Customer Loyalty in the Era of Unlimited Choices: How to Build & Maintain It
Today's consumers have unlimited choices in terms of products and services they can invest in.
- An estimated 12-24 million eCommerce sites are operating worldwide, with predictions that online shopping will make up almost a quarter of all global retail sales by 2025.
- There are 17,000 SaaS brands in the U.S. alone (catering to a combined audience of 59 billion users).
- Statistical data shows that users are publishing more than 70 million new posts per month on WordPress alone.
In other words, consumers have an abundance of options, with dozens, if not hundreds, of brands competing for their attention, trust, and loyalty.
But what does this mean for businesses trying to break into competitive markets? Or even those looking to achieve long-term, sustainable growth? Simply put, the available data shows how important it is for businesses to invest in building and maintaining customer loyalty.
Are you looking to invest in your brand's future by working to retain your customers, maximize customer lifetime value, and generate new business opportunities by having an active community of brand supporters and advocates? If your answer is "yes," here's everything you know about encouraging and holding onto customer loyalty in 2022 and beyond.
2022 Consumer Behavior Trends: The Loyalty Shake-Up
Over the past two years, the world has been going through a prominent "loyalty shake-up." And even though many experts claimed that the reason was the COVID-19 pandemic (which caused large-scale supply chain issues), the latest consumer surveys clearly show that the loyalty crisis is far from over.
According to recent data from McKinsey, as many as 46% of consumers changed brands between February and March of 2022. Moreover, 37% switched stores/retailers. But the piece of data that is the most fascinating is that as many as 90% of people plan to continue incorporating this new buying behavior into their routines.
The reasons this change is happening are versatile. Although availability isn't as big of an issue as it was in 2020, price definitely is, with growing inflation driving people to look for more affordable products.
Equally influential is the novelty factor, as many people want to try something new.
And, of course, there's the factor of the conscious consumer, with up to 45% of people deciding what brands to support based on environmental, social, and governance issues.
So, with this many elements driving consumers to switch brands, try out new products, and explore their options, businesses aiming for high customer retention rates need to do two things:
- Learn what it is, precisely, that prompts consumer loyalty.
- Implement loyalty-driving strategies that will help them build and maintain long-lasting relationships with their customers.
What Drives Customer Loyalty?
There are multiple elements that can impact people's readiness to support and shop from certain brands over long periods.
So, by having a genuine understanding of these factors, businesses can effectively identify the tactics that will help them retain more customers and enjoy all the advantages of having a loyal customer base.
Factor #1: Customer Experience
One of the biggest drivers of brand loyalty is, quite unsurprisingly, an exceptional customer experience.
The more effective an organization is at solving consumer pain points, the more convenient it is for buyers to choose a brand's products, and the better interacting with a brand makes customers feel, the higher the CX.
But the thing is, consumers are not that satisfied with the experiences brands are delivering these days.
According to the latest CX Index Report from Forrester, customer experience quality has decreased for the first time in five years (displaying a -0.7% growth rate).
And, because CX directly impacts business revenue and customer loyalty, this data proves that brands need to go back to basics and start working harder to keep their customers happy.
Factor #2: Value for Money
Another common reason people switch brands is that they want better value for their money.
According to research into consumer behavior:
- 56% of online shoppers' purchasing decisions are impacted by rising prices.
- Statista's research reveals that 60% of Gen Z consumers indicate price as the deciding factor when making a purchase.
- 31.5% of offline shoppers choose what brick-and-mortar stores to shop at based on competitive prices.
In other words, good value for money leads to a higher likelihood of consumers choosing a particular brand. And combined with a stellar shopping experience, these two factors (even on their own) have the potential to significantly boost customer loyalty.
Factor #3: Trust
In addition to the loyalty shake-ups that businesses have to navigate in 2022, there's another threat happening at the moment: the crisis of trust.
According to Edelman's 2022 Trust Barometer:
- 59% of consumers agree that a brand's reputation can be effective at getting them to try a product. However, unless they trust the company behind it, they will soon stop buying it.
- 59% of people are willing to pay more for products sold by the brands they trust.
- And, perhaps most importantly, 67% of consumers will stay loyal to and advocate brands they trust.
