Building and maintaining brand loyalty in the digital world isn't easy, especially when prices and product comparisons are no further than a click away. While the days when reward programs were enough to build a loyal following may be long gone, brand loyalty is still alive and well — and tech-savvy marketers are adapting to implement new strategies for building customer loyalty in the digital age.
The most forward-thinking retailers are leveraging virtual reality (VR) to give their customers a new way to interact with products and services before they purchase. Target’s "The House on Hallow Hill" campaign leveraged a “choose your own adventure” type of interactivity to let users decide for themselves how they wanted to move through the story elements. Target then combined this approach with 360-degree video and click-to-buy functionality.
Taking VR a step further, we have to look no further than the wild success of Pokemon Go over the past few weeks to see the potential of augmented reality. Though brands have yet to be integrated into the game, Niantic Labs, the developer behind the app, has hinted at plans to allow retailers and other companies to introduce sponsored locations in the future as a way to monetize the app. Considering Pokemon Go alone has topped Twitter’s daily users and is installed on more devices than Candy Crush, LinkedIn, Tinder and other popular apps, the future presents a potential boon for brands.
Many brands use customer data to show consumers the products with the highest margins or those that retailers want to push from a marketing perspective. However, by overlaying this data with insight into customer interests and other relevant demographic and geographic information, marketers are able to more accurately pinpoint which products and offers are the most meaningful to customers, on an individualized basis. Sophisticated targeting capabilities allow marketers to reach consumers when and where they want to be reached, with only the most relevant offers. This builds trust over a period of time — and keeps your brand name out of spam folders.
Facebook's ad spending revenue jumped 57 percent to $5.2 billion in the first quarter of 2016, reflecting the broader social media trend of reaching consumers where they spend their time. We know that social channels influence shopping behavior and enhance brand loyalty, and there have also been instances when disgruntled customers have taken to social media when they have a complaint or poor experience (such as 1-800-Flowers’ Valentine’s Day disaster).
In the age of social commerce, it’s essential that brands leverage all of the tools at their disposal to engage current and potential customers, such as social buy buttons and paid campaigns, as well as have a strategy in place to effectively address customer complaints on social media.
Transparent Review System
This affects customer loyalty significantly. Customers trust fellow customers much more than they trust brands, so why not leverage that dynamic and let your customers do some sales for you. This kind of experience is impossible to get in stores, and can be a make-or-break factor in consumers deciding to give their business to one brand over another. Encourage customers to leave reviews, highlight some of the best things customers have to say about your business, and own your presence on review sites like Yelp.
The above mentioned strategies and tactics may be uniquely significant to digital commerce, however, this isn’t to say marketers should completely throw away certain tried-and-true methods for creating a dedicated customer following. Certain principles of brick-and-mortar retail absolutely ring true for e-commerce.
For example, online retailers must be able to offer money-back guarantees and no-questions-asked return policies. Similarly, customers are able to see and touch products in physical stores. Likewise, online brands should facilitate product information at a click. An e-commerce platform can offer extensive product information on sizes, features, pricing and more. This is a real advantage over traditional stores.
Building brand loyalty in the digital age may certainly present some new challenges to marketers, however, it’s by no means an impossible task. Some of the most loyal fan bases belong to brands that began as a pure e-commerce businesses. Look no further than Warby Parker. Smart marketers that stay ahead of the latest trends, reach customers unobtrusively via their preferred channels, and provide added value to the online shopping experience will be well-positioned to grow their following and continuously build brand loyalty.
Faraz Mohammeed is director, advanced technology solutions, for Nisum, a global technology consulting firm.