I’ve got a problem. My wife and I are shopping for a car, but the brand we purchased for our last four cars (yes, we may have been obsessively loyal) no longer exists. So what brands to consider now? And why?
While I pondered these deep questions, I also began wondering what made customers “brand loyal” in general. Some companies do this really, really well (think Apple, IKEA, In and Out Burger, Zappos and NewEgg). Others? Well, not so much.
Here are six ways to build brand loyal customers.
Customers know what to expect when buying from companies they are loyal to. This trust can take many forms but will generally include reliability, ease of use or suitability for a particular task. In short, there are no surprises: it’s worked in the past, and they expect it to work in the future. This trust applies to big purchases, as well as mundane ones like diapers, trash bags, laundry detergent and underwear.
2. Ease of doing business
Customers buy because it’s easy to make a transaction, and customer service is painless (sometimes even fun). Amazon and Zappos are great examples. The prices are great, shipping is simple, and returns are (relatively) uncomplicated. If you want to build brand loyal customers, make it easy for them to choose you.
When customers feel really strongly about brands, usually there are other intangible factors at work here, such as the buying experience, or some sort of cult-like following. Passion can be a difficult factor to foster. Early Saturn cars created this passion, partly because of the way they were sold, and partly because of an unexpected reputation for helping occupants survive horrific crashes. And we all know about fanaticism for Apple products — even in the early 90s when it didn’t make a lot of sense to be passionate about Apple products.
In order for customers to be passionate about your brand, they have to buy into your messaging, and your mission, hook line and sinker. That’s why it’s so important for your branding to be spot on.
Customers often buy products to make a statement. BMWs make one statement, Subarus make another. Rolex watches. Brooks Brothers suits. Even something as mundane as Target can help foster appearances. How many of you have told a friend about a great shelf or shirt you found at Target? Now how many of you have said the same about something you’ve found at Walmart? Consider what statement your brand makes for your customers to help garner brand loyalty.
Often, customers don’t have any really strong reason to change brands, so they stick with what they’re already doing. Or, in the case of some brands (some cable providers come to mind), customers feel the hassle of changing isn’t worth the benefit, no matter how frustrated they may be with a company. This hassle aspect might not be something your brand should emulate — but it is a factor to consider. Do you make it convenient for your customers to continue supporting your brand?
Customers often have some monetary reason to patronize a business. Coupons. Deals. Locality. Even affinity programs, such as frequent flyer miles or credit card rewards. Building brand loyalty could be as basic as adjusting your price.
Companies have to work a little harder to build brand loyal customers. Spend some resources to reinforce or promote one (or more) of these loyalty factors.
Does your company already command brand loyalty? How? Leave a comment below.