Consumers have never been so cynical about brands. And thanks to the internet and Google, finding cheaper alternatives has never been easier. No wonder so many marketers focus on price as a differentiator and driver of loyalty. But loyalty is achieved by brand associations and the story the brand tells. It is easy with digital channels to engage with consumers and tell a unique story. Why, then, laments, The Marketer (February 2015), do brands still rely on tired old loyalty schemes based on points? Because they are easy to measure. But they do nothing to differentiate brands. Loyalty is achieved through a combination of great and personalised online and great offline experience.
In e-commerce, for example, personalisation allows marketers to provide this joined-up experience to promote loyalty. For example, a promotional email containing customer-specific products can link to a web page that has exactly what the customer wants. This is a good example of combining two channels effectively – but there are so many to co-ordinate and trying to co-ordinate a consistent customer experience is getting harder.
Social media can be a double-edged sword. On the downside, there’s nowhere to hide and consumers will use social media to broadcast a bad experience but on the upside, people trust word-of-mouth and personal recommendations can be very powerful. Social media enables brands to convey personality and values in a natural, non-marketing way.
But all in all, these channels offer opportunities to create brand fans that 15 years ago was much harder and very expensive to do. Marketers now have instant access to their target audiences and constant interaction and feedback creates the conditions for grown-up and creative engagement that sow the seeds for real brand loyalty.