“Brand loyalty” is something retailers have always worked to achieve with their customers, dating back to days of storefront-only sales, but it can be a tricky concept to completely understand and is constantly evolving. Most retailers recognize that building and maintaining brand loyalty is part of a larger overall customer engagement strategy and that it can impact their bottom line, but the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” aspects of brand loyalty can be very unclear.
One thing is very clear, however: consumers today have more retail choices and buying options than ever before. This means having a solid plan to retain and build strong relationships with existing customers is more important than ever, no matter what type of products are being sold.
So what exactly should retailers be doing? Unfortunately, the truth is that there is no silver bullet because every retailer and their customer-base is different, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t best practices and tricks that should be taken into consideration. And what better way to learn these tips and tricks than directly from high-level retail executives.
Members of the QuickPivot team were able to do just this at a recent Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange event in Boston. The two-panel session featured speakers from Bose, J. Jill, Ministry of Supply, SoulCycle, and Stop & Shop, and covered a number of aspects of brand loyalty and customer engagement. Here is some of the key advice the panel members shared.
If Customers Love the Product, They'll Love the Brand
This one may seem obvious since every company, regardless of industry, wants to deliver the best product(s) possible to their customers. But it’s true: if a product delivers a bad experience, odds are that your customer is going to look elsewhere. Cynthia Smith, Head of Global Digital Marketing for Bose, pointed out that if customers are returning items there’s likely no customer retention taking place there, which of course means zero brand loyalty. Her belief is that the worthiness of the product helps to drive habit-forming experiences with a brand, and thus increase loyalty and retention.
Scott Resnick, Head of Loyalty at SoulCycle, echoed these sentiments, albeit in a slightly different manner. SoulCycle’s main product is ultimately the experiences its studios offer its customers, so positive in-studio experiences are critical when trying to build brand loyalty. This puts the onus on local SoulCycle staff according to Resnick, but he said this personalized connection between staff and customer is exactly the approach the company is after when trying to foster loyalty.
A Customer-Centric Approach is Key to Sustained Relationships
Focusing on customers’ wants and needs is a no-brainer, but what’s’ most important is the manner(s) in which retailers connect and communicate with their customers. Smith and Resnick revealed that their organizations focus heavily on their respective mobile app(s) as the primary point of contact with their customers. Both Smith and Resnick noted that this approach allows their organizations to send messages directly to their customers, and each organizations’ customers are rewarded as they spend time using the apps. This in turn encourages interaction with the brand and also makes customers feel recognized and appreciated, creating positive experiences and sentiments.
Robin Ruttle, Loyalty + Digital Marketing at Stop & Shop, revealed that a large portion of Stop & Shop’s focus is on interactions between its store associates and customers. She noted that, while its important for the organization to communicate and connect with customers via different mediums (like email, app, and SMS), having store associates interact with customers creates a personal connection and a sense of community and trust. These positive in-store experiences with associates in-turn lead to positive feelings about the brand overall.
Actionable Customer Data is Critical
For any organization, having a clear understanding of customers is critical for engaging them and generating interest in the brand. While each noted their organization was at different stages when it came to customer data, Smith, Ruttle, and Resnick all touched on the importance of collecting customer data, analyzing it, and making it actionable to deliver personalized experiences. Both Smith and Ruttle noted that their organizations actually employ data science teams that mull through the data. Both noted that these teams of data scientists help the brand to deliver content to various segments of their customer bases. This is critically important for making customers feel like the brand is connecting directly with them, which helps create the sense that the brand cares for them individually.
One of the most effective ways for retailers to ensure their customer data is accurate and easily-accessible is by employing a customer data platform, such as the one offered by QuickPivot. QuickPivot’s customer data platform features easy-to-use functionality that allow marketers to quickly turn their customer data into actionable insights and produce more effective marketing campaigns.