Brand Loyalty and Customer Loyalty have been understood and used interchangeably by businesses. However while there is an overlap, there exists a distinction between the two. In India, price sensitivity is usually high and therefore most businesses tend to merge the two concepts. Furthermore, when there are multiple choices for the same product it only escalates the competition to play into pricing strategies to attract and retain customers through a predominantly Customer Loyalty lens.
In order to understand how to make each of these concepts work for your business, let's take a step back to understand their differences; why they are important and how you can leverage them to grow your business.
Not only have modern customers become more savvy, but their biases, pragmatic expectations from businesses (i.e. accountability, business practices, reciprocal loyalty etc.) directly drive their own loyalty. Customers expect businesses to not only interact with them across media channels but also provide quality engagement (i.e. address their concerns and solve their problems).
It has been reported extensively that it is cheaper to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. Furthermore, loyalty from existing customers increases their likelihood of trying new products from the same company by 50%, and spending up to 31% more than new customers.
"Loyalty is a virtue and has to be earned to truly mean something. Loyalty implies dedication, and shouldn't be confused with habit and its less than emotional engagement and commitment."
Customer Loyalty can be explained (from a financial lens) as a customer’s willingness to repeatedly return to your business to buy a product or service solution (simply put - it is how often someone spends their money with you). It can also be explained (from a mindshare lens) as to how much a customer talks about you. Customers usually do this maybe because of the goodwill that brands have built up over time; or because of the discounts that brands offer etc. The concept of Customer Loyalty can exist outside of Brand Loyalty as it is more transactional; which is why sometimes businesses see their customers switch products from Company A to Company B almost at the drop of a hat.
"Customers who have had a bad experience with a brand (but the brand fixed it) are more loyal than customers who never had a problem in the first place."
Brand Loyalty on the other hand can be explained as the emotional connect that customers have built with your brand because their values or ideologies resonate with your brand’s values or ideologies. It is rooted deeply in the emotional connections and attachments customers have with your brand. It is not related to price but more toward trust and therefore remains intangible. The degree of influence a brand has on how customers feel directly impacts their purchase decision and stickiness to a brand. A brand’s Imagery reinforces this degree of influence. Customers who feel brand loyalty look at discounts and offers as gestures of gratitude for patronage, vis-a-vis sales tactics. They accept it with equal enthusiasm as the premium price that they are willing to pay for the brand.
There exist 4 tiers in Loyalty
Hard-core Loyals are customers that will only buy from a specific brand, all the time
Split Loyals are customers that tend to be loyal to two or three brands within a category
Shifting Loyals tend to move around from one brand to another (not necessarily within their usual Split)
Switch Loyals are those who have no loyalty; they are deal prone or constantly looking for bigger discounts
8 Way to Build and Maintain Loyalty
Create Reward Programs with Loyalty Tiers for Customers
Partner with another company that complements your business
Set up Subscription-based Programmes
Personalise Marketing and Sales to prioritise emotional relationships in your customers’ language
Ask for Feedback/ Reviews and respond with Honesty and Flexibility
Stay aware and cognisant of social sentiments
4 Core Brand Values that drive Loyalty
Simple acts of compassion by staff can not only neutralise irate customers but turn them into powerful advocates for the business. A study published by Accenture noted that 81% of customers are loyal to companies that demonstrated compassion during customers' time of need; 50% of customers have switched brands due to poor customer experience.
Transparency, Honesty and Respect play vital roles in modern customer mindsets. Studies have shown that 70% of customers distrust advertisements while 42% of customers distrust brands; in part due to spreading 'fake news'.
Brands that have a long history often hold powerful connections with customers. This is in part due to customers anchoring memories with the brand. Creating strong stories and maintaining meaningful relationships will help your brand build loyalty.
It has been noted that Generation Y and Generation Z expect brands to actively support and demonstrate their social responsibility be it via charity events or supporting charity organisations, environmental causes, equality opportunities etc.
6 Customer Patterns that drive Loyalty
Customers who are too lazy to seek out the competition will continue to buy from you. This advantage however goes away quickly if your competition ups their game and improves the convenience of buying from them vs. you.
Customers in general like to feel they are 'cooler' or 'smarter' than their peers. As long as your brand is able to maintain a customer's desired status, they will remain loyal.
Customers will always continue to buy a brand that they trust (i.e. product quality, customer service, after-sales support) and they can depend on.
Brands which demonstrate character, and share a similar attitude and personality, will resonate with customers and therefore drive loyalty.
Customers like excitement and prefer brands that continuously do interesting things that grab attention.
Customers are social creatures and like to feel like they belong to something larger than themselves; maybe it could be a shared hobby or a personal interest or being part of a community. Brands that build an inclusive community will always drive loyalty.
9 Benefits of Loyalty
Greater acceptance of product extensions
Creating entry barriers for new companies intending to offer similar products, services and solutions
Unfair Competitive Advantage in the marketplace
Acquisition costs for new customers is lower
Retention costs for existing customers is lower
Free Brand Advocacy
Conclusion: True Brand Loyalty is when customers are willing to pay higher prices for a certain brand, think highly of the brand and go out of their way for the brand. Paying close attention to your customer wants, needs, desires, reviews and feedback results in brands being rewarded with preference and loyalty. Brand Loyalty has the power to turn enthusiasm into fidelity. It is with this fidelity that brands inspire customers to keep coming back and even evangelise for your brand.
Related Reading: Unleashing the power of experiential marketing,
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