When you think about the brands you buy, do you feel part of the family?

If you bought into the way they talk, you’d think we were all in love. From insurance to washing up liquid, we live in a world of desire projected onto the necessities we buy – let alone the luxuries.

So, does loyalty exist – and if it does, how do you harness it for your business?

The problem with emotion

The truth is, we often do buy based on feelings. But these are rarely as simple as the straightforward ‘That looks good – I want it’. Or even ‘That advert made me laugh – now I’ll consider the product.’

They are more likely to be a murky soup of basic top level appeal mixed with subliminal tricks our conscious selves can barely be expected to unpick.

Think of packaging. A bottle can be shaped to suggest anything from strength to delicacy, as fits our expectation of a product. At a stroke, colour choice can instantly drum up excitement or calm.

Our perception is there to be tweaked by companies in the way they brand themselves, or present their products.

All this is competing with the ‘does what it says on the tin’ side of our characters; wanting minimum of fuss or emotional involvement. And in the background, there’s just the pure chance of our natures; picking and choosing potentially based on nothing more than boredom.

Declining loyalty?

All this being the case, it’s little wonder conventional wisdom says that we’re living in a world of declining brand loyalty[1]. Increasing competition, fragmented attention, and evolving marketing techniques all add up to a lot of rivalry for our money.

So what are proven tactics for keeping customers once you have hold of them?

Tesco famously set the pace with its Clubcard scheme, encouraging customers to ally themselves further into its expanding world of services – a more-is-more approach to buying into a brand. Others have gone down a route which pushes personalisation as the route to savings.

Waitrose launched its innovative Pick Your Own Offers in 2015, giving millions of shoppers the chance to choose the exact products they want to save money on, and change selections regularly.

But after a warm reception, the retailer cancelled the scheme in early 2018. The main reason: complexity. In its place, Waitrose will offer pre-picked personalised offers and more traditional money off vouchers.

What the customer wants…

It suggests that, while the idea of taking control of your shopping sounds good, it’s a stretch to ask customers to take active steps and expend too much thought.

And yet some businesses are moving exactly in this direction. Virgin Red has just launched an ambitious ‘gamified’ app, which seeks to balance personalisation and an experience based on unlocking perks, while remaining simple and immediate.

The majority of people, though, are likely just looking for straightforward offers and money off. And fewer than a quarter[2] are interested in exclusive access-style promotions – which again suggests brand interaction is relatively unappealing.

It all comes down to whether customers want to be rewarded for engaging. Or whether they just want the line of least resistance, with clear perks in return for their loyalty. 

Supermarket own brand

According to the major supermarkets, shoppers just want to get on with it. But rather than the well-worn approach of tempting money off vouchers – often designed to lure shoppers back – which could encourage ‘deal hunting’ behaviour and short term switches, there’s a change taking place.

Sainsburys is seeking to reward both frequency of shop and tenure as a customer with a new trial of its Nectar scheme, rather than just total spend. It’s also mobile-first, to make the interaction that much quicker.

This approach staves off attrition by industry newcomers and disrupters, rewarding people who have put years into a brand – even if by inertia, rather than genuine love –making sure they aren’t taken for granted at the cost of new acquisitions.

What can your business learn from this?

  • Put your customers in control… but don’t demand interaction
  • Offer them genuinely useful perks… which are easy to understand and bank
  • Earn trust and loyalty… and commit to rewarding that relationship for the long haul

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathleenkusek/2016/07/25/the-death-of-brand-loyalty-cultural-shifts-mean-its-gone-forever/





[2] https://www.marketingweek.com/2018/07/09/new-models-loyalty/?ct_5b76eb2389bd7=5b76eb2389c7d