Owning a business in the increasingly competitive ecommerce space can be stressful.
It can be very challenging to engage your customers with your brand. It is even harder to build consistent loyalty throughout your customer base. However, cultivating loyalty is well worth the extra effort and expense.
Brand loyalty can increase your company's overall revenue, make better use of marketer investments, and insulate your company against changes in the economy.
What is Brand Loyalty?
You probably know that it is good for a customer to be loyal to your brand, but every brand loyalist is good for a company in more ways than you may realize. One good way to understand brand loyalty is to ask consumers what they think it is:
- Repeat purchasing. About 68% of consumers think that choosing to buy from a brand over and over again is indicative of loyalty.
- Love of the brand. This is a pretty vague description of loyalty but accounts for 39.5% of consumers. Brand love may be expressed by being outspoken about positive feelings toward the brand, sharing the brand on social media, and encouraging friends and family to buy from the brand.
- Preference despite price. 37.7% of consumers think that loyalty is expressed when you buy from a brand even though a product or service may cost more than very similar competitors or have experienced a price increase. Loyalty marketers find that their consumers keep purchasing through price changes.
Why Build Brand Loyalty?
Retaining your customers is highly profitable. 82% of companies believe that retention is much cheaper than acquiring new customers. The numbers seem to prove them right: An increase in keeping customers of only 5% may boost your profits by as much as 25% or even 95%.
More customers coming back more often means you earn more from each customer over time. It also means that your business will be more consistent even in downturns of the market.
Increase Earnings and Reduce Spending
Customers don't just spend more often when they feel loyal to a brand; they also spend more money. In fact, as many as 43% of customers spend more money at a brand that they are loyal to.
Getting a new customer through the door and buying something costs 5 times more than keeping a current customer. Investments into current customers is more logical than pursuing new customers. The customers that you keep will make it well worth your while to invest in loyalty.
Gain a Competitive Edge
Brand loyalty has a lot of advantages, but most business owners don't think that customer retention is a priority. If you invest in brand loyalty now, you can take a significant chunk of the customer base. You'll also be able to keep them, even as ebbs and flows negatively affect your competitors.
How to Build Brand Loyalty
Knowing that brand loyalty is important doesn't necessarily mean that you'll do a great job of building it. A successful brand loyalty program can be a great investment. However, you need to know that your techniques will be successful. Here are some powerful tips to build brand loyalty from some professionals in the industry.
1. Focus on the Customer Journey
Every experience that a given customer has with your brand affects their customer experience and resulting loyalty. Customer satisfaction shouldn't be an afterthought at the end of a purchase. It should be a carefully thought-out aspect of every interaction a customer has with your company. Consider each customer's experience on social media, at brick and mortar locations, and online.
Adam Toporek, Customer Service Keynote Speaker, at Customers That Stick:
"Evaluate your customer journey to identify and anticipate the customer's emotions at key touchpoints. Design the experience to prevent negative emotions and to help facilitate the positive, emotionally resonant experiences that generate loyalty."
2. Utilize Loyalty Programs
One of the best ways to encourage brand loyalty is to actively build it with a program. Brand loyalists love these programs. As many as 87% of shoppers want the brands that they choose to have programs designed to encourage loyalty.
If you don't offer one for your customers, they may be disappointed. You will be losing out to your competition as well. As many as 90% of companies have one.
Loyalty programs are flexible and highly customizable. What works best for your company may surprise you. Be creative and think of ways to incorporate such a program into your company.
Sephora: A superb example of a program for loyalty:
Sephora has one of the best loyalty programs around, with their Beauty Insider rewards program. They have more than 17 million members and are growing fast.
The Beauty Insider program works because it significantly reduces the cost of products. It also offers things that you couldn't get if you weren't in the program, like special products and Beauty tutorials in-store.
3. Have A Stress-Free Return Policy
When a consumer interacts with your brand for the first time, you have the opportunity to begin building loyalty or start disappointing. One of the easiest ways to disappoint a customer is for them to buy the wrong products. By making exchanges as effortless as possible, you can turn a disgruntled consumer into a loyal one.
Alex McEachern, Marketing Manager at Loop Returns:
"Make exchanging products easy! A customer never feels more vulnerable than when they have the wrong product in their hands. Many online brands force customers to issue a refund and make another purchase, but 52% of the time they just have the wrong size and want a simple exchange. That vulnerability turns to loyalty when handled gracefully."
4. Connect with a Cause
Cause advertising is an extraordinarily effective way to connect with your target audience. It can also help you keep each existing customer longer and build a stronger brand. Consumers are 4.1 times more likely to trust a company that they think has a dedicated brand purpose. Cause marketing is among the most unexpected of successful loyalty advertising techniques.
