Interview: Carnegie Mellon Professor Ari Lightman On How Students Are Empowered By Learning To Use Brandwatch Consumer Research
By Kara FinnertyJun 10
Published October 19th 2016
Brand loyalty seems to be quite a debated term on the net. There is such a thing as brand loyalty, but it is somewhat elusive, mainly because there are no shortcuts. To build brand loyalty you need to understand your customers and deliver a consistently great experience.
Think about companies you show brand loyalty to. Personally, I can only think of one.
I buy my glasses from on online retailer. They were recommended by a friend. Years later, I’m still buying from them. I recommend them to any friends who are buying new glasses, and they are the only company who I’ve randomly praised on Twitter because I was so happy with their service.
Why am I brand loyal to this glasses company? The glasses are cheap and good quality, but loads of products I buy can claim the same. What makes the difference is the customer experience. Every interaction with them is convenient. And consistently too, after years of being a customer.
Even when I gave them the wrong prescription, (totally my fault) they paid for the postage to return them and they replaced the lenses free of charge. Every customer service interaction has been painless – a pleasant experience even – and how often can you say that about other companies?
The qualities that have driven brand loyalty in me are echoed in a piece of Rare research, which states “Loyalty isn’t functional.” The paper shows that while the average purchase is driven by price (81% of respondents agree), quality (80%) and convenience (55%), a purchase made because of brand loyalty is about likeability (86%) and trust (83%).
Loyalty is about how something or someone makes you feel. Having a good price doesn’t connect with you emotionally.
Everybody wants to leave a good impression when they meet someone for the first time, and a brand should be no different. If the first experience sticks in the mind of the customer they are likely to return, whereas a bad first impression can see them move onto another brand. There is plenty of choice and information available to everyone, so why would they stick with you after a bad first impression?
Do you know who knows what your customers want? Your customers! It’s not rocket science, but it is worth repeating as there are a lot of companies who do not pay enough attention to their customers.
While feedback and customer reviews can be very useful, the wealth of data now available can surface much more insightful knowledge about your consumer base. If you make the voice of the customer an important part of your decision-making process you will be automatically more aligned with your customers.
Social intelligence can surface detailed consumer insights that can impact marketing, public relations, product development, customer service, and HR to improve the customer experience right across the brand.
Incentives can be good, but there is often a question mark around cause and effect with loyalty programs.
I saw a statistic recently that said 58% of people buy from a store at least once a month when they belong to the loyalty program. My local supermarket has a loyalty program, and as our front doors are about one minute’s walk apart I’ve joined it. I’m not loyal – the second I move house I’ll be shopping wherever is closest to my new house – but I’m part of the scheme because it saves me money.
Having said that, if done in the right way, a reminder or reward of some sort can be an effective tool. Going above someone’s expectations is a great way to delight someone, and give them a reason to come back.
My same local supermarket has free fruit for kids at the entrance, and I imagine that little touch is remembered by the parents who shop there. Early access, insider information, and special status can all be used, and especially for high worth customers.
This is really important. Often customer service representatives are one of the only human points of contact between customer and brand. It is vital for brand loyalty that this experience is a good one.
Look at anyone on Twitter complaining about bad customer service they have received – they are furious. They want other people to know how bad it was and the brand to lose business.
This is not a reason to not avoid social media, as people will complain on the channel of their choosing. Instead, employing the right tools and empowering staff can make social media customer service another string to your bow.
Keep a close eye on what your competition is doing and what the current trends are in your industry. Good brand loyalty is not a reason to be complacent, you still need to consistently offer value. As well as keeping an eye on the competition so you aren’t left behind, it’s important to try to lead and not follow. The earlier point of listening to your customers is relevant here; social listening will help with new product development and product feedback.
Shout about customer wins where possible. Not only does it celebrate your customers, making them feel good about themselves, but also demonstrates to others the benefits of being your customer.
Does your brand have brand values? Loyalty is about an emotional connection, so if your brand stands for something and that connects with people, they are more likely to stick with you. As Seth Godin has stated, a brand is “a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships”. Building and promoting brand values can help you to become more than a product with a logo.
This is a continuation of being available for customer service on any channel. You have to be where the customer is and make it convenient for them. Then, if you are available on multiple channels, you need to make that cross-channel experience as seamless as possible.
I love that I can watch Netflix on the Xbox in my living room, switch to the TV in my bedroom and then to the iPad on my commute, and continue watching the same program seamlessly. It’s such an effortless, convenient process, and one that brands should attempt to replicate.