The ever-growing popularity of the internet has proven to be a challenge for many marketers. Given the saturated marketplace and the ease of accessibility, the successful tactics of days gone by may no longer be the most effective.
The “if you build it and they will come” adage doesn’t really apply anymore; rather than relying on customer loyalty, brands have to make a conscious and continuous effort to appeal to their target demographics.
But, some are quick to dismiss the idea of brand loyalty altogether. Many assume that this concept has been completely abandoned. While it may not be as straightforward as it once was, brand loyalty does still exist. It’s just a bit harder to come by these days.
1. Brand Loyalty Isn’t Dead -- But Blind Loyalty Is Rare
When there were fewer choices available on the market, customers were more likely to pick a label and stick to it. Some even included their brand loyalty as part of their identity.
If you’ve ever seen the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, you might recall the scene wherein George Clooney’s character protests, “I’m a Dapper Dan man!” when faced with the idea of purchasing a different brand of hair pomade.
It’s not just in the movies, either; countless ad campaigns of the past were focused on promoting the connection between consumer identity and brand reliance.
But today, we have a wider variety of products to choose from. Consumers might have a certain preference for products and brands, but they’ll be more likely to try out an alternative than go without. And even when a product or service is readily available, they might not be convinced they’re actually getting the best.
They’re more willing to see what else is out there to satisfy their curiosity, rather than stick with what’s familiar and works well enough. Just because they’ve purchased from your brand for several years doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to stick around for that reason alone. And that’s where actively building brand loyalty comes into play.
2. How Marketers Can Build Brand Loyalty In The Digital Age
One thing’s for sure: brand loyalty is not a given. It’s something you’ll have to constantly work towards if you want to retain existing customers and bring in new ones. Of course, the methods have changed quite a bit over the years. Print, radio, and TV ads were once enough to keep brands at the forefront, but marketing in the modern age involves a bit more subtlety and intricacy.
It requires a lot of work below the surface -- as well as many moving pieces working together -- to capture your customers’ interest, again and again, convincing them to stay loyal when they have so many other choices available to them. There are many ways to do this, some more effective for certain industries or types of businesses than others.
But you’ll likely find that most of these methods are quite universal, making them applicable to brands both large and small, whether they be brand new or firmly established.
i. Use Social Media Wisely
Social media platforms may have once simply served as a way for college students to connect, but these days, they’re an important part of building brand recognition and communicating with customers all around the world.
Not only do you need to establish these accounts, but you also need to post high-quality content regularly, develop a unique brand voice, engage with users by answering questions and responding to comments, and drive traffic to your website. This will not only allow you to build on established customer relationships and provide support, but it’ll also work seamlessly with your other branding. These points are pivotal ones when you’re attempting to develop brand loyalty.
You may also want to think about involving established social media influencers to get the word out about your brand, as long as your target demographics have a good amount of overlap and the partnership makes sense. Just like public relations efforts can add more value than traditional advertising, these collaborations can add to your brand’s integrity and help you reach new audiences.
ii. Focus On Customer Service
Just because customers shop digitally, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to anyone. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The quality of your customer service matters a lot when it comes to brand loyalty.
How reachable you are or the way in which you respond to customer concerns will have a direct impact on how trustworthy the average consumer will consider your brand to be. Ignored questions, combative responses, and lack of helpfulness will likely result in bad reviews and customer exodus en masse.
By promoting how available you are and ensuring your customer service department is truly stellar, you’ll show consumers you want to go above and beyond -- and a little of that can go a surprisingly long way. Don’t forget to show your customer appreciation and give back to those who support you!
iii. Make Content a Priority
In years past, a slick marketing pitch would be enough to bring new customers in (and possibly get them to stay). But today’s consumer is much more discerning. Generally speaking, customers don’t like to feel like they’re being overtly sold something. Instead, they want to know how a brand’s products or services can address a common problem they’re experiencing.
That’s just one reason that content marketing has become a lot more popular. By providing relevant, interesting information to just about anyone who surfs the web, you can prove that your company is a leader in your industry.
While the promotional copy isn’t necessarily going away, taking a less obvious approach often pays off. Instead of telling customers why your product is the best, consider writing blog posts, producing videos, and developing other content that provides solutions and answers questions in an altruistic way.
This shows consumers you care and that you want to help -- regardless of whether they buy anything from you or not. You might assume this could backfire, but the reality is that it’ll actually draw customers in (and get them to stick around).
iv. Ensure Your Branding is Consistent
When trying to build your customer base, the last thing you want to do is to confuse them. While it’s important to recognize when your branding is outdated and take action, doing this too often will end up doing more harm than good.
In general, your brand should have the same feel every time someone interacts with it, whether it be on your website, in an email blast, or when they purchase a product and see the packaging in person. Disjointed branding will leave your customers feeling just as disoriented as your entire business feels.
Your design needs to be seamless and impactful on every platform, every time. That means that your social media platforms, blog, and all other marketing materials all need to make sense together. Consider the fact that Adobe’s 2016 State of Create Report revealed that seven in 10 U.S. adults said they’d be more loyal to a brand that employs good design.
“Good design” doesn’t only mean that it’s aesthetically pleasing; it also needs to be consistent and instantly recognizable. After all, your customers need to instantly know what they’re getting and who they’re getting it from. Otherwise, they’ll likely move on to a competitor who’s left no room for doubt.
iv. Appeal to Local Consumers
SEO, or search engine optimization, is an important part of driving traffic to your site and increasing overall brand awareness. This can have an indirect impact on brand loyalty since it’s often how new customers will find you in the first place. But local SEO has become even more important for brands trying to build up customer loyalty.
A lot of companies assume that local customers already know about them. But the reality is that most people actually don’t remember those kinds of details, even if they’ve found you on Google before. Focusing on local SEO, however, WILL help both locals and visitors find you right away.
Targeted ads, l, and Google Business reviews will help your brand become much more visible. Of course, if you’re trying to target a national market, this will be only one small part of building a marketing strategy that focuses on brand loyalty. But no matter what, you probably can’t afford to ignore your local customers.
Understanding the factors that contribute to brand loyalty isn’t always simple, but it’s well worth the effort
The digital is landscape is always changing, which means marketers have to change along with it. Even though customer loyalty is no longer a guarantee, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
By focusing on what really matters to the modern consumer, you’ll be able to build your brand recognition, ensure consistency and quality, and connect with your target audience -- all of which will make a customer a lot more likely to buy from you on a regular basis.
Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.