The marketplace has changed. Consumer preferences, purchase behavior, and expectations have changed dramatically. In this post-pandemic marketplace, marketers need to evolve their loyalty program and broader loyalty strategy to meet the new needs of the post-pandemic consumer. The following are ten strategies you can use to improve the customer experience and increase customer loyalty. These strategies will help your brand survive the post-pandemic and set the foundation for continued success.
10 Strategies to Increase Customer Loyalty in 2022
1. Customer Care Comes First
If you want to build brand loyalty, you must place customer care in a key position of your overall business strategy. From top management on down, emphasis should be placed on putting the customer at the center of your business. A study by Wunderman found that the majority (79%) of consumers said brands have to actually demonstrate that they understand and care about them before they are going to consider purchasing. In addition, the research also identified that the competitive landscape has changed with 87 percent of US consumers now evaluating brands against leading companies like Amazon, Uber, and Netflix, which have effectively set new standards of excellence that extend beyond traditional product categories.
2. Make Life Easier
Make your customer’s life easier with initiatives to improve the customer experience. As disruptive companies leverage breakthroughs in the cloud, mobile, social, and artificial intelligence technology to deliver personalized, valuable, and immediate experiences, customers have more choices than ever. As a result, they expect this superior experience from any business they engage with. The ripple effect of a single bad experience or missed customer expectation goes beyond a lost sale. Fifty-seven percent of customers have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience. What’s more, 62 percent of customers say they share bad experiences with others. With the proliferation of peer review sites and social media, a disappointed customer can inflict widespread reputational damage.
Accenture’s Global Consumer Pulse survey found that 85 percent of customers are frustrated by dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them, 84 percent by companies promising one thing, but delivering another; and 58 percent are frustrated with inconsistent experiences from channel to channel. Customers expect digital, at-home, and low-touch options. Companies should also re-examine offering omnichannel fulfillment options such as buy online and pick up in-store.
Concentration should be placed on being reliable for scheduled deliveries, being able to fulfill orders, keeping customers informed, personalizing service, and measuring customer service levels. Delivering personalized experiences drives customer loyalty, with 70 percent of consumers saying a company’s understanding of their individual needs influences their loyalty, and 69 percent saying the same of personalized customer care.
3. Encourage Customer Feedback
Encourage complaints and praise by opening all lines of communication via email, telephone, online chat, and social media. Companies should look to quick and novel ways to keep a pulse on consumer sentiment. The Harris Poll found that between 46 percent and 51 percent of US adults were using social media more since the pandemic began. Mobile messaging continues to grow, not only due to the pandemic but also data shows strong engagement on messaging services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Apple iMessage. The surge in the adoption of social media and mobile messaging offers brands the opportunity to gather customer insights and rapidly understand consumer sentiment and develop new strategies.
Marketers should also leverage their customer databases to follow up with current customers and see why they haven’t heard from old customers. Just like you, your customers endured massive upheaval. They’re making difficult decisions: who can be trusted, who will help make things better, who keeps their promises. And when this crisis is behind us, as it surely will be, customers will remember the brands that satisfied their rational needs — and those that genuinely met their emotional needs during a very tough time. Be prompt with answers. Give customers credit for their ideas. Their feedback and engagement are important, let them know you appreciate it.
Gallup research shows that engaged customers (B2C) — those who strongly agree that the brand they patronize “always delivers on what they promise,” that it’s “the perfect company for people like me” and that they’re “proud to be a customer” — return a 23 percent premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth over the average customer. Key customer engagement trends that emerged from the research by industry include:
- Retail banking customers who are fully engaged bring 37 percent more annual revenue to their primary bank than actively disengaged customers.
- Consumer electronics shoppers who are fully engaged spend 29 percent more per shopping trip than actively disengaged customers.
- Hotel guests who are fully engaged spend 46 percent more per year than actively disengaged guests.
- Companies that successfully engage their business-to-business(B2B) customers realize a 63 percent lower customer attrition, 55 percent higher share of wallet, and 50 percent higher productivity.
It’s critical to understand what your customers are looking for right now — it might be reassurance about your store cleanliness efforts or your support for affected employees, rather than your core product. 4A’s Research found that more than half (56%) of consumers are pleased to hear about brands taking actions to help out communities, like making donations of goods and services.
Each touchpoint has its own cost implications and perceived benefits to your customer. In developing your customer communication plan, leverage each touchpoint to focus on what really matters to your customer — creating concise, relevant, and compelling messages that build relationships based on your customers’ needs.