What does this mean for building and maintaining customer loyalty? Simply put, it shows how essential it is for organizations to invest in trust, practice transparency, and focus on building relationships with their customers based on reliability.
Factor #4: Support
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make, which results in losing customers, is treating the sales funnel as a linear timeline. But the truth is, the buyer's journey is a closed loop, where every past experience informs future buying decisions.
So, what does this mean in practice? It's simple: brands wanting to build and maintain customer loyalty must focus on delivering a stellar experience, even after an initial purchase. In most cases, this necessitates focusing on providing exceptional customer support.
Learn how to ensure a smooth transition from sales to customer success by following these expert tips shared in our comprehensive guide.
Factor #5: Brand Activism
Lastly, there's one last key factor that impacts consumers' willingness to remain loyal to a brand: brand activism.
As already mentioned, data from McKinsey shows that ESG issues inform the buying behavior of as many as 45% of buyers. But further research reveals that there are clear trends indicating that consumers want brands to take a stronger stance on current problems.
For example, Deloitte found that in 2021:
- 48% of people bought more locally produced goods.
- 40% chose brands that had environmentally sustainable values.
- 38% paid extra for higher-quality products that would last longer.
- 34% stopped supporting brands due to sustainability-related concerns.
Moreover, PWC's June 2022 Consumer Insights Survey results show that as many as 40% of people decide whether to buy from a brand based on social factors (supporting human rights, diversity, inclusion, and local communities). And 41% of consumers do so based on governance factors (transparency, ethical questions, regulation compliance, consumer privacy concerns, etc.).
Strategies for Building and Maintaining Customer Loyalty
Now that you have a practical understanding of the facets affecting customer loyalty, it's time to get down to business.
The following are the best strategies for building and holding onto customer loyalty in 2022 and beyond.
Strategy #1: Create Experiences That Align With the Buyer’s Journey
One of the best ways to drive loyalty by boosting CX is to invest in content that aligns with the buyer's journey.
For example, when trying to attract potential buyers in the top stages of the sales funnel, create content that matches informational intent, as done by CeraVe.
This brand's guide on determining skin type is ideally suited for people who are just becoming interested in upgrading their skincare routines. But, in addition to the valuable information provided in this article, the most user-oriented goal of this piece of content is to help potential CeraVe customers find a suitable product for their needs.
By empowering its target audience to identify their pain points, then recommending solutions, CeraVe ensures that all new customers have a positive shopping and post-purchase experience and supercharges their likelihood of becoming loyal customers.
Another high-impact tactic you can employ to improve the overall customer experience is to look at your website and identify ways in which you could elevate the user experience.
Something as elementary as predicting your audience's needs and ensuring your site caters to them will immensely contribute to positive brand perception. And, naturally, it will also maximize your customers' chances of making a repeat purchase.
For instance, EyeglassWorld understands that its customers buy contact lenses on a monthly basis. So, instead of making them return to its online store every four weeks, it allows buyers to purchase a 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month supply of lenses. By doing this, the brand significantly simplifies the shopping process and ensures happy customers remember it the next time they want to purchase contacts.
Still not entirely convinced that improving your site's UX could lead to higher customer retention rates?
Well, why not check out this data from Statista that shows that as many as 60% of Zoomers say that a poorly functioning website when shopping online will lead them to abandon their purchase or leave a negative review.
Strategy #2: Communicate (and Deliver) Value
Knowing that, in 2022, value beats almost every other purchase-decision factor, it's crucial that you know precisely how to communicate the worth of your offer.
Instead, find ways to employ your website layout, copy, and visuals to convince your target audience that your brand can and will deliver the value they're after.
And, of course, don't forget to manage your audience's expectations. To build and retain customer loyalty, only make promises you can uphold so you can generate trust and use it to generate more business for your brand.
For an excellent example of a company that does this, check out Eucerin.
In addition to presenting unique value propositions that highlight its products' uniqueness (e.g., "the only dermatological sun care, with a unique complex of 5 antioxidants"), the brand also includes use directions and time-frames on its product pages. This ensures that first-time buyers know what to expect and have a higher chance of being happy with their purchase (consequently buying from the brand in the future).
