Mike Oberle

For each retail category (apparel, shoes, electronics etc.), consumers have many choices when deciding where to make their purchase. Clearly things like price, quality and variety come into play, but as marketers, it’s important to understand why consumers choose the brands they do. And, marketers need to understand what drives these consumer brand preferences. Consider these four ‘drivers’:

  • Loyalty program and its benefits: Loyalty programs offer a unique opportunity to emotionally connect with customers. Many retail brands ask for members’ input on their clothing lines, products and more. For example, IKEA invites its loyalty program members to co-create new products with the retailer. Additionally, some retailers have incorporated client specialists into their program where members are assigned a ‘fashionista’ to help them select their fall wardrobe. (Talbots is an example) And, brands like Brooks Brothers and Nordstrom offer complimentary tailoring services as part of their program. Including these benefits into loyalty programs elevate retailer’s programs beyond the transactional component, creating an emotional connection.

 

  • Purchase and overall experience: Consistency and convenience are key. It’s important for marketers to keep their offers consistent regardless of the channel. The offer should be based on the consumer’s purchase history and behavior and not determined by channel. Additionally, the purchase experience should be convenient for the consumer. For example, do you offer Apple Pay? How is the mobile purchase experience? Think what will make it easier for your customers while also saving them time. The point-of-sale needs to be more than just about the transaction; it’s about the entire experience a member has with your brand.

 

  • Perceived value: Understanding how consumers value your brand is essential. Marketers can’t simply assume consumers view your brand as valuable. Asking for your customers’ feedback is one way to better understand your brand value. Incorporating surveys, sharing product samples and inviting customers to exclusive events to share their input (like a ‘fall preview’ of your upcoming clothing line) are ways to develop an understanding of how your customers value your brand. Additionally, understanding the interests/likes of your customers is essential. For example, Patagonia engages with its customers regarding their interests and has created a very loyal customer base. Patagonia knows that their customers care about product quality and showcases this through their monthly magazine. Further, environmental awareness is top of mind for Patagonia’s customers and Patagonia is constantly sharing their passion for protecting the environment with their grants and support and more.

 

  • Human connection: The best way to connect with a human being is to be a human being. Take time to evaluate the customer service component of your brand. Have you tested your call center by giving it a quick call lately? Could your employees benefit from training? Your customer service reps are on the front line – they are the lifeline to your customers. Empower your employees to have decision making authority so they can best service your customers to drive loyalty to your brand. Treat customers with respect, be sincere like you would with guests in your home. With this respect and human interaction, they will be more likely to continue doing business with you.

So as you’re evaluating your brand and loyalty initiatives, keep ‘big L’ loyalty front and center. “Big L” loyalty can be defined as the passion, dedication, feelings, emotional connection and trust consumers establish with your brand that motivates them to continue their purchases and move through the customer lifecycle towards lifetime brand loyalty. It’s what motivates your customers to keep coming back for more and drives them through their customer lifecycle towards lifetime loyalty.

This article first published in Loyalty360 on July 1, 2018. 

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