The meaning and scope of what is ‘loyalty’ has undergone considerable changes, as did most of the ideas and premises we were used to with the advent of the digital age.
Several voices even advocate the end of the search for ‘loyalty’ to the brand for the most varied reasons, be it the high investments made without the expected return, the inefficiency of the programs in ensuring increasing sales, etc.
Until recently, the understanding of what was loyalty was satisfied, or restricted, to a mere repetition of purchases, if possible, in a constant manner and as often as possible, and that’s it.
The idea was almost exclusively centered and restricted to the transactional, as in the loyalty programs where every 9 purchases the consumer would get the 10th product for free, or in the discount coupons.
In principle, both sides (brands & consumers) would be satisfied and prepared to start a new cycle, on the same basis, with the same format, in a repetition without much differentiation.
The truth is that the concept of ‘loyalty’ in the digital age has been gaining different connotations and a much broader understanding, something that has started to demand a differentiated response from brands.
In the digital age, the idea of ‘loyalty’ has come to encompass different connotations that are very different from the objectives sought at the time when the relationship of the brand with the consumer was fundamentally with physical presence.
Not anymore! There are growing signs that consumers are no longer completely satisfied with the solutions of the old model and indicate a growing expectation for something more, in addition to the transactional one.
Increasingly, ‘loyalty’ has been linked by consumers to brands providing a remarkable experience, consistently over time and, above all, adding more value to the relationship.
But how do you ‘deliver’ to the consumer a better experience? What are the factors to be observed by the brands for this delivery to meet the new expectations and materialize in the ‘loyalty’ sought?
The idea is to go beyond transactions and create attitudes and behaviors among consumers, such as the ‘lawyers’ of the brand, the ‘passionate’ for the brand and the ‘promoters’ of the brand.
These are consumers who defend, advertise and promote the brand to acquaintances, to co-workers, to family members and (mainly) on social networks.
These are consumers who, in return for the experience received, in recognition of the product or service purchased, spontaneously begin to praise, propagate and comment positively on the brand.
In other words, this still new ‘loyalty’ exists and is achieved when consumers go beyond mere purchases and naturally take an active stance, with concrete and spontaneous actions aimed at the brand.
Unlike the conventional ‘one-to-one’ effect, what comes into being is ‘one-to-hundreds’, ‘thousands’, perhaps even ‘millions’, given the exponential effect that social networks have.
There are basically three aspects to be sought by brands to provide consumers with a better and more remarkable experience: relevance, usefulness and purpose.
Relevance is related to knowledge by the brands of the consumer journey, in facilitating the decision making of these people and in offering what is already known to be of interest to them, using big data as a platform.
This is the case with Amazon or Netflix suggesting new products based on their previous preferences, or from what a large number of people are already choosing at this time.
The examples do not stop there, they also extend to Booking.com, to Airbnb, to i-food, to Uber, to international publications, among so many other active brands and already acting according to this new model.
Providing simple and coherent experiences with the history of each one, that facilitate the choice for the consumer, ‘lost’ among multiple options, is an important stimulus to the growth of sales and consolidates the ‘loyalty’.
The utility consists of using the resources that the digital medium provides so that the consumer experience is not only interesting, but also easier, more pleasant, that solves problems and eliminates difficulties.
The experiences that achieve these goals add value, retain customers and can still be fun, such as the ASOS application that, from photos, identifies pieces of clothing similar to the customer’s taste, or allows the clothes to be tried on at home free of charge.
Or as they already occur in certain hotels, where it is possible for the guest of your room to check the account via the web, authorize the debit and no longer need to go through the checkout queue, combining simplicity with ease.
The examples are multiplied with boarding passes on cell phones, hotel rooms that do not require the use of keys or check in, functionality buttons that already select the last option of pizza ordered, speeding up the process, etc.
The purpose refers to how brands expose and disclose what they are, think, value. Although many initiatives predate the digital age, with current resources such actions have gained a lot in visibility and in their repercussions.
The objective is to strengthen the relationship, reinforcing values and creating an identification of the consumer with these ideals, as to justify the purchase of these products, encouraging them to feel better people and contributing to worthy causes.
Case of Patagonia and responsible consumption or recycling of used parts, Airbnb with a special program to assist people who are victims of natural disasters such as the hurricane in Florida, Adidas with Team Messi (Twitter, Facebook or Instagram), where 94% of the participants were new to the brand and currently have an average spend of 10 euros on e-commerce.
However, like almost everything, it is a double-edged sword. The success in the strategy can take the brands to the heights and with much more ‘loyalty’, but, on the other hand, the error can imply the loss of the consumer, the de-characterization of the brand and a reductionism, back to the transactional one.
The challenge then for research is how to measure the type, quality and intensity of the experience provided to the consumer. How to assess whether the experience has had an impact and whether it is transmuted into future purchases?
Although some answers may come from the conventional techniques of market research, it is clear that there are limitations and the need for more answers.
Scales of options such as ‘yes & no’ or ‘good & regular & very poor’ are not the most appropriate metrics, they do not allow for greater progress in evaluating experiences, even though they are a relevant starting point.
Neuromarketing, in conjunction with conventional research, already has techniques and tools to assess most of these issues in more depth.
In the end, the answers sought consist in the evaluation of the reactions caused by the experiences, at which point they were impactful, where they differed from the competition, and to what extent they were constituted in permanent effects.
Responses with neuromarketing are more appropriate because they are not based on ‘rational’ or ‘declarative’, but on ‘emotional’ and ‘reactions’, spontaneous and instinctive people to these stimuli & experiences.
Therefore, these metrics are much more sensitive and credible, either because of the precision of the technical resources employed, or because of the notorious inability of most people to describe precisely the feelings or emotions
The truth is that many of us don’t even know how to properly interpret these emotions, perhaps describe them or put them in numbers, which is why neuromarketing can and should be a solution to be used with increasing frequency.
Amy Brown, Rethinking ‘loyalty’ in the age of digital, Admap, November 2017