27 April 2021|Business Growth, Latest Posts, Launching a business, Marketing, PR, Promotion
By Louise Findlay-Wilson, Managing Director at Energy PR. It’s easy to understand why businesses want to achieve brand loyalty. Loyal customers are much more likely to help a brand find new customers and are much more forgiving when it makes mistakes. Indeed, according to the research completed for our Brand Love report, those who are completely committed to a brand are three times more likely to recommend it to others and will tolerate it making twice as many mistakes before they take their custom elsewhere.
Such loyalty also translates into revenue. For instance, while only eight percent of a typical online business’ customers may be repeat buyers, they account for a whopping 40 percent of its turnover.
Boosting customer loyalty by just a few percentage points can clearly have a profound impact on its bottom line, but how do you build loyalty for your brand?
We surveyed over 100 top marketers to answer this question. The first thing we found was that while price and customer service matter, they’re not the key ingredients that drive loyalty. Indeed, according to our study, just 33% of marketers think value for money is important for brand greatness, and 34% believe it is determined by its customer support.
Interestingly, innovation, which many would argue has been the springboard for high-profile businesses such as Tesla, Apple and Deliveroo, is not critical to love and loyalty either; just 11% of the marketers we interviewed think innovation drives love and loyalty.
Instead, they argue that to be loved and therefore have supreme loyalty, your brand needs to have values which align with the customer’s values (55%), be closely tied with the consumer’s identity (38%) and become part of their life (42%).
This all requires sophisticated thinking and communications. After all, I can easily communicate my great deals but how do I communicate my values? How do I tie in so closely with my customer at a personal level and become part of their life?
To engender customer loyalty, you need to have a set of values your customers understand and relate to. I’m not talking about things written down and then tucked away in a drawer. I mean values which shape your business decisions, your product/service offering and the way you run your business.
IKEA does this brilliantly. Indeed, it gets an honourable mention in our Brand Love report as does Timpson, the shoe repair firm. Both have absolute clarity about what they’re about and stand for. This translates into everything they do.
For example, conscious that their customers are increasingly expecting a better environmental performance from them, IKEA has created disassembly guides for its biggest sellers. The idea is that consumers are encouraged to take their Ikea furniture with them when they move. This isn’t some temporary eco flirtation on IKEA’s part; it’s part of an ongoing commitment to becoming a circular business which has seen the home giant announcing that it’s selling spare parts to make fixing things easier and launching a buy back scheme for old IKEA items.
Timpson has a different but equally strong set of values. The company’s management approach is based on a culture of trust and kindness. But this isn’t some meaningless statement, Timpson ‘does’ trust and kindness. For instance, it has 10 holiday homes and lodges across the UK and in Europe. These are offered free of charge to staff and their families. Employees are given an extra paid day off for their birthdays and in September the company announced staff could also take a paid day’s holiday to take a child to school on their first day.
The communications behind this announcement were characteristically in tune with customers. Posting on Twitter, James Timpson, wrote: “If you find our shops a bit short staffed this week, I’m sorry. We have a colleague benefit where you get an extra day off when your kids have their first day at school, so a number of colleagues are doing a very special job away from their shops!”
A response from one person summed up the impact of such an approach: “I love the work life balance and the general empathy from your company. Will make it a mission to find a Timpson before going anywhere else.”
These two examples brilliantly demonstrate how having a sense of purpose and letting it define decisions pays loyalty dividends.
But remember, your purpose must be authentic. It’s no good adopting fashionable values which you don’t really believe in. If you’ve adopted a false set of values, people will be able to tell, and you will not be able to keep up the pretence for the long haul!
A loyal customer wants to feel that the brand knows they exist as an individual and values them. They do not want to be just another name on a list! So, use the customer data you gather in your business to ensure the content shared, the products offered and the form and timing of all interactions feel utterly in step with your customer and their life.
Wex Photo Video, the specialist camera equipment retailer, did this brilliantly with my husband only last week. He bought a second-hand lens from the company. The lens duly arrived. He then received one of his regular emails from them, but in it Wex mentioned the specific lens, and said if he had any uncertainty about how to use it or had any questions, they’d be happy to help. This was smart and well-timed – a time lag of a few days, surely long enough for him to have got the lens out of the box and work out if he needed help or not. Now you may suggest this is simply good customer care, but it’s more than that. It’s smart communications, showing that he’s not a number, that his business matters and that someone is thinking about the way he might be using their products.
My last piece of advice centres around complacency. Many brands may feel that they have very loyal customers. However, according to our Brand Love study, 53% think people will still stick with an ordinary brand even if it messes up twice! This suggests a large amount of perceived loyalty could be apathy! A brand may get away with this for a while but remember this apathy cuts both ways. When that customer eventually jumps ship, winning them back will be hard. They will stick with a rival, for ages, even if they make mistakes!
Also, let’s not forget, people who absolutely love a brand and are utterly loyal to it will, according to our research, put up with a lot of mistakes and still stick around. But exceed five errors and they’ll walk. This means some of your most loyal customers could be sitting in your customer complaints department right now! So, take a close look at what’s coming into the customer service team and how it’s being dealt with. Don’t be a brand that takes existing customers for granted. We’re loyal to the brands we love; earn that love, and then through your communications, prove you deserve it.
To find out how PR can help you build a loved brand, visit our Advice Centre.
About the Author
Louise Findlay-Wilson is a regular speaker and commentator on PR, digital and social media and owns leading agency, Energy PR. In a PR career spanning over 30 years, Louise has worked with a huge array of B2B and consumer brands. From major names such as the BBC, Lloyds Bank, Capita, Cap Gemini, Schwartz, 20th Century Fox and St Paul’s Cathedral through to exciting, ambitious start-ups and fast-growing SMEs – helping them use PR to drive and accelerate their growth.
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