Beyond loyalty

How to rethink loyalty and create an impact in a world where user-needs are constantly changing.

Keeping customers is extremely difficult: competitors are getting more and more aggressive and products are quickly turned into commodities.
 Creating loyalty is not merely about making repetitive purchases. It involves strong relationships built by reading customers’ mind every single time they have a specific need. According to Adeptmind, in 2018 nearly 50% of product search started on Amazon, whereas only 34.6% of the users opted for Google first. Amazon is the first choice for people looking to buy something online. This nothing but the result of a strong relationship between the brand and the customers. People trust Amazon.

50% of product search started from Amazon

Companies are often focused on enlarging customer base, impressing people, drawing attention to their advertising. The hard part is not about impressing, it is about maintaining a strong relationship.

How to create loyalty?

It is not enough to enroll on a loyalty program or a private membership club. According to Public Sapient report “Rethink Loyalty to get more share of life, love, and Wallet,” customers are really frustrated about membership programs. Brands promise rewards but it usually takes a long time before any benefit is obtained, and sometimes rewards are not very relevant for users either. Membership programs are powerful only if rewards are consistent with users’ lifestyle. Companies can generate a significant return only when real value is provided. According to Statista, Amazon Prime subscribers spend up to $1,300 per year, nearly doubling the $700 per year that the average non-member spends on the e-commerce site.

How to win loyalty?

Only brands that can create a great sense of ongoing value can obtain customers’ loyalty.
 Usually, brands promise something to customers and guarantee to satisfy their needs. But they don’t actually make this process neither easy nor comfortable for the customer. They don’t anticipate users’ needs and don’t pay any attention to the way these needs change over time. Being ready to predict, understand and discover changes is a challenging goal for brands, but doing that is key step towards a complete understanding of the entire customer Journey.
 Rather than loyalty, it is a sense of belonging that must be developed. According to a recent IBM iX study, belonging is the most critical aspect in the whole relationship with customers.
 Nowadays creating a sense of belonging to a brand is really difficult. This is due to limited attention: people are exposed to 10.000 brand messages per day, the number of screens that people use is increasing, and we have been experiencing a deep fragmentation of interaction, people usually switch from one screen to another up to 21 times in an hour.

What does it mean to create belonging?

Belonging means creating a shared vision and shared values with users, building a community where users deeply trust the brand. When strong trust occures, brands can have a substantial impact on people’s lives.
 Companies which aim at creating a sense of belonging have to differentiate actions for individuals and the community. Empowering individuals means to enrich everyday interactions, simplify activities, improve products and services. It is essential for individuals to have a meaning. For example, Sweetgreen has a strong vision for healthy food, the Sweetgreen mission is:

“(…) to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food. We know that Sweetgreen is a critical link between growers and consumers, and we feel a responsibility to protect the future of real food.”

Once brands create and promote values they need to build a relationship based on that, namely the sense of being part of a community. Airbnb, for instance, work hard to ensure a strong correlation between hosts and guests.

To empower community is essential the create a shared purpose, like Tesla, that is not as much about selling cars as it is about creating a better future, without pollution and with reduced carbon imprint. Brands need to give power to the community, the ability not only to listen but also to act and help to create an impact.

A loyal community is not made of a plastic member card but is created with a deep sense of belonging, where customers have the power to improve not only products and services but also the entire future of the community.