The New Era of Loyalty – What is Motivating People to Buy

Brands are powerful things, evoking the strongest emotions in even the most seasoned of shoppers. It’s very hard to avoid that pang of nostalgia when you pick up the brand of bread that sat on the kitchen side at home when you were a kid, or the games console your parents finally gave in and bought you for your birthday. The colours, fonts, shapes and sounds of our favourite brands are as evocative as any of our fondest memories.

This emotion during the better part of the 20th century relied on brands that had the wherewithal to target the shoppers of households, assuring them of the many benefits of their product, whether that be convenience, health or prestige. Loyal customers were born of brands that built trust and faith in their products. Mostly this was through print and TV advertising, so the gates were very firmly controlled and competition relatively low and easy to identify.

Mass Consumption means Massive Choice

These days the gatekeeping of brands is much more nebulous. No longer are we exposed to only a selection of advertisers on mainstream TV or those with the budget for prime supermarket placement; we have a nearly infinite realm of choice. We don’t just have a few brands of bread to choose from, and we certainly aren’t limited to buying it from a grocer or supermarket. We can get it delivered in a box alongside our veg, we can pick it up at a fancy farmer’s market in Chiswick, and we can even order it from Amazon.

So how do brands stand out in such a complex and competitive landscape? How do brands even know who their competition actually is? Well perhaps, it’s time to go back a little and remind ourselves of the power of emotional connection.

“Customer loyalty and repeat customers is the foundation of healthy, thriving businesses everywhere,” Phil Pomford, GM for Global eCommerce, APAC, Worldpay Merchant Solutions at FIS.

Back to Basics

People want to feel important, noticed and valued. In such a saturated marketplace, consumers want to feel that their choices mean something. It’s about personalised experience and about how brands treat the customer through the entire sales cycle, beginning to end. If you want to get noticed by customers then it’s more than the product itself, you need to make people feel something. Call it loyalty marketing.

Plenty of research has been done into buyer behaviour and there’s an abundance of data out there. It’s hard though, with data, to understand emotional motivation. People don’t behave like numbers and are far less predictable. While data is valuable and can reveal important insights, it doesn’t tell us the ‘why’ people do things. Data can also keep marketers looking backwards rather than predicting the what-ifs and numbers can take precedent over behaviours. Ultimately, data can’t tell you how people actually feel.

Responding to this problem, Allocadia survey in the US looked into why consumers respond to product marketing from a position of emotion. The results were fascinating with inspiration (42%), joy (40%), hope (34%) and love (38%) all appearing as triggers to engage or buy. On the flip side, turn-offs include sadness (7%), fear (8%), anger (8%) and annoyance (6%). Positive feelings really do inspire loyalty.

Emotions in a Digital World

Evoking these desirable emotions isn’t easy when you have consumers’ attention for just a few seconds as they scroll through social media or rush through the supermarket. Attention is scarce and whilst it might be a little easier in-store, online is much more challenging. One such approach to resolving this problem is loyalty programmes or subscriptions. It’s hard to argue about how successful Amazon Prime has been in driving loyalty.

But it isn’t always about points and cash rewards led by pure consumer behavioural data; people want to feel good. For many, the lack of personal touch within Amazon’s world is a massive turn off, and this is driving consumers back to the high street, perhaps just to feel something again.

There’s also a propensity in this competitive landscape to just chase the new customers. Obviously, this is important, but retaining existing customers is what loyalty is all about.

The New Era of Loyalty Online and Offline….

A study by consultancy customology interviewed more than 2,500 Australians about their experience with brands and almost 80 per cent believed new customers received more attractive offers than loyal ones, with more than half convinced repeat buyers are not sufficiently rewarded for their loyalty. 51 per cent claimed they did not receive any form of communication after their first purchase, even though they shared contact details.

“Retailers and brands are missing out on significant opportunities by alienating their most profitable customers. It costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. It’s ludicrous that brands today are still offering new customers a better deal.” Mark James, CEO Customology.

This is where loyalty programmes come into their own. But it’s not enough just offer discounts or free postage. You need to show your customers that you care about them and their loyalty. This is why great loyalty programmes are compliment by great personalised communications and targeted marketing, whether you’re online or offline.

Mastercard’s Loyalty and Engagement President Francis Hondal says – “It must be more than points or the cash discount. It needs to be about the whole experience and my relationship with you as a brand. And I think it becomes even more important through digital channels.”

Ultimately loyalty means making your customers feel something about you again. We are emotional creatures, after all.