Consumer sentiment, and with it buying behaviour, is changing fast enough to make your head spin. Most recently, the pandemic triggered a surge in commercial activity online, followed quickly by worldwide supply chain issues. The resulting rising costs of goods, petrol, and property has seen inflation skyrocketing in Australia to a 21-year high, while the rapid expansion and evolution of digital technology continues unabated. Tristan Sternson explores customer loyalty.
In a crowded global marketplace, brands are competing harder than ever before for loyalty from a customer base that has an infinite array of choices at its fingertips. Today’s customers are more knowledgeable, more diverse, and more empowered. They’re also more demanding, totally willing (and able) to switch brand allegiances overnight.
So, what does it all mean for brands? In short, the future of customer loyalty and user experience (UX) in a complex digital world is a new and exciting one and ultimately, one brands need to embrace in order to get – and stay – ahead of the competitors. Leveraging technology is how brands are going to get there.
The customer is (still) king
The customer journey is no longer linear with a clear centre of gravity; it is fragmented and spans web, mobile, social media, smart devices, wearables, the metaverse, and of course, the physical world. As it now intersects through multiple platforms, designers and marketers need to consider how to create a cohesive, experience-led approach around the customer.
’The customer is king’. Ring a bell? Digital and tech innovation means that brands are now operating in a multi-polar, experiential world that revolves more than ever around the customer’s needs and wants.
No problems, only opportunities
As much as the breadth and pace of tech innovation can feel daunting for business owners, it shouldn’t be. Challenging, yes, but really, change should be regarded as an opportunity to consolidate and enhance your customers’ journey and magnify their loyalty to your brand.
The sneaker industry is a great example. Customising is immensely popular with consumers, and it’s big business. Most of the big brands offer it in some form, from simple monogramming to full colour and style customisation. These are digital options that enhance customer experience, which in turn helps to build loyalty, both online and in-store/in real life.
Why settle for off-the-shelf Nikes when you can assume some control and add your magic touch in the process? It’s something my kids do, and it keeps them wanting to go back for more.
There’s a huge amount of opportunity in this space for brands. Imagine walking into a Nike store with your phone, customising your own sneaker online, and a short time later the shoe being brought up for you. Thanks to technology, it’s possible.
Customer loyalty: the big squeeze
The radical success of limited editions and midnight sneaker drops doesn’t happen overnight, though; it’s brand loyalty in motion. But what happens when loyalty is challenged by a new wave of super-savvy, price-conscious consumers?
Data from Emarsys’ 2022 Customer Loyalty Index found 65 percent of Australians say inflation and the rising cost-of-living has made them abandon brands they were previously loyal to in order to save money.
Nowadays, customers are doing a lot more comparison online because they’re more price-conscious. And, also, because they can. So for brands, spending budget on online marketing as a bare minimum, even for bricks-and-mortar businesses, is essential. In-store, time is money. If you’re waiting in a large retail outlet for someone to come and help you, that 1-2 minutes while you’re waiting might turn into “Do I really need this? I can save the money/get it cheaper online.”
Either way, as a business, you want to catch customers – and make it a positive experience – in that moment to hang onto your share of the wallet.
If you’re wondering ‘What next?’, my word for you is ‘Acceptance’. Ours is now a multi-polar digital world that needs to be embraced for you to not just survive, but to thrive.
Examine closely what you can do to drive a better customer experience. Years ago we developed ‘business intelligence’, gathering data on our customers, yet some brands still utilise that intelligence really poorly.
We need to get better at using what we’ve got, then start using the newer tools – technology like in-store mobile apps – to make it easier for brands to recognise and reward their loyal consumers, and for customers to get what they need, quickly and easily. Endless aisles, for example, allow customers in-store to virtually browse or order products that are out of stock or not sold in-store, then have them shipped to their home.
Loyalty is now driven by the complete, omnichannel experience of your brand. With expanding global connectivity, price sensitivity, and increasing technical innovation, brand advantages are shrinking. Make sure you’re investing in UX and digital innovation to provide customers an attractive and unforgettable experience.