The changing face of brand loyalty – it’s all about the experience

Experian's Matthew Dunn

Matthew Dunn says the right level of consumer insight is a crucial must-have for modern marketers.

I was recently interviewed by BBC Radio Nottingham for a segment they did on brand loyalty. The discussion was extremely interesting and I decided to summarise my thoughts on paper.

Customer loyalty is crucial to every business – but how can brands foster loyalty in a modern marketplace dominated by choice, customer expectation and competition?

Whether it’s a pub, greengrocer, supermarket or huge multi-national corporation, having customers who consistently return as repeat business is vital.

For big companies brand loyalty has historically revolved around the quality of the products being sold. If someone buys a product and likes it, they are more likely to buy it again.

For smaller customer-facing organisations (grocers, pubs and small outlets etc.) the quality of service has always been a fundamental factor in keeping customers loyal. Making the shopping experience as pleasant and personal as possible was key to getting those customers to return. In the modern world personalised service is as important for every organisation as it has historically been for the smaller shops.

This is because the market has changed dramatically. In the last decade the internet has transformed the way we work and the way we live – and brand loyalty has changed as a result. The internet, smart phones and social media (and combinations of all three) have allowed people to have personal relationships with brands – and brands that don’t cater to their customers’ expectations are going to struggle.

How do big businesses build up brand loyalty?

Essentially people demand to be treated as individuals. They want to receive tailored and relevant messages via the right channels and at the right times.

Indeed, a survey by Experian Marketing Services showed that:

–          84% of people would walk away from a company that doesn’t listen to them.

–          74% of customers would respond positively to companies that understand them.

Just like a publican serving his regulars, or a greengrocer packing someone’s bags, customer service is about personal interaction. One pub-goer may prefer a little extra head on their pint or a particular customer may want their bags packed in a specific way. Consistently getting these wrong will mean a poor experience for customers and the same principles apply to wider business.

Creating brand loyalty in the modern marketing world relies on one simple factor. Knowing your customers. Who they are, what they like and how they want to be contacted, are just three of the crucial nuggets of information required. If a brand knows about its customers it can concentrate on tailoring the experience to their conveniences and preferences.

If one person prefers email then make sure they only receive emails from then on. If another wants to hear about upcoming deals about one of your products, but isn’t interested in the rest of your portfolio, then make sure they only get sent information about one they like. Likewise, a busy working mum may PREFER to buy in-store and occasionally online, but may find the most convenient channel for her to buy something at a particular time is on her mobile during the morning commute. – it’s all about channel convenience and preference together.

Businesses have to know their customers in order to give them these experiences

Of course, to know your customers you have to have the right insight. It takes increasingly complex, cross-channel data analysis to get that consumer insight – but it is a crucial must-have for modern marketers.

Once you can start to build up a picture of your customers you need to establish a Single Customer View – to get an overall picture of each customer so that you know how they behave and what they like. Rather than a single email address or phone number you start to get an idea of a real person – with preferences, contact details and behaviour patterns. It’s only now that you can start tailoring your customer journey to better suit what they want from a customer experience.

Companies that fail to adapt and fail to take their customers’ wants and desires to heart are in danger of being cast aside by those self-same customers. With modern technology changing the way we live our lives and the way we purchase, the power now well and truly sits with the consumers – so it’s crucial that brands keep those consumers loyal and to do what they need to understand them.

What are your thoughts? Do you think companies need to get to know their customers better? Do you disagree that understanding your audience is the most important aspect of brand loyalty? We want to hear from you. Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.