Today, the concept of customer loyalty is a primary focal point of most businesses. By definition, the word “loyalty” means allegiance, faithfulness, or devotion. Achieving this with a customer is a tall order given the ever-evolving digital age that delivers consistent change and increasing complexity. When the dimension of COVID isolation is included, earning loyalty becomes even more daunting of a task given the shifting limitations placed on the consumer and their changing attitudes and behaviours.
Before we entered the COVID age, most brands viewed loyalty as a transaction-driven phenomenon, incentivising consumers with transaction-based discounts and offers to seemingly gain loyalty. However, attracting customers devoted to bargains generates loyalty to discounts, not brands.
To build genuine loyalty with a customer base that features an intrinsic preference for a specific brand, businesses need to break with old-school tactics, realising instead that earning consumer trust, preference and loyalty is a strategic initiative that goes far beyond points, coupons, discounts and mass-blasted emails. The basis for genuine loyalty is gaining a deep understanding of the customer’s attitude, behaviours and preferences in order to align experiences and engagements that amplify each of these.
There are several major steps that a brand should take in order to cultivate sustainable loyalty with customers, particularly in the COVID age.
Integrate: The foundation to understanding customers and their shifts and migrations is to tap into the myriad of data sources across the organisation. Today, the average company has upwards of 400 data sources. Adopting the technology to overlay these quantitative and qualitative datasets provides incredible views into the behaviours (e.g. web logs, app activity, channel purchases, social posts, etc.) and preferences (e.g. product reviews, customer surveys, brand rankings, etc.) of the customer.
Investigate: Once you have synthesised the fragmented data sources, the focus should turn to developing an understanding of how the attitudes are evolving and behaviours are shifting with customers in how they interact and react with the brand. The key to this ‘listening’ is to observe the customer’s varying viewpoints and understand their tendencies to identify trends and predictable patterns.
Identify: Within these predictable trends lie points of opportunity where engagements should be aligned, streamlined, simplified and enhanced for ease of use and increased support. This essentially delivers what the customer wants in their interactions with the brand.
Innovate: While simplifying the approach of engagements and aligning them with the preferences of the customer works, it is also important to enhance experiences in order to build reliability, increase efficiency and mirror the expectations of the customer in how they prefer to interact with the brand.
Invest: Along these same lines, making strategic investments to solidify the brand’s position with these innovations will further strengthen the customer’s loyalty. For example, if customers are engaging more online due to COVID isolation, enhancing online support and bolstering digital content and reviews elevates the customer’s experience aligned with their preferences.
Intensify: Repeat the read-respond process in order to continually optimise the engagements and enhance the customer’s experience while caring not to over-innovate too beyond the needs of the customer. Simplicity and alignment to the customer are key elements of the process.
When brands deliver relevant experiences that create meaningful customer connections, they build genuine loyalty. The key to this is data-driven listening with an eye on understanding the customer. Determine the trends and tendencies related to their attitudes and engagements, then continue to invest in elevating their experiences. As the poem goes, make new friends, but keep the old – your new customers may add silver, but your loyal customers are gold.
Author: Crispin Beale, Senior Advisor, mTab
Photos: Courtesy mTab