White + Warren: Cause marketing for loyalty:
This women's cashmere retailer paired with the American Heart Association as the featured cause for a holiday event. Transactions per customer were 23% higher, and there was a 23% higher lifetime value versus other repeat customers, making it clear that a focus on a cause can affect both loyalty and revenue positively.
5. Tell a Great Brand Story
Great storytelling is a compelling way to move brand awareness. Customers have a hard time choosing between a particular brand and another that is similar.
A strong concept tied to a specific brand can make the difference between a potential new customer choosing your brand or not. You can communicate your brand story on social media, through content marketing campaigns, and in person.
Amanda Gant, Marketing Director at Orbit Media:
"Make sure your mission and core values are crystal clear. People want to support brands they can identify with and be proud of. Now's not the time to be marketing at people. Listen, learn, and focus on what you're really good at... One of my favorite brands is Who Gives a Crap. You buy TP, they build toilets for people in developing countries. Yes, please! And their marketing is so on point. I actually read all the stories they have tucked inside their toilet paper rolls. Fan for life."
6. Actively Build a Brand Experience Strategy
It can be too easy for many businesses to settle into a customer experience strategy that is more or less a one-line, "The customer is always right," or "Always treat the customer with respect."
While these aren't bad mantras, they do not qualify as a customer experience strategy. If you want to build a loyal customer base, you need to actively work to make sure that their experience is positive. In fact, 84% of companies who are actively working to improve their customer experience see a revenue increase.
Kenneth Cole: A well-built customer experience strategy:
Kenneth Cole has built a customer experience that is carefully thought through. Even gift-giving has been taken into consideration, with innovative software that lets shoppers give products perfect for recipients.
Volunteering is encouraged throughout the company. Volunteering helps to keep employees engaged with the community.
7. Engage Consumers Directly
Don't wait until a consumer is making a purchase to begin engaging with them directly. Bots on your website can offer personalized help. Targeted emails that provide special coupons just for visiting the site engage consumers before they have even made a purchase.
Social media platforms are an ideal place for direct consumer engagement, which can not only make a sale but build a devoted customer for life. To make this work, you need to invest some meaningful manpower into managing your social media channels and engaging with consumers.
It's best to hire a brand advocate for this purpose rather than delegating it to someone who is already on your payroll and may not have sufficient time.
Nike: A great example of building brand loyalty through engagement:
Nike's loyalty marketing strategy to bring out the athlete in their customers has gone much further than ads. They give workout advice, and have built online communities around fitness.
That means that Nike gets to engage with potential customers on their fitness platform before they ever sell them anything.
8. Offer a Unique Experience
One of the strongest markers of a great brand is an experience that the customer can't get anywhere else. Unique companies that offer experiences that are interesting and exciting are more likely to develop a strong customer base. Think of ways to make your company more endearing and ways to stand out from your competitors.
Chip Bell, Customer Loyalty Keynote Speaker and Author of Inside Your Customer's Imagination:
"Work with your frontline ambassadors to create and deliver a unique, compelling customer experience that gets your customers raving to their friends, not just coming back again. Value-unique (ingenuity) trumps value-added (generosity). Do you remember why you liked Crackerjack?"
9. Be Consistent
A strategy will only be effective if it is consistent. If you switch tactics repeatedly throughout your marketing campaign, your existing customers will lose trust in you and find your brand unreliable.
New customers are less likely to remember branding that keeps changing its strategies. It doesn't mean that you have to stick to the same ad campaign. It does mean that you should establish some powerful core values in how you conduct business and relate to consumers. Make sure that those values are consistently communicated throughout your brand.
Coca-Cola: a gigantic example of brand loyalty through consistency:
Few campaigns have been as recognizable for as long as Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola logo, colors, and even ads are recognizable worldwide. While Coca-Cola has certainly changed its campaigns through the years, their overall branding has remained consistently recognizable.
10. Take Branding To A Psychological Level
Customers are not willing to stick with your brand unless you work actively to be a brand advocate, growing the relationship between you.
Engage on social media, build a great newsletter that gets responses, and build a presence on social media platforms that makes customers feel like they know you.
Katie Reilly, VP of Product at X-Cart:
"A brand must make an emotional connection, establish a promise and delivery. Loyal brands master all three of these components and connect with the consumer at a psychological level."
11. Love The Work Your Business Does
Too often, businesses get caught up in the semantics of running a company and forget about what their brand is really about. Don't let your social media campaign get ahead of your product.
You have to create a product or service that earns customer devotion. That means that every aspect of the customer experience is tailored to perfection.
