Central to the experience of being a human is our desire to build connections with other people. We need these connections and thrive off them. When it comes to our relationships with brands, we are no different.
Customers want to be able to trust brands and feel comfortable in doing business with them. Being loyal not only saves a whole lot of hassle, it makes us feel good.
When it comes down to it, companies simply wouldn’t exist without customers. And loyal customers are essential to helping your business grow and thrive.
What is customer loyalty?
Customers exhibit customer loyalty by consistently choosing to purchase a certain product or brand over other options available in the marketplace. This loyal behavior comes from a feeling of particular allegiance with a brand.
Customer loyalty, therefore, indicates the level of devotion customers have for a brand’s products or services and how strongly they favor that brand over its competition.
What drives customer loyalty?
Emotion is at the heart of what drives human behavior, and loyalty is no different. Generating loyal customers depends on making them feel good. There are a number of ways to do that through your culture and everyday operations:
Pleasant surprises keep customers guessing and relationships fresh. Amazon does this by providing a service that sends out free samples of different products from both new and well-known brands, helping customers discover products they love. Every time a customer opens up their package it’s another chance for them to be amazed.
A consistent and personalized experience helps build a sense of comfort and familiarity. Make sure all touchpoints are connected and let your brand personality shine through.
Fashion brand Neiman Marcus uses technology to link online and offline platforms. An app connects shoppers to sales associates through text messages, calls, emails, or FaceTime, geo-location shows stock availability in nearby stores, and a “Memory Mirror" records and captures your try-ons from every angle, which can be shared among contacts for opinion gathering.
Going above and beyond creates a sense of gratitude in customers that they want to repay with loyalty. Go out of your way to make it up to them when anything goes wrong.
The Inn at Little Washington not only knows what it’s like to go the extra mile, they know what it’s like to go the extra 200 miles for a customer! After a couple arrived to celebrate their anniversary at the 5-star hotel, they realized they’d left the woman’s handbag at home — 8 hours away in Pittsburgh. A hotel employee stepped up saying, “Get me their keys and the address; I’ll be back before dinner.”
Creating a sense of belonging makes customers feel part of something bigger. Build communities, engage individuals through social media, and listen to and implement feedback to do this.
My Starbucks Idea does just that by offering a modern-day suggestion box to it’s 150,000+ members. Many of the suggestions from community members have been implemented, from digital tipping to peach green-tea lemonade.
Importance of customer loyalty
Customer loyalty impacts virtually every aspect of company performance—that’s why it’s something brands need to concern themselves with. Yet only 32 percent of executives say retaining existing customers is a priority.
But the effort brings rich rewards. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent. The probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5-20 percent, and just a five percent increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits of between 25 and 95 percent.
And of course, loyal customers offer you a whole range of benefits far beyond simply buying your products or services.
- Loyal customers become advocates for your brand - sharing and promoting your business via word-of-mouth on social media and beyond.
- Loyal customers are more understanding - they will forgive you and stay with you as long as you deal with issues in the right way.
- Loyal customers know your brand - they are perfectly placed to provide key feedback you can learn from as they know your brand so well.
What is a customer loyalty program?
A customer loyalty program is a long-term marketing strategy providing incentives to customers who demonstrate loyalty to your brand through their buying behavior. Programs that work are aimed at encouraging customers to return often, become frequent buyers, and favor you over competitors.
Remember, when designing a customer loyalty program:
- Keep it simple. If it isn’t easy to understand and use, customers won’t be able to engage with it.
- Make it meaningful. Unless it matters to customers there is little incentive for them to get involved.
Strategies to cultivate customer loyalty
Customer loyalty is the result of a company consistently meeting and exceeding customer expectations. That builds up trust, and when customers trust companies, they are far more likely to do business with them again.
There are many practical strategies you can implement to encourage loyalty:
Provide great customer service
Making customers feel valued and respected is crucial when it comes to them forming an emotional bond with your brand. Technology such as live chat facilitates contextually relevant, real time communication, leading to increased customer satisfaction.
Understand the customer journey
Adopting an omnichannel approach allows customers to interact with your brand how and when they want, maintaining a great customer experience. Stitching together different touchpoints and centralizing vital data helps provide seamless and consistent interactions.
Businesses often lose sight of the need to nurture long-term customers, assuming they will stick around regardless. Yet, customers who have been loyal for that long will expect to be made to feel even more valuable, not less. A culture of longevity rather than short-termism keeps this front of mind.
Treating staff well creates more engaged employees, and that filters through into the customer experience. Staff that actually love their work and workplace make a big difference. Make sure employees feel like an integral part of the company: ask them what they think about different business issues (processes, strategies, etc.) and take their feedback on board.
Once you have customer loyalty, how do you maintain it?
As a business, you should never rest on your laurels. Take customers in as your confidants and see if they’d like to help you decide how to drive your business forward.
In any long-term relationship, there is always the danger of taking it for granted. Remember to pay as much attention to loyal customers as you do acquiring new customers. No matter how long they’ve been around, never stop strengthening those ties, and you’ll see the difference in your bottomline.