prospective new customers, as they see the company in a positive light.
As part of your brand audit, look at the resources you already have. You can use employee stories for this strategy, as well as customers.
Brand loyalty is based on the premise that the company offers more than just a sterile service. Human stories are a tried and tested way to communicate this powerful message.
Strategy 3: Listen to feedback
When trying to build customer loyalty retention, you need to go beyond the transaction to understand what really makes the customer tick. Too many companies assume they know what customers want, but oftentimes they don’t.
You can ask for feedback from existing customers, but don’t be afraid to ask lapsed customers about their experience too. It can be fruitful to understand why customers decided to switch to a competitor.
The key is to be accessible and open. You can then demonstrate your commitment to customers by showing the changes you have made in response to their feedback. Customers are not always inclined to fill in feedback forms. So, you need to craft these forms with care.
Consider these tips when asking for feedback:
- Keep it simple. The customer is doing you a favor by filling out the form — be considerate of their time.
- Make most fields optional. Let the customer fill in the areas they want to discuss.
- Include white space. This makes the form less daunting and invites the customer to share their thoughts.
- Add a rating scale. They’re easier to fill in, and they give you something tangible to monitor over time.
You can then use social media management tools to track audience sentiment, so you can see the impact your changes have on brand loyalty.
Strategy 4: Communicate with consistency
Predictability is underrated. When a customer interacts with a brand, they want to know what kind of experience they will have. They want to know that the service will be as good as it always was. Loyalty takes years to build, but can be lost in an instant.
It’s challenging to maintain this required level of consistency in the social media age because your brand is almost certainly active on numerous social networks, all communicating with customers every day.
Once you have nailed your brand positioning strategy, apply the same tone in your visuals and your communication on every customer touchpoint. Social media platforms only allow so much customization, but you can still make your accounts your own.
Oreo does a great job of incorporating its signature style into its Instagram and Twitter accounts. It takes a lighthearted approach to communications with its audience, but addresses customer concerns seriously too.
Businesses of all sizes can apply these same principles. Customers are more likely to be loyal to a brand they can depend on, after all.
Strategy 5: Work with influencers
Influencers are most effective when they connect emotionally with your audience. Businesses can use this to their advantage to build brand loyalty, if they approach the situation thoughtfully. There is more to this strategy than simply choosing the most popular influencers and paying them to promote a message.
The influencers brands choose will immediately make a statement about the brand’s values. If the influencer is not aligned with the company’s ethos, the campaign can erode trust in the brand.
It’s worth looking beyond the headline numbers an influencer can offer to consider the impact their message will have on the audience.
Start with the metrics that will reflect the performance of your social media campaign, then identify influencers that can help you hit your targets. Typically, this will mean going beyond broad metrics like campaign impressions, towards metrics related to customer engagement.
Influencers are not a substitute for a solid brand strategy, but they can help amplify your message.
Building loyalty that lasts
Customer brand loyalty is a delicate commodity. Its value is both quantitative and qualitative.
You can bring some rigor to this vital marketing area by taking on board the tips and examples shared above. There are no shortcuts to build a relationship with customers, but if you put in the work, it will be repaid with loyalty in the long run.