From the product or service that you create, to how you sell it, to how you engage with customers once they are in the buying process, everything matters.
Jeremy Miller, Founder of Sticky Branding:
"Be brilliant at the basics. The mistake many companies make is they assume their marketing and packaging is their "brand." A brand is based on the work you do every single day to delight your customers and deliver value. Jeff Bezos said, "Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room...That experience is achieved in the quality of your products and services; how you engage customers - from customer service to sales; and how your brand fits into their lives. Growing a remarkable brand with strong customer loyalty starts from within. Successful businesses create successful brands, and never the other way around."
12. (Re)Imagine Your Logo
A logo may not seem like an important thing, but it can go a long way to building your recognizability. After all, even returning customers are unlikely to develop meaningful customer loyalty if they don't really recognize your brand.
A logo that is immediately associated with your specific company and what you do is the first step to forming a relationship with potential customers. When a customer recognizes your logo, it's like a person remembering your name: It's one step closer to building a relationship.
FedEx: An example of the power of a logo to build brand loyalty:
The FedEx logo is simple, easy to read, and teaches consumers the name of the company along with the logo. To make it a little bit fun and therefore memorable, there is a little arrow between the E and the x.
This is a perfect example of a simple logo that does a lot of work for its company in building brand recognition.
Building brand loyalty is dependent on listening to what your customers are saying. That doesn't just mean surveys and other direct ways to collect data on consumers.
Your sales, advertising, and customer service departments have a lot of information about what consumers are saying about your brand. Sometimes the crazy negative reviews that you are tempted to discard have a valuable light to shine on your company.
You won't be able to make everybody happy. It won't do your company any good to go crazy trying. However, listening to your customers and your employees is important for every business owner who values building a strong brand identity.
Mark Johnson, CEO Of Loyalty360:
"The most important things brands can do, and although it is trite, is to create simplicity in their engagement, focus on those who are already advocates and listen to them in a proactive manner, and when listening make sure you are proactively responding to them... If you cannot action what they are asking for, make sure you let the know that you cannot and why you cannot, never waste an opportunity to create reciprocity, and in this time enhance the personal and empathetic connections."
14. Rely on Influencers
You don't have to do all the heavy lifting in making your business your customers' favorite brand. By attaching your brand to influencers who have the support of your client base, you can attach that commitment to your product as well. Relying on influencers is one of the best ways to stand out among your competition and rapidly build a strong customer base.
For influencers to work effectively for your company, there must be a logical and meaningful connection between you. Your relationship must be present and consistent throughout your brand strategy.
Bedrock real estate, Detroit: An example of influencer strategy for building brand loyalty:
Bedrock real estate was a Detroit real estate company that wanted to change the stereotype of Detroit as being old, in disrepair, and lacking in conveniences. They made a film with local influencers and paired with a local celebrity to endorse it. They were able to reach a staggering 500,000 views without even utilizing an additional paid strategy.
15. Make it Easy
Sometimes, gaining your customers' loyalty isn't about making a deep emotional connection or offering something nobody else has. It's just about making it easier for your customer.
Brands that engage easily on social media, offer convenient delivery options, and offer other conveniences make it simple for their customers to work with them. They are more likely to get repeat customers that have no reason to go anywhere else.
Shep Hyken, customer service/experience expert and author of The Convenience Revolution:
"Be the easiest (as in most convenient) company to do business with. Be accessible when and where the customer needs you. Use technology to create a better experience when applicable. In other words, reduce or eliminate friction. The brand that is the most convenient and easiest to do business with has an amazing competitive advantage that can disrupt competition and create fierce loyalty."
16. Focus On Quality and Adapt
You want your strategy to be consistent, but that doesn't mean that you don't want to adapt to new information and changes in the market. You need to constantly collect feedback from employees, customers, and the public and make changes to your company as needed to increase effectiveness.
A great company strategy is like the sails of a boat: It remains consistent, but must constantly be trimmed and adjusted to perform the best in changing winds.
BuzzFeed: an example of changing strategies to maintain loyalty:
In the early 2000s, BuzzFeed was just a website trying to compete for people's eyeballs like anyone else. However, BuzzFeed recognized that a better way to please their consumers and keep loyalty was to publish information tailored to the social media platform on which it was being viewed.
This made it considerably more convenient for consumers to watch BuzzFeed content directly on their platform of choice, which effectively grew the business despite the fact that 75% of buzzfeed's content was not actually published on their own website.
Mariana Veloz In charge of Co-Marketing and Co-promotions at Wishpond
"Deliver high-quality products and services is one of the most actionable steps to increase the customer's loyalty. Keep constant contact with your customers, letting them know that you're aware of their needs and desires and focus on customer experience and services. Always be responsive to your clients when they want to get in touch with you and always find ways to understand them and find solutions."