Contact customers throughout the customer journey. A Google study found that 62% of customers find it extremely/very important to be able to call your business at the purchase stage. Inform, educate, and ask how they feel after the sale. Communication should be initiated through all channels. 51 percent of U.S. consumers are loyal to brands that interact with them through their preferred channels of communication.
Social Media Post Pandemic
“The pandemic has brought to light how social media is intrinsically intertwined with how we live, work, operate, and shop. In a time when social distance regulations and non-essential business closures impact businesses everywhere, social commerce is often one of the only ways for brands to stay open and connected with consumers. If brands and organizations want to remain relevant, they will need to digitize and implement a social commerce strategy,” said Maggie Lower, CMO of Hootsuite
Marketers need to consider these top trends in social media, the internet, and eCommerce culled from Hootsuite’s Digital 2022 report.
- There are now 4.62 billion social media users around the world, representing a growth of more than 10 percent (424 million new users) since this time last year. The number of social media users is now equivalent to more than 58 percent of the world’s total population.
- Social commerce continues to manifest its importance in Meta’s advertising data. The company’s latest numbers reveal that more than 560 million Facebook users now see ads in Marketplace each month, and 187 million Instagram users see ads in Instagram’s Shop tab.
- Instagram’s ad reach has jumped by 21 percent (more than 257 million users) over the past year. Ads on Instagram reach almost 1.5 billion users each month, with more than 1 billion users reached through Instagram Stories alone.
- The number of people who own cryptocurrencies has jumped by more than a third (+37.8 percent) since this time last year. More than 1 in 10 working-age internet users now own some form of cryptocurrency.
- E-commerce adoption rates that we’ve seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to climb, showing no signs of declining. Nearly 6 in 10 working-age internet users (58.4 percent) now buy something online every week, with that figure continuing to rise throughout 2021.
- WhatsApp tops the rankings of the world’s “favorite” social media platforms, with 15.7 percent of working-age internet users choosing the messenger app as their favorite social platform. Instagram has overtaken Facebook to claim second place in the worldwide rankings with 14.8 percent of global internet users identifying Instagram as their favorite platform, compared to 14.5 percent for Facebook.
- More than 1 in 4 internet users aged 16 to 64 (27.6 percent) say that they discover new brands, products, and services via social media ads.
“We are seeing rapid changes in culture, the economy, and society more broadly. The huge shifts in behavior witnessed over the last 12 months are now permanent, and are set to accelerate even faster,” said Nathan McDonald, Co-founder, and Group Chief Executive, We Are Social. “More people than ever are spending time online: beyond social connections, information, and entertainment, the growth of social commerce, gaming, and spending on cryptocurrencies and digital goods is evidence of real cultural change. It’s never been more important for marketers to have a deep understanding of online communities, cultures, and subcultures.”
Cultivating customer relationships on social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Ticktock, Twitter, and Instagram is a meaningful way to create loyal customers and brand followers who continue to purchase your products and services and act as your brand ambassadors. Ideally, your social listening tool will pick up every topic and every conversation about your brand. Respond to all complaints, comments, and mentions, both positive and negative, in a timely manner. This shows that you care about your customer’s opinions and problems, which can help to establish further connections.
Giving Back Increases Brand Loyalty
Many companies are using this difficult time to display venerable corporate social responsibility (CSR) by giving back and supporting communities across the United States. As a loyalty trend, we see a rise in brands recognizing the value of engaging belief-driven buyers, both inside their loyalty programs and beyond.
The easiest way to give back within a loyalty program is to have charitable rewards part of your loyalty strategy. For example, REI donates $0.10 per REI Co-op World Elite Mastercard purchase transaction made to the REI Foundation, up to $1 million. REI Foundation is a 501c3 private charity that aims to: rewild cities, keep wild places wild, connect underrepresented groups to the outdoors; demonstrate nature’s health benefits, and advance climate action. Another example is the DSW and Soles4Souls partnership. DSW VIP members can donate a pair of new or lightly worn shoes at any location and receive 50 reward points. Or they can donate their Reward points to the charity.
An example is a Brazilian airline, Azul’s, recent offer of virtual flights to raise funds for the Ukraine refugees. Azul announced a unique initiative to raise funds for the Ukrainian people. Customers who want to donate to help Ukraine can purchase seats for virtual flights between Sao Paulo Campinas, Brazil, and Ukraine. While the flights are not being flown, the total value of the purchase is donated to the International Committee of the Red Cross to support their efforts to aid the millions of refugees leaving Ukraine.
