Earning the Greatest Gift of the Season: Customer Loyalty

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While shoppers will be searching for the best deals on the perfect gift this holiday season, brands will be looking to wow consumers and create a base of new, loyal customers. However, unlike customers who can go from store to store, brands only get one chance to make a good first impression. According to data from PwC, 73% of customers now say customer experience is the number one thing they consider when deciding whether to purchase from a company, underscoring the growing significance brands have in influencing purchasing decisions and building loyalty.

Businesses must prioritize delivering exceptional experiences to attract and retain customers, with factors like service quality, ease of interaction, and overall satisfaction significantly impacting consumers’ choices. To harness every opportunity, brands should begin by nurturing connections with new customers right from the outset. Moreover, fostering an atmosphere of engagement and conversation, whether with first-time buyers or loyal patrons, sets the stage for enduring loyalty and expansion that transcends the holiday rush.

Here are three significant factors brands should consider when seeking new ways to create a loyal customer base.

1. Personalization

Personalization is no longer a suggestion for businesses that want to offer a great customer experience—it’s required to stay competitive. According to an Adobe Commerce survey, 67% of consumers say they want personalized offers based on their spending habits, whether they’re shopping online or in-store. Tailoring any point of contact along the customer journey directly to individuals makes them more likely to interact with it. For brands to understand their customers’ desires, it requires a baseline understanding of when and what consumers buy and their sensitivity to price, promotions, and communications.

Personalization works best by leveraging customer data to adapt the experience at every stage of the journey. This data can unlock ​powerful ​insights into customers, from their demographics and interests to clues about product usage. They can be used toward anything from a special landing page based on location data to product recommendations based on buying history. However, many companies find the hardest part of creating personalized customer experiences is collecting and preparing the right data. This can be difficult due to technological limitations, customers not wanting to share their data, or a lack of expertise among employees. Analyzing all that data can also be difficult without the right tools or analysts. Typical marketing and social media channels pose issues​ to brands​ in obtaining this data as they cannot access what is collected from clicks, shopping habits like purchase timing and browsing history, or what promotions catch the buyer’s eye.

As brands look for ways to overcome this data barrier and engage consumers with more personalized offers, an alternative could be beginning to use a Brand-Owned ​Customer ​Network. This brand-owned channel serves as an extension of a ​company’s​ e-commerce site and serves as a platform for dialog continuously gathering first- and zero-party data via polls and surveys, user-generated content in the form of reviews, free form user conversations, user images or video posts, and interactive communication via chats. With access to this wealth of data and insight, retail brands gain a powerful mechanism to help keep them relevant and top of mind for customers. With this information at their disposal, they possess all the necessary elements to tailor personalized offers, exclusive content, and special promotions based on engagements and purchase history. This results in a more captivating and tailored journey for the consumer.

2. Consistency

Traditionally, a consistent brand experience has been the cornerstone of fostering customer loyalty. It extends beyond just the quality of a product or service, encompassing the entirety of a customer’s interaction with a brand. From the first encounter to post-purchase support, maintaining uniformity in messaging, service delivery, and product reliability is pivotal to engagement. This consistency builds trust and confidence in the brand, assuring customers that their experiences will align with their expectations every time they engage.

However, with the ever-changing landscape, more customer choices – marketers do have the opportunity to re-invent how they think about loyalty. Often, participation in a loyalty program is mistaken for a customer’s love or willingness to be an advocate for the brand. It is not necessarily the case. It can’t simply be about rewarding transactions but rather have your customer play a larger strategic role in your long-term growth.

Loyalty programs should also categorize customer engagement and transaction efforts, both before initial engagement and after purchase, into a series of actions aligned with brand objectives, such as increasing sales, enhancing customer retention, expanding customer lifetime value (CLTV), broadening brand reach, and fostering organic growth.

An incremental engagement-centric loyalty program allows brands to more accurately measure retention by understanding engagement between transactions. The objective is to gain a clear understanding of how customers are interacting within the brand experience.

3. Community

While personalization impacts decision-making, so do recommendations and suggestions from individuals with similar tastes. Bringing customers together in a community to share tips and recommendations can ​have an immense​ impact on not only sales but also the overall customer-brand relationship, as 66% percent of brand community members say they are loyal to the brand.

Brand communities have been co-existing with brands through reward programs and membership systems for years. However, consumers’ desire to interact, share, and socialize with each other means that these communities must evolve. Brands can build a community of shoppers by creating not just a loyalty program but a social platform in which customers can leave honest reviews and insights. This enables the brand to build a ​powerful ​network of ​micro-​influencers who share and recommend products. These organic and authentic engagements, not just with the brand but with other shoppers, foster a deeper connection to the products and build a sense of community, enhancing loyalty and influencing buyer decisions.

Brands can stand out this holiday season by offering customers exactly what they want: a personalized experience. By engaging new customers and inviting them to partake in brand-owned experiences, companies can set themselves up to build loyalty, develop brand advocates, and position themselves for success during the busiest shopping time of the year.

Manu Mathew
Manu Mathew boasts a rich history of involvement with several marketing software-focused startups. Presently, he serves as the CEO and Co-Founder of Cohora, a B2C Customer Retention & Activation platform. Before Cohora, Manu was President of the Americas for Ad-lib.io, a creative optimization SaaS business headquartered in the UK and the remarkable growth in the US market eventually culminated in Ad-lib's successful acquisition by Smartly.io in 2022. Prior to these ventures, Manu co-founded and served as the CEO of Visual IQ, a market leader in the space of cross-channel marketing attribution.

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