If you want to build brand loyalty in an age when 80 percent of consumers look online to see what other people think instead of just sticking with a brand they know, you have to be smart about both the quality of your product and the experience of buying it.
Customers have moved beyond unquestioning brand loyalty and toward quality, and they will go where they find it, primarily because information is easily accessible by way of the Internet.
This is a major evolutionary change in the world of brands. In the old days, consumers looked to advertising or their past experiences with a company, which served as a proxy to figure out a new product’s reliability and worth. Brand loyalty was a way of reducing risk.
Today, with easy access to expert reviews, user reviews, detailed report data in an array of categories, and transparency in every good and bad company behavior, the power of brands is truly weakened. A brand’s value may easily plummet, especially when the next competitor offers something similar that's judged to be just as good.
But there are still ways to make your brand more sticky and your customers more loyal. Here are three tips (hint: customer service is key).
1. Deliver on the product’s promise every time.
The benefits of your product have to be apparent and consistent. If you sell yoga pants and you say they fit great, keep you demure during a public practice session, and will look like new wash after wash--make sure they do.
Lululemon’s founder Chip Wilson learned that lesson the hard way when a social-media maelstrom ensued after some customers started complaining that the brand’s garments became see-through during their yoga workouts. Instead of simply agreeing to look into the complaints, Wilson responded that not everyone is fit or thin enough to pull off his company’s pull-on pants.
The major mistake Wilson made was believing that his preferred customers were so brand loyal that they wouldn’t care that he insulted an entire demographic of women. Women quickly ditched the chauvinist brand and found substitute products.
So disastrous was the double whammy of failing quality and a condescending founder that as of January 2014, Lulelemon’s stock price was still in the tank while rivals benefited from customers switching brands.
2. Over-deliver on fixing mistakes.
If you screw up on a product promise, fix it--and consider telling a story about the fix. Put your CEO in an ad or post a video on social media showing him or her tossing defective products in the trash, with the promise that better products will appear on store shelves ASAP. Showing your authenticity in this way makes the brand believable, so customers are more likely to give you another chance.
3. Be inclusive, not exclusive.
When singer Kelly Clarkson wanted to buy a large number of iPods for orphans from Best Buy, the store refused to sell the goods. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? The store decided to adhere to the company policy of putting iPods aside for specific customers. Though the company changed its mind after Clarkson talked about the incident on social media, it was too little, too late and a potentially great PR moment was destroyed.
Do you really want to be known as a brand that doesn't want to serve a certain group of people? Ask yourself some serious questions about whether avoiding certain paying customers can really help your brand. A gaffe that comes out online can ruin your best laid plans.
In an era when a tweet or a bad Yelp review can tarnish your brand--and sales--you have to focus more on the customer experience. Wowing the customer will bring you brand loyalty.