When it comes to pretty much any business, spending time building and maintaining brand loyalty is time well spent. However, with so many brands competing for customers across what seems like an ever-increasing number of platforms and mediums, it’s becoming ever more difficult to achieve.
Before we look at how to build brand loyalty, however, let’s first consider what it is and why it’s important.
Brand loyalty is defined as ‘positive feelings towards a brand and dedication to purchase the same product or service repeatedly now and in the future from the same brand, regardless of a competitor’s actions or changes in the environment’.
In addition to the financial benefit that comes from a customer committing to repeatedly purchase from a specific business, brand loyalty can also bring other positives. For example, those customers that are loyal to your brand may also share these positive feelings with friends and relatives, enhancing your reputation by word of mouth. Add in potential positive comments on social media and it becomes easy to see how powerful an advocate a loyal customer can be.
Encouraging brand loyalty
In order to create this kind of loyalty to your products or services it’s important to have a brand identity and know what your company stands for.
One big trend that many companies have been keen to be seen to be following is the move towards ecofriendly and sustainable business practices. This could include everything from reducing packaging for products or eliminating single use plastics from workplaces. Young people in particular rate businesses on their green status and often will not associate with a company that is shown to negatively impact the environment. This means a strong sense of ethical and environmental responsibility can make good business sense.
However, it’s important to truly embed these values within the company. There have been accusations of businesses jumping on the green bandwagon by shouting about specific initiatives without tackling the most polluting or damaging parts of their business. Rather than building brand loyalty this can lead to serious reputational damage in the longer term, so don’t just give lip service to your brand values, embed them within everything your business does.
As brand loyalty is a psychological process, it’s also important to build emotional connections between your brand and your customers if you’re going to generate regular repeat business. Once you know what your brand stands for you can clearly communicate this to customers in a way that you know they’ll respond positively to. In this way brands can build a community making people feel part of a shared identity. This is a bond that’s much harder to break than those built on low prices or ease of availability.
To achieve this, think about what your brand offers to your customers – how it meets their needs and helps them feel fulfilled – and use this not just in your marketing messages, but in every aspect of your business. And make sure this messaging is sincere.
Once your branding message is clear, consider other elements of design and content such as colour, copy and the look of your brand. What you choose here will affect how your brand is perceived so it’s important to take professional advice to craft the look and substance of your brand. Be sure to deliver this consistently – no matter where customers and potential customers choose to engage with you – in store, online, over social – make sure the look and tone of any interaction is clearly from your business.
Also be aware that customers increasingly appreciate relevant and personalised messaging. Consider those extra touches such as handwritten messages in online orders, or offer recommendations or discounts on purchases based on previous activity. All of this will help to build the all-important personal connection while keeping your brand front of mind when it comes to purchasing decisions.
And, of course, be responsive if customers make the effort to contact you, even if the feedback they’re offering isn’t positive. Chatbots or guides can be a helpful tool in directing customers to the best place to have their questions answered but always make sure it’s easy to get a human response – not doing this is a surefire way to frustrate customers.
Does brand loyalty really matter?
In these days of globalism with even the smallest business able to communicate with customers on the other side of the world, does brand loyalty even matter anymore? If a few customers are lost, there are plenty more out there, surely?
Although being able to reach a wider audience through platforms such as Instagram and Facebook is undoubtedly a business benefit, it also means that any negative comments or press will be seen by a much wider audience in a very short space of time. And this is where the honesty and sincerity mentioned above are crucial. If you simply follow the latest trend or if you repeatedly fail to fulfil your promises as a business, you will soon be found out and it will be hard to truly recover from such exposure.
In many ways, developing a loyal customer base is more important than ever so make sure you have a strong, consistent and honest message that reflects who you are as a business. Be responsive and approachable, and aim to meet the needs of your customers. By doing all of this, customers will trust you, feel part of your community and develop the emotional connection that is crucial to maintaining loyal customers over the long term.