17. Mine for Visuals from your Customers
You already know that visuals are essential. What you might not have thought about is how your customer’s obsession with picture and video taking can help you to get the kind of visuals that work best for your brand.
When your customers share pictures or videos of your product or service in use, ask them if you can share those visuals. The vast majority of your customers will be thrilled to have their media used on your professional site.
You'll be more likely to get more great media from your customer base, and your customers are more likely to fall in love with products that are advertised by customers who are really using them.
Evaldas Mockus, Director of SEO at Omnisend:
“Attention-seeking behavior can include saying or doing something with the goal of getting the attention of a person or a group of people...If your product or service is looking good visually and your customers are sharing them on Instagram or Facebook, reach them and ask to use their picture on your social media and of course, name the authors...People will be proud that their images are shared on the business profiles. They will get attention, you will get more and more super content from your customers.”
18. Build Real Relationships with Customers
A real relationship with your customers goes much deeper than offering a good or service that they purchase. When people have real relationships, they care about what happens to the other person.
If your customers feel that they have a real relationship with you, they will want to support your brand because of that relationship. Your customers will also be more likely to forgive your brand for perceived infractions if they believe that they have a strong relationship with you.
Real relationships can be built through social media, especially on platforms that require regular interaction like Twitter.
Mike Allton, Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse:
“While it's easier said than done, brands who invest in building real relationships with their fans establish much higher levels of loyalty. Which makes sense. As humans, if someone we know personally needs help or does something wrong, we're much more inclined to lend a hand or forgive them... Conversely, if a stranger on the street bumps into us, we're much more likely to glare at them than instantly forgive them. The good news, particularly for smaller brands and businesses, is that it's relatively easy to establish relationships for free using social media. Brands merely need to be present and engage with their fans on platforms like Twitter.”
19. Communication is Key
One of the most frequently overlooked and yet most effective ways to build brand loyalty is to have great communication with your customers. Whether you have something to tell your customer about their order, exchange, or whatever else they're asking about or not, communication is better than silence. A great relationship can quickly be destroyed by perceived indifference from your company.
Stacy Sherman, Founder at DoingCXRight.com:
“Customer satisfaction and loyalty do not happen automatically or overnight. It requires intentional focus and engaged employees who COMMUNICATE to customers on a timely basis. Even if there’s no information available to tell customers who are waiting for status updates, let them know you haven’t forgotten about them. Email, text, or best of all, pick up the phone and call as they’ll appreciate the follow-up. Silence is never an option!”
20. Encourage Interaction Beyond Purchases
If the only time that your company is interacting with customers is when they buy something or need to return something, you're missing out on opportunities to build loyalty and giving your customers time to be distracted by other businesses.
Instead, encourage constant engagement with your customers. Loyalty programs, friend referrals, social media shares, contests, etc, are all opportunities to engage with your customers above and beyond purchases.
Zsuzsa Kecsmar, CCO and Co-founder at Antavo:
“To increase loyalty, give customers a reason to interact with your brand, even if they don’t buy anything. Use your loyalty program to reward friend referrals, newsletter subscription, social media shares and so on."
21. Utilize Yotpo Loyalty Integration with ShoppingGives
Customer loyalty programs are a great way to engage with your current customers, but what makes a loyalty program unique? While 59% of consumers are likely to join the loyalty program of a brand they consider themselves loyal to, 28% wish these programs were more interesting.
Today’s consumers are choosing brands that do more than turn a profit, and combining rewards with social impact makes a loyalty program that much more engaging.
Yotpo’s integration with ShoppingGives allows retailers to combine rewards and charitable giving to create a more engaging, and authentic loyalty program.
Blind Barber uses Yotpo’s integration with ShoppingGives to reward their customers with Yotpo loyalty points anytime they generate a donation with their purchase. Additionally, customers who are enrolled in Blind Barber’s loyalty program can redeem those points for an additional donation later on, to create an even bigger impact.
22. Have Fun
If your company isn’t having fun with your campaigns and loyalty programs, your customers probably aren’t either. Keep things fun and creative, and remember that what makes your company special is also likely what will keep your customers loyal. Be true to your company’s personality, goals, and mission to create a campaign that will be perfect for your business.
Build Brand Loyalty for Your Company
If you want your company to have loyal customers who spend more, buy more often, and keep coming back more consistently, you should put effort into building a strong brand loyalty campaign, because loyal customers are well worth an investment. To discover deeper insights on how your brand can optimize your current customer journey to create better customer experiences that foster loyalty, download the free eCommerce Essentials Playbook.