HOW TO KEEP CONSUMERS LOYAL AFTER LOCKDOWN
This period of lockdown is an uncertain time for many industries. Many consumers are unwilling or simply unable to buy. However, when the restrictions are lifted, there will be one sunset of consumers keeping companies afloat, the consumers that make up the foundation of any good business: the brand-loyal consumers.
WHAT IS BRAND LOYALTY?
To provide a quick context, here’s Propel's definition of brand loyalty. We define brand loyalty as a consistently strong, positive, long-term attitude in favour of a particular brand, along with a willingness to opt for – and pay a premium for – that branded product or service, time after time. Intense brand loyalty will resist anything that a rival brand offers or does, regardless of any variations in the marketplace. Brand loyalty is a valuable commodity, well worth understanding.
HOW TO SPOT BRAND LOYALTY?
Brand loyalty is expressed in our day-to-day actions, whether it's the dad who sticks to one brand of beer or the mum who insists on shopping at John Lewis. Brand loyalty is most obvious in word-of-mouth support and spoken recommendations for a brand.
Brand-loyal consumers also reveal their brand credentials by repeatedly buying goods or services from the same company, even when faced with basically identical items that are cheaper.
People sometimes express their brand loyalty almost without thinking. It can effectively operate at subliminal levels in everyday situations such as being confronted with a massive choice of goods on a supermarket shelf. If you don’t know most of those labels, it's more than likely that you’ll pick a brand you’re familiar with, whether through previous experience or exposure to marketing. In extreme cases, people will do without certain commodities until their favourite brand becomes available or will travel out of their way to buy that brand. That’s the power of brand loyalty and the financial implications are obvious.
HOW DO YOU CREATE BRAND LOYALTY DURING LOCKDOWN?
1) UTILISE BRAND AMBASSADORS
Lockdown has seen the effectiveness of traditional marketing techniques, such as print advertising, diminish. Businesses working on accumulating brand-loyal customers during lockdown must look for alternative marketing tactics such as utilising brand ambassadors. A brand ambassador’s job is to promote the brand to associates and friends, both in person at events, online and via social media. This strategy started with brands utilising celebrities' power to influence the masses. However, this has since boiled down to more specific niches of influence, such as social media influencers. More recently some brands have taken it one step further through the use of "Micro-Influencers" that is essentially making ambassadors of people we previously wouldn't consider very influential at all.
Simply put, this is paid-for, word-of-mouth, testimonial-style marketing for the brand. Whether you are enlisting an A-lister or reaching out to the popular girl from your high school, ambassadors are a remarkably worthwhile way of encouraging, winning and strengthening brand loyalty. Just be sure to appoint your Ambassadors carefully – if something goes wrong for them, professionally or in their private life (see Tiger Woods), it could reflect negatively on your brand.
2) ENGAGE WITH CUSTOMERS
These days, when opportunities to communicate with your customers in person are few and far between, brand loyalty hinges on the ability to communicate with consumers in ways that engage and involve them when given the chance. Social media is a tool that brands, such as John Lewis, utilise to keep in constant contact with their customers to ensure they are satisfied. If a customer tweets you or contacts you on Facebook they should receive a reply. Any gaps or flaws in the communication can cause the customer to stray and be lured away by some other brand’s seductive promises.
3) RESONATE WITH CUSTOMERS
Brands are most successful when they tap straight and deep into the emotions of their intended audience. Get the emotional impact and nuances right and you will increase customer engagement and boost repeat business through greater brand loyalty. And the higher the repeat customer rate is, the higher the profits for the brand are, for less effort and expense.
4) GO AGAINST THE STATUS QUO
Consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand if it is seen to be the only one providing relief from the mundane and the everyday. In recent years, it is difficult to find a brand that embodies this more than Brewdog. Brewdog burst onto the scene with head-turning flavours and marketing campaigns that punched through the noise. Brewdog even went so far as to publish their own book: Business for Punks. It prompts readers to ignore advice and burn market research. Maybe you don't need to be this extreme and anti-establishment but the sentiment holds true. If your customers believe they are getting something from you that is out of the ordinary they will be quicker to rally behind your brand in the future.
CREATE QUALITY EXPERIENCES AFTER LOCKDOWN
The buying experience is what creates a distinction between similar products and services. A memorable and engaging buying experience will improve brand recall and create positive memories associated with your business. It has been reported that newer generations of consumers are more interested in spending their money on experiences than simple products. People are growing more interested in lived experiences than material possessions. Whether you are providing a product or service, it is important to ensure it provides an engaging and meaningful consumer experience.
Luxury brands, such as Tom Ford, have been using excellent customer service, breathtaking shopping environments and extravagant packaging to provide customers with more than just a product.
Luxury goods are symbolic and often represent status and achievement, therefore luxury retailers often give customers the celebrity treatment and treat the transaction with a congratulatory tone.
However, you do not need to be selling a luxury product or service to give consumers a quality experience, you just need to understand who they are and what this purchase means to them.
THE MISSING LINK:
The businesses that are in the best position to survive during uncertain economic times are those with the largest, most reliable base of brand-loyal customers. In order to increase brand loyalty during lockdown, you should engage with your customers and provide them with as much value as possible even if they are not buying at the moment. The best way to build a relationship with customers that will last through tough circumstance is to ensure an enjoyable, quality buying experience.
About the author: Vincent Bissette is a freelance Brand Strategy and Design Consultant with over 30 years experience of branding and rebranding businesses and organisations, systematically, thoroughly and objectively. He has worked in major Design Consultancies as well as having run his own agency for 25 years, working with SMEs all over the UK to help them modernise their brand, grow their business, attract new customers, penetrate new markets and increase their sales, market share and profit. Throughout that time, there’s not much he hasn't done or many industries he hasn't worked in. He’s a creative, strategic thinker and problem solver with a wealth of experience in diagnosing trouble spots in brands and discovering their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Now based in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, he works throughout the entire UK.
Get in touch with him on Linkedin here