Customer loyalty refers to customers who continue to do business with a brand as a preference over competitors. Many factors contribute to customer loyalty, including brand trust, a positive emotional connection, personalized experiences across channels and actionable insights gained from customer feedback.

This article will look at the ways brands focus on these four elements to enhance customer loyalty.

Trust Is Key to Brand-Customer Relationships

Trust is not only a necessity in business relationships but in all relationships. Whether between two family members or a customer and a brand, if trust isn’t present, there can be no relationship.

Trust involves estimations of probabilities of how a person — or a brand — will behave. It’s a state of vulnerability for the one placing trust in another, and a feeling of confidence and security about the way one will act.

When we go outside during the day, we know the sun will be in the sky — it doesn’t take an element of trust. The sun has always been there, and we know with absolute certainty that it will be there throughout our lives.

Other things take trust or faith. When the weatherman has been correct for a year in his weather predictions, we trust him when he says there will be rain today at noon. It’s not that the weatherman is infallible, but he hasn’t broken our trust so far, and we have faith that he will be correct in his forecasts.

Customers feel the same way when it comes to brand trust. For instance, say a customer buys a five-piece kitchen knife set, but when it arrives, it only has three pieces. That customer’s trust in the brand could be broken, and they may leave to find another company they can count on. Therefore, with that trust will go the customer’s loyalty.

Michelle Wildenauer, senior vice president of strategic services at The Lacek Group, told CMSWire that the past two years of living through the pandemic have permanently changed consumers and marketing.

"The future of customer engagement and loyalty is all about total loyalty, which focuses on engaging both the rational and emotional sides to resonate, build deeper trust and connection and drive action,” said Wildenauer. “Total loyalty is about creating feel-good, brand-led touchpoints and experiences that make people want more."

Related Article: Building a Gold Standard for Consumer Trust

Emotional Connections Are Increasingly Important

A report from The Lacek Group titled The Changing Look of Loyalty revealed that changes in customer experience and loyalty are driven by expectations of more personalized, more immersive and more connected brand experiences. In the report, 80% of consumers surveyed said emotional benefits help maintain engagement in a loyalty program.

Wildenauer said it’s not about one type of benefit over the other. “It’s about a balanced approach that appeals to a wide range of generational and regional segments. An engagement approach that addresses both rational and emotional motivations helps programs evolve to provide richer experiences and targeted value to customers.”

Consumers are more interested today in the values of the brands they do business with. Half of those polled in The Lacek Group's report said the importance of a brand's values has increased over the past few years in regards to joining or remaining engaged with brand loyalty programs.

“Sharing brand values is a key step in establishing an emotional connection with customers,” said Wildenauer, adding that understanding your customers’ emotional connections to your brand is vital. “And then, infuse your brand’s emotional connection into every customer moment.”

Customers Expect Personalized Experiences

Personalization using data that customers willingly provide can be seen as the online version of a smile and welcome.

Customers understand that throughout the process of doing business with a brand, they’re providing data that tells a story about them. As such, they expect those brands to know them and treat them as the individual they are. Personalization, when done correctly, is a big driver of brand loyalty.

Movable Ink, a leading content personalization provider, recently released a report which indicated:

  • 60% of Gen Z shoppers aged 18 to 24 will trade data for more personalized experiences
  • 44% of retail consumers are willing to give their location and cell phone number to a brand for personalized experiences
  • 60% of American consumers are willing to share information with the brands they feel loyal to

The report also revealed the top two reasons customers unsubscribe from branded communications — because brands communicate too frequently (42%) or send content that’s irrelevant (39%).

Britt Mills, VP of digital customer experiences at Mobiquity, told CMSWire that customers of the past were used to being asked to inform a brand of their likes and dislikes. Today’s consumers, however, expect hyper-contextualized experiences that are specific and easily accessible.

Learning Opportunities

“Customers are not interested in constantly re-introducing their needs to brands and are also feeling burnt out on subscriptions,” said Mills, who pointed out Uber as a great example for brands to follow. “Their highly specific app architecture includes arrival and departure times, location pickup zones as well as driver and rider information, effectively tailoring their capabilities to the specific customer.”

Customers of Uber never have to repeat their name, location or payment information, and the app remembers past addresses where the customer has been driven, so they don’t have to retype the address. Uber hyper-personalizes the experience.

“Another example is that of digital banking applications,” said Mills. “These platforms demonstrate customized assistance by chiming in on users’ unique payment history, like pointing out costly subscriptions and bills."

Related Article: Enhancing Your One-to-One Personalization Efforts

Feedback Builds Deeper Customer Connections

Dave Mingle, vice president and global practice head of customer experience at Reputation, said harnessing feedback from customer experiences to build on previous successes and make targeted improvements is vital for creating customer loyalty.

“It shows customers that you are listening to them, and want to use your interactions with them to optimize their experience,” Mingle explained. “When facing loyalty challenges, brands should also evaluate the tools and technologies available to them and consider investing in a customer feedback management platform.”

Dealing with feedback from all of a brand’s channels can be time-consuming and overwhelming when done manually. Fortunately, technology can simplify the task.

“A platform that pulls all public and private feedback into one central location will save time on operational costs and allow brands to harness troves of feedback to improve customer experiences, which will, in turn, create customer loyalty,” said Mingle.

Creating an effective customer feedback loop is one of the most important best practices for improving customer loyalty and retention, according to Mingle, who suggested that when brands do this, they must leverage both private feedback, such as surveys, direct messages and emails, along with public feedback, like comments on social media and review pages.

“A comprehensive strategy for managing, learning from and taking action on this feedback should also be a priority when working to turn current customers into loyal customers,” Mingle said.

Keep Your Customers Happy and Loyal

It costs brands less money to create and retain loyal customers than to gain new ones. To garner this loyalty, brands are building and maintaining trust, creating positive emotional connections, turning to hyper-personalization and listening carefully to customer feedback.

Companies that listen and are attentive to customer needs can keep those customers coming back again and again.