To Maintain Customer Loyalty, You Have to Listen
For retailers, trust can be hard to come by.
Faced with an increasingly competitive landscape, rising demand for engaging brand experiences, and heightened expectations around consumer privacy, you have to work harder than ever to win customers’ trust, let alone longer term loyalty. In fact, in the age of endless choice, you might even be tempted to wonder if loyalty still exists.
The fact is, trust can be earned, and loyalty is very much alive — for brands that understand and embrace customer expectations surrounding these two essential, yet often misunderstood tenets of retail relationships.
In its 2018 Retail Trends Report, experience intelligence pioneer InMoment surveyed 1,300 U.S. consumers to understand the state of trust and loyalty in today’s retail marketplace. Here’s what the report revealed:
Loyalty is Alive, and Well … Complicated
Contrary to the popular narrative, brand loyalty is far from dead — even among younger consumers. In fact, 77 percent of customers say they’ve had relationships with brands that last longer than 10 years.
Additionally, 83 percent of consumers consider themselves about the same or more loyal to brands than their parents, and nearly 30 percent of millennials see themselves as more loyal than their parents (the highest percentage among all demographics). For consumers who felt they were more loyal than mom and dad, 42 percent said it’s because they do more research and have firsthand experience with the brands. Thirty-five percent said it’s because they have a larger variety of choices.
Therefore, while consumers have more options than ever to choose from, they do their homework and remain loyal to the retailers that prove they deserve it.
When it Comes to Trust, Keeping Promises is Key
A whopping 88 percent of respondents said they believe trust is extremely important when deciding where to shop. While data privacy and security concerns are always top of mind, they aren’t the only considerations when consumers decide whether to trust a retailer.
Fifty-five percent of respondents say brands can earn their trust by delivering what they promised, and another 19 percent say brands must deliver consistent experiences to earn trust. While keeping promises and being consistent are similar, the fact that significantly more consumers chose the former indicates a level of emotion and relationship brands should note. Despite highly publicized breaches, data security came in at just 13 percent. Furthermore, other factors like personalization and supporting shared values registered only in the single digits. That means you have to clearly communicate what you offer to customers and follow through on your promises every time.
Experiences Stick More Than Transactions
More than half of consumers (53 percent) said their “recent, enjoyable” shopping experience was in a brick-and-mortar location. Product quality was ranked the top retail interaction that elevates a mere purchase to an “experience,” with personalized treatment in store from human staff following at 30 percent.
While the idea that product quality creates great experiences isn't surprising, it’s important to remember. No gimmick can replace an enduring product, especially because products — well or poorly made — are the artifacts that continue to deliver your brand experience long after your customers leave your store. And if you can deliver a high-quality product to a customer while also treating her to an individualized experience, you can’t lose.
Loyalty isn’t going anywhere for retailers that do two important things. First, understand your brand promise from the perspective of your customers. Second, keep that promise, consistently, over time. Many brands jump to the false assumption that they “know” their customers because they monitor their digital behaviors. And while this data can provide important insights, the only way for brands to bridge from insights to true customer experience intelligence is to actively engage their customers in ongoing conversations wherever, whenever and however those customers are sharing their experiences.
Is all of this work worth it? Absolutely. The report revealed that customers who feel high levels of trust and loyalty are significantly more likely to share positive ratings and detailed commentary about their experiences. Both positive and constructive feedback captured directly from customers, especially those who love your brand, can serve as early warning signs for product and marketing campaign failures. They can also indicate emerging opportunities for competitive differentiation and guide the allocation of resources to the most essential areas of the business.
In other words, to gain loyalty and trust, you need to listen. By implementing real changes based on actual customer feedback, you’ll ensure that customer loyalty isn't a relic of the past.
Brennan Wilkie is senior vice president of customer experience strategy at InMoment, a customer experience intelligence and management software.
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