What happened to brand loyalty?
The evolution of brand loyalty marketing
Does it seem to you that customers aren't loyal to brands and their products any more?
Today, shoppers research purchases online, price compare and then purchase based on up to the minute information. Even for commodities where brand loyalty once ruled, price alerts, peer ratings and social media posts now exert significant influence that often trump brand loyalty. The reality is that loyalty can be crushed by a negative Tweet or Facebook post. While it's easier than ever to connect with customers, brands have to work harder to fulfill customers' evolving needs and build loyalty with every transaction.
It's increasingly challenging to create meaningful consumer interactions. Countless distractions and innumerable messages create a sense endless choice and feed consumer confusion. All too often, customers end up buying whatever they last saw on the internet or follow the easiest path at the moment of decision.
Marketers still try to garner loyalty with clever design, novel packaging, intuitive UI's, quick checkouts and other convenience factors. Today's consumers, especially millennials, have a preference to buy from brands that align with their personal values. The loyalty attributed to brands like Patagonia, Tom's or L.L. Bean remains noteworthy. The rapid emergence of socially-orientated brands like Warby Parker eyewear or Bombas socks speaks to the value of recognizing "societal impact" when seeking loyalty.
"Today's increasingly empowered consumers, enabled by an attitude of experimentation, sophisticated devices, and infinite connection, have the resources and motivation to learn how companies execute on the values they claim to embody. More than a tagline, customers now believe that company values are reflected in everything a firm does or says — from its hiring practices to strategic partnerships to advertising tone." Forbes March 17, 2017
Brand loyalty continues to hold a place of significance in the consumer product selection mindset. When a customer finds a product that aligns with their preferences, shares their values or helps them support a pro-social cause, they tend to buy more regularly from that brand (even when asked to pay more or shopping is less convenient). As more positive brand interactions occur, trust grows. Clearly the need for brand connection has intensified. Additionally, the importance of shared values and company integrity has been elevated.
What the data tells us.
66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. Additionally, 81% of millennials even expect their favorite companies to make public declarations of their corporate citizenship. Source: Nielson Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 2015.
In a study by Horizon Media's Finger on the Pulse, "81 percent of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship."
According to findings from the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study, "More than 9-in-10 Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91% vs. 85% U.S. average)".
Successful brands seeking loyal customers should focus on values and their company's contribution to the world in addition to products, pricing and promotions. Sharing authentic stories and connecting in meaningful ways are fast becoming the primary drivers of consumer loyalty. The sooner we evolve our brand loyalty thinking the sooner we will drive sustainable brand loyalty.