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PHOTO: Markus Spiske

As brands are continuously adjusting themselves to the ever-changing digital age, one thing has become apparent, brand loyalty immediately dissipates the very moment a customer encounters some form of dissatisfaction. According to a 2018 research report by Nice InContact (free to download), 81 percent of consumers are highly likely to switch to a competitor after one bad customer service experience.

Is it fair to say that brand loyalty is dead based on that statistic? Or are there ways for brands to improve customer loyalty to keep customers from switching after one bad experience? Leading industry experts and practitioners weigh in.

Is Brand Loyalty Dead?

According to Patti Doyle, COO at Vennli, “Brand loyalty is not dead. However, to achieve brand loyalty with customers, companies need to gain their trust first. Marketers are paying close attention to brand trust. In a recent report, [our firm] Vennli surveyed B2B marketers on the importance of brand trust and 86 percent of marketers agreed that brand trust is important to their organizations.”

Evan Gappelberg, CEO of NexTech AR Solutions, also agreed that brand loyalty “still exists,” but added that consumer attitudes have changed. “Today, consumers are drawn to brands that provide innovative and convenient shopping experiences. Ecommerce is a dominant force in the retail industry, causing many shoppers to be loyal to brands offering the latest technologies that both personalize and streamline their on-site experience,” he said. She then went on to reference a study by Retail Perceptions that revealed 61 percent of shoppers preferred to shop on sites that offered augmented reality (AR) features over ones that don’t, indicating that cutting-edge experiences could help brands seeking customer loyalty.

However, Jeff Kear, owner of Planning Pods, said the software space has had to deal with the rapidly changing environment with new competitors arriving and existing competitors launching new products and offerings that can expose software brands to high levels of customer churn, which is something Kear’s brand is all too familiar with. “Churn is a fact of life for most software and tech providers,” said Kear. “Our biggest issue with churn is the fact that our users never fully adapted to our software in the first place and hence haven't realized the efficiencies and time savings that our product can provide them. So eventually they get tired of paying for a product they aren't fully using and cancel their account.”

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Boosting Brand Loyalty

Kear mentioned that in order to remain competitive in the software space, “you really need to be in tune with your customers and their needs on a daily basis and make sure you are meeting those needs.”

When we asked our experts how they can improve their brand loyalty, they shared the following thoughts.

1. Create High-Quality Content

Content that informs, engages, educates and acts as reference material for future purposes can help you become a thought leader in your niche. You can push your content even further by social proofing your content with key players in your sector.

“Take time to review your current content strategy,” Doyle advised. “Third-party validation such as influencers, original research and industry experts can help brands build loyalty and trust among customers,” she said.

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2. Deliver Cutting-Edge Customer Experiences

The quality of your customer experience will be the reason why your customers remain loyal to your brand, or leave in droves. “[Your] content can guide your customers along their journey and create a successful experience. When customers feel that their needs are being met in a meaningful manner, they will be more likely to return to your brand over anyone else,” Doyle suggested.

Doyle added that in personalizing your content delivery, it will provide a way for your customer to associate with your brand.

Additionally, Gappelberg advised utilizing technological solutions to create cutting-edge and personalized experiences. “Incorporating AR features [will] allow [your customers] to 'try on' items virtually from the comfort of their home, or utilize machine learning and AI to gather information about a shopper’s preferences and offer them product suggestions and deals catered to their interests.”

3. Stay in Step With Industry Trends

In addition to maintaining consistency, Gappelberg strongly suggested keeping tabs on the latest industry trends, mentioning that brands should “pay attention to industry trends and learn more about new technologies that might be relevant to your brand so you can work to incorporate these into your online experience and stay ahead of the curve.”

For instance, if there’s a new meme or social network making waves, it would be a wise move to take part in that conversation with relevant content, or by creating a presence on that new social network in some way, shape or form.

4. Maintain Consistency

You might do all of the above; but are you doing it consistently? Customers want to engage with a brand that can deliver experiences and socially relevant content across channels, during major events and even on their daily commutes. “Customers are looking for brands they can trust. And, they want to have similar brand experiences time and time again. Consistent messaging and alignment around common goals will help drive brand loyalty,” said Doyle.