The new age of loyalty: Why brands need to be loyal to customers


When we as digital leaders think of loyalty, it’s often in terms of customers being loyal to our brands. But the meaning of loyalty for our customers is shifting, and traditional methods to drive brand love are no longer as effective. One of the biggest opportunities open to brands now is to rethink their strategy and adopt a truly customer-driven approach where brands continuously prove their loyalty to their customers.­

It’s clear that many brands are missing the mark when it comes to loyalty. The Forrester report “Be a Loyalty Company, Not a Company with a Loyalty Program” offers an eye-opening insight: 59% of adults who participate in online loyalty programs in the US disagree that the current programs make them feel more loyal to brands. Instead, their current motivation for participating is that the program saves them money. While this might have been enough to label a customer as loyal in the past, this is certainly not enough to sustain a relationship in the future.

If we look at Southeast Asia, which is expected to add 60 million new digital consumers by 2025 according to the "Riding the Digital Wave: Southeast Asia's Discovery Generation" study by Bain & Company, the prize for leading the way with exceptional customer experience is an extremely valuable one. With average spend per user expected to more than triple from US$125 in 2018 to US$390 within the same time frame, brands and marketplaces are scrambling to attract and retain consumers whilst still battling it out with each other for awareness.

In a region where practicality has traditionally beaten out presentability, there are still a lot of opportunities for brands to create meaningful, data-led, beautifully crafted experiences for consumers and to be rewarded with their loyalty for doing so.

The New Balance Runaway Club (pictured below) rewards loyalty in a unique way: give runners points for challenges which they may redeem for free drinks.

Anticipate and drive change

One threat on the horizon is hyper adoption of new, non-legacy driven digital services. We see rapid, mass-adoption of new behaviors and standards introduced through digital services and products by popular companies who have a huge influence on large groups of active users.

To keep up, brands must flip the script and become more loyal to their customers as well, placing their focus squarely on individual customer needs and building unique, super-relevant digital experiences. Our job is to help companies prepare to do business with customers of the future, and it is clear that most brands in the market are not yet able to tailor to this need at scale. With an expectation that standards will always climb higher, it becomes critical that brands actively seek to better understand their customers.

In another Forrester report “Marketing’s Business Imperative: Prioritize Innovation,” VP, principal analyst Thomas Husson notes that “innovative brands launch new offerings and enter adjacent markets, anticipating customer needs to drive revenue growth.” Because they’re so focused on their customer needs, they’re equipped to react with indelible experiences that make consumers feel heard and build brand love.

Nurture lasting relationships through creative differentiation

Keeping the point above in mind, what’s missing from the typical brand loyalty mentality? Often, it’s a lack of emotional resonance and gratitude toward consumers. I believe brands should reward their customers for their continued attention or patronage by offering unique, creative experiences that build brand love.

In the rise of athleisure, Nike has not only become more purposeful in their brand story and marketing, but has been using technology in distinctive ways to relate to consumers. Its Run Club and Training Sessions, which bring fitness hobbyists together for classes and activities, are excellent examples of how brands can meaningfully invest in their customers to build a relationship. New Balance’s Runaway Club, which rewarded runners as they completed fitness challenges with free drinks in a running-focused pub leading up the London Marathon, is a similar idea that aligned a community of hobbyists with a brand.

Relate on a human level

Finally, remember that no matter how many channels your audience is spread across, ensure that the customer remains at the center of your focus in every initiative you lead. Whether customers interact with your brand on social media, your online store or over the phone, they expect a consistent experience as if every interaction is part of one conversation. By applying the "one conversation principle" to your marketing strategy, you will be able to build a much better individual experience that extends across all interactions and touchpoints along the customer journey.

For example, the Adidas Click Platform (pictured below) treats B2B shopping like  a B2C experience.

“Whether customers interact with your brand on social media, your online store or over the phone, they expect a consistent experience as if every interaction is part of one conversation,” Remco Vroom, global head of business, platforms and eCommerce said.

This is something we’ve seen in the blurred line between B2B and B2C - offering a new model that we call “business-to-human”. The B2H model involves maintaining coherence while extending your offering across context and environments, and being able to offer break down your brand’s message into personalized variations that are relevant to a myriad of customer interests.

"Today’s consumers may seem fickle, but in this era where the consumers are in power, the onus is on brands to truly acknowledge, adapt and react to their needs at speed"

Today’s consumers may seem fickle, but in this era in which the consumers are in power, the onus is on brands to truly acknowledge, adapt and react to their needs at speed. The insights and practical principles explained in this article can help you start crafting a deeper, more connected relationship between your brand and its customers.

My advice is to use it as a north star in your digital growth to help redesign your organisation where necessary to act and react to individual needs and rapid market changes. Prepare your brand to provide meaningful experiences that build brand love, and continuously keep building on that space of relevance and emotional resonance in your audiences’ lives.

The article is by Remco Vroom, MediaMonks global head of business, platforms and eCommerce, Tobias Wilson, VP growth APAC, MediaMonks. It is also co-authored by Joseph Sutton, MediaMonks marketing team.

(Photo courtesy: 123RF)