Most people have a few favorite brands that they love, which is the goal of marketing leaders around the world. However, despite two decades of business books on the shelf, there is still no reliable model on how to build lasting customer loyalty.
In fact, with the majority of U.S. consumers retracting loyalty faster than ever, it’s more complicated than ever. In the digital age, loyalty is increasingly influenced by a combination of factors – beyond historical drivers of price and service – that impact people differently based on their experiences and expectations. Brands that consumers love typically deliver fantastic products or services (at the right price) and engaging experiences and loyalty incentives that make customers “stick.” The challenge organizations face today is that many are struggling to satisfy such a diverse range of customer needs and desires that are constantly evolving. With organizations investing billions in customer loyalty programs that seemingly don’t work like they used to, it’s time for leaders to take a fresh look at loyalty.
The new ‘languages of loyalty’
According to Accenture Strategy’s latest Global Consumer Pulse Research, surveying 25,426 consumers around the world including 2,532 U.S. consumers, new “languages of loyalty” have emerged that are influencing customer relationships among U.S. consumers, particularly Millennials:
Tokens of affection – Fifty-nine percent of U.S. consumers feel loyal to brands that present them with small tokens of affection, such as personalized discounts, gift cards and special offers to reward their loyalty.
Try this: Give consumers a fair value exchange for rewarding their loyalty.
Get to know me – Forty-one percent of U. consumers are loyal to brands that offer them the opportunity to personalize products to create something that is bespoke to them. Fifty-one percent are loyal to brands that interact with them through their preferred channels of communication. Eighty-one percent feel loyal to brands that are there when they need them, but otherwise respect their time and leave them alone. Furthermore, 85 percent are loyal to brands that safeguard and protect the privacy of their personal information.
Try this: Have a deep understanding of your customers and what makes them tick.
Thrill seeker – Forty-four percent of U.S. consumers are loyal to brands that actively engage them to help design or co-create products or services. Forty-one percent are loyal to organizations that present them with new experiences, products or services, and 33 percent are loyal to brands that engage them in multi-sensory experiences, using new technologies such as virtual reality or augmented reality.
Try this: Deliver exciting experiences that engage customers on a deeper level.
If you like it, I like it – Twenty-three percent of U.S. consumers are loyal to brands that partner with celebrities, and another 23 percent feel loyal to organizations that partner with social influencers, such as bloggers and vloggers. Forty-two percent are loyal to brands that their family and friends do business with. Thirty-seven percent show loyalty to brands that actively support shared causes, such as charities or public campaigns.
Try this: Understand what and who influences your customer base.
Hook me up – Thirty-nine percent of U.S. consumers feel loyal to brands that connect them with other providers, giving them the ability to exchange loyalty points or rewards. Likewise, 51 percent are loyal to brands that keep them on the cutting edge by consistently offering the latest products and services.
Try this: Deliver the right incentives that competitors can’t offer.
It’s evident that brands need to start thinking differently about loyalty, specifically in regard to the types of experiences their most profitable customers desire, as they will help drive advocacy, retention and growth.
With 66 percent of U.S. consumers spending more money and time on the brands they love, organizations need to understand the factors influencing customer loyalty in the digital age. If they stick to traditional customer strategies, foregoing experimentation and trial and error, they risk draining profitability and pushing customers away – even when they have the best intentions or are following their historical playbook.
This consumer appetite for extra-ordinary, multi-sensory experiences and hyper-personalization and co-creation opportunities will force brands and organizations to shift their approach and programs. By doing so, brands will help their customers move their loyalty status from ‘it’s complicated’ to ‘life partner’.