Keep in mind that simply promising value isn't enough to boost customer retention. To ensure that your website visitors convert (and come back), look for ways to underline your business' commitment to consistently delivering value.
The good news is that this is relatively easy to do. For instance, you can take inspiration from Bay Alarm Medical and employ social proof to show your target audience they can rely on your business to fulfill its promises.
Note how this brand's website includes several instances of social proof, including:
- An interactive Google Rating widget.
- A customer testimonial section.
- A Code of Ethics highlights the company's commitment to protecting elderly customers from scams and financial fraud.
- And a "Try Risk-Free for 30 Days" CTA button acts both as a conversion element and a trust signal.
Strategy #3: Show What Your Brand Stands For
As you can see from the research cited above, consumers often choose what brands to support based on ESG factors. So don't hesitate to share your brand's purpose, authenticity, and values.
After all, if your target audience cares about the same issues you do, then isn't this a super-easy yet effective strategy for driving conversions and loyalty? And the best part is, it's really easy to pull off.
Something as simple as showing off your team, as done by Digitarial Agency, will communicate your organization's authenticity and relatability.
Or, you could take inspiration from Kopi Luwak Direct and be clear about the values you want your brand to uphold. This company, in particular, does a stellar job of sharing its passion for sustainability and compassion by telling potential customers exactly what it does to help its community.
Strategy #4: Employ Personalization
Everyone knows that personalization plays a big part in encouraging conversions. Nonetheless, many business leaders still overlook its contribution to customer loyalty.
A recent report on trust from Adobe shows that as many as 72% of consumers feel that poor personalization decreases their trust in brands. But, perhaps even more significant is the fact that 58% of people say they will stop purchasing from a brand that does not provide valuable personal experiences.
So, combining these findings with the fact that loyal customers spend more money with brands, it becomes truly essential for businesses to start implementing user-oriented personalization.
If you want to get things right, look up to the brands currently winning at the personalization game.
Grammarly, for example, sends a weekly usage report email that helps customers identify common spelling and grammar mistakes and encourages them to continue using the app by praising them for their achievements.
Or, you could go with an approach that's even more advanced.
Supplements brand Persona, for instance, created an interactive assessment quiz that takes new buyers through an in-depth series of questions. By doing this, the company is helping its potential customers come up with the ideal health and wellness supplementation protocol for their needs and simultaneously increasing new buyers' chances of becoming loyal supporters.
If your budget doesn't allow you to come up with cutting-edge personalization solutions, you can still reap the practice's benefits by focusing on giving your target audience what they need.
Check out how MarketBeat does it on its homepage by inviting readers to consume its content in the format that fits them the most: web articles, daily emails, or even a daily podcast.
Strategy #5: Show That You Value Loyalty
Finally, as you look for strategies that will allow you to build and maintain customer loyalty, don't forget that the concept is not a one-way street.
Yes, you can employ all sorts of tactics to help you maximize customer retention. But, without making sure that your clients get something valuable out of the equation as well, your results are only bound to go so far.
In fact, a recent report from Qiibee discovered that 83% of the brands that reported high member engagement rates and customer spending allowed their clients five or more redemption options in loyalty programs.
In other words, businesses that managed to make their loyalty programs profitable made sure that those programs actually benefited their clients.
So, to ensure that all the rest of your hard work doesn't go to waste, look for ways to give back to your strongest supporters. For example, you could choose to award buyers with reward points, as done by KURU Footwear.
Or, if that doesn't fit your business model, you could do something similar to Burberry and invite newsletter subscribers to shop limited-edition products before they're officially launched.
Even something as simple as using social media to celebrate your loyal customers, as done by Artifox, can help you build committed and long-lasting relationships and ensure that your customers find joy in supporting your brand.
Invest in Customer Loyalty, and the Returns Will Follow
Loyal customers aren't just people who will support and champion your brand, making it easier for your to reach new audiences and build your success on a reputation of trustworthiness.
Loyal customers will also spend more money on your products and services, helping you take control of that success by providing you with a reliable source of income, month after month.
So don't hesitate to explore ways to invest in loyalty. The strategies listed in this article are all bound to help you build stronger, more long-lasting relationships.
But, if you need a bit of a boost, don't forget to employ a powerful CRM software that will ensure all your hard work actually delivers the results you're after.