It used to be that companies enjoyed customers for life—even in competitive industries with lots of others offering similar products. But this is no longer true.
Today’s customers are much more likely to jump from brand to brand, which creates quite the conundrum for brand strategists, marketers, and PR professionals—because it’s not for the reasons they’re traditionally used to handling.
The slow death of brand loyalty
While competition has certainly increased over the years, there’s more to the decay of customer loyalty than the mere proliferation of new companies and brands. Just consider the following statistics from this infographic:
- Just 23 percent of today’s consumers say they have a relationship with a brand.
- When asked what would make them “break up” with a brand, customers cited everything from negative online reviews and data leaks to poor customer service and a lack of sales and promotional offers.
- 77 percent of customers retract their loyalty quicker than they did three years ago, while 61 percent say they’ve switched brands in the past year.
- 78 percent of millennials say today’s brands must work harder to earn loyalty than they did in their parents’ day.
- The top five reasons millennials switch brands: change in financial situation (56 percent), brand increases prices (41 percent), family member or friend recommends another brand (38 percent), a new, more attractive brand comes out (37 percent), or the brand has found to have bad business practices (32 percent).
In other words, today’s customers are alarmingly fickle. This doesn’t mean customers don’t stick with brands, but it does mean you have to work extra hard to retain their loyalty.
How your brand can dare to be different
In an age where companies don’t have much luck encouraging brand loyalty, your brand can still find a way to connect with customers and keep them for years. Here are some things to think about:
1. Know what your customers want
“Stay in touch with your consumer, and ask their opinion of your business. Did they like their most recent experience with your company? Were they satisfied with the customer service? Did the product or service meet their expectations? Let them know that you care about their experience and that you are listening to their concerns,” advises Lauren Maillian Bias, founder and CEO of Luxury Market Branding. “Make sure that your clients know that you respond to the demands of your consumer. If you want your customer to come back, give them what they want.”
Do you know what most customers are looking for above all else? In today’s marketplace, it’s convenience. Brands that prioritize convenience are enjoying much greater loyalty than their competitors.
Riverwood Cabins is a great example. As a leading provider of prefab cabins, the company’s entire focus is on offering convenience and quality that outmatches the competition. In doing so, they create customers who eventually become advocates for the brand.
2. Promote experiences—a brand’s best currency
Millennial customers spend less on mere products and services, and more on those tied to experiences. If you want to capture loyalty in a bottle, your best bet is to invest in experiential marketing that reaches customers on a deeper level.
3. Prioritize quality—it’s always in style
There’s no doubt that a specific portion of the marketplace will always be swayed by price. If you’re selling a product for $50 per unit and a competitor is selling a similar product for $30, no amount of brand loyalty is going to help you overcome such a massive price differential.
Do you know what will allow you to overcome the volatility that comes with discounts and deals in your industry? Quality. If a customer knows that your $50 unit is going to be twice as reliable as the $30 unit, then you have a selling point.
It’s so tempting to compete on price, but remember that this is only one differentiating factor. If you really want to build a brand that customers continually return to, focus on quality above all else.
Putting it all together
It’s easy to get frustrated with the capricious nature of today’s customers, but don’t let their wishy-washy behavior have a negative effect on your efforts. Instead, use their pickiness as an opportunity to solidify your branding and really hone in on what you want to accomplish through your branding, marketing, and sales strategies.
In the end, consistency and relevancy are what matter most.