“We knew we had to find a creative way to help so we decided to keep the sensation that your support was actually flying to Ukraine. We will use all our communication channels to reach out to our 14 million loyalty members and the millions of customers that fly Azul every month. We have scheduled these virtual flights for the next 90 days and we hope that the donations force us to add even more. No amount is too small and we are committed here at Azul to use all the tools at our disposal to generate these important donations for the Red Cross in support of its relief efforts in Ukraine. All of the associated marketing costs and processing fees will be funded by Azul. This is just the first in a series of initiatives and we hope over the next days and weeks we can find even more creative ways to support the people of Ukraine.John Rodgerson, Azul’s CEO
5. Loyalty Program
Loyalty programs are emerging as a means to an end for insight and experience delivery. And the best loyalty programs set a brand’s loyalty strategy as the outcome of all the experiences a customer has with a brand and reframes the loyalty programs as the source of customer insight needed to meet and personalize customer experiences.
The wealth of customer insight generated by loyalty programs enables data-driven insights on an individual level and addresses motivators, buying behaviors, and emotional triggers that can be leveraged to great benefit — at scale.
It’s not surprising that brands that are genuinely helpful, removing points of friction, increasing relevance, and making people feel acknowledged and valued are successful. “Companies overwhelmingly recognize that personalization is an inextricable part of good customer experience and want to deliver on that,” Andy Zimmerman, chief marketing officer, Evergage.
A recent study found that when marketers personalize, they see advances in their customer relationships (98%) – with 7 in 10 (70%) describing the impact as “strong” or “extremely strong.” In addition, nine in 10 marketers (90 percent) report a measurable lift in business results, attributable to personalization, and 58 percent say that lift is greater than 10 percent. Among marketers who use machine-learning personalization, 77 percent see a lift greater than 10 percent.
6. Employee Training
Make sure that all employees have the training and understand their mission. Policies that reduce friction for consumers and empower employees bring higher customer satisfaction—and foster greater loyalty.
Encourage employees to think like a customer. Ask your front-line employees what they think might improve customer loyalty. Being heard is a fundamental need. And during times of crisis, that need grows stronger. Take their feedback, evaluate the financial viability of implementing the best ideas, and recognize the employees’ contribution to the company’s success. Use their feedback to make data-driven decisions and continue to drive a people-centered culture. There’s a clear correlation: more people report feeling engaged at work when they’re being asked for feedback (59%) than those who aren’t (49%).
Everyone in the business should know how to communicate and listen to customers. As part of your customer loyalty strategy, create an internal communication plan to inform employees of any changes in how they fulfill customer needs. When everybody works toward a common goal, each department becomes more effective and driven. And when departments work well together, employees feel a real sense of belonging.
7. Leverage Technology
Take advantage of any technological changes that can help with increased customer loyalty. Speed, convenience, helpful employees, and friendly service matter most to over 70 percent of consumers. Also investing in personalization efforts to build relationships and create better experiences can pay off with serious rewards for brands. nearly all consumers (91 percent) are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations. Seventy-five percent of consumers say they would find it valuable to create and manage a “style profile”, or a living profile, that brands could use to better curate personalized experiences and make recommendations.
8. Foster Employee Loyalty
Loyal employees are more willing to help you build brand loyalty. Take actions to display your appreciation for employees. Appreciation consistently ranks as one of the top culture drivers and it plays a big role in motivation, job satisfaction, and retention.
McKinsey’s Organization Practice provided two research-backed approaches employers can take to address employees’ needs during the pandemic. First, “use segmentation to identify which employees are struggling and what they need. Complement publicly available data with internal tools, such as open-listening channels, pulse surveys, and advanced analytics. Use these tools to understand the diverse set of challenges that employees and teams are facing and identify the best ways of supporting them where they’re struggling the most.”
Second, “take a personalized approach to foster culture and enable change. In driving new mindsets and behaviors (such as adapting to a new virtual-working model) at scale, it’s important to engage employees in a continual two-way dialogue that takes into consideration their specific needs, allows them to configure their own journeys, delivers personalized coaching, and provides them with a forum to share best practices with others who may share similar challenges.”
9. Be Reliable
Your company’s reputation is always on the line. Be a reliable choice for your customers and they will keep coming back. Honor your commitments and warranties. Always be considerate when listening to the concerns of your customers and immediately compensate them for any inconvenience.
10. Offer Great Products or Services
Your business is providing a solution to a customer’s problem. Everyone in your company should understand why your products or services are the best so they can relay that message to each customer.
Filed under: Brand Loyalty