In a post-pandemic world, companies and their customers are continually reminded of an important lesson — life and business are unpredictable. Today, this uncertainty is driven by influences that continue to disrupt the status quo, making way for the "new normal." First showing up as supply chain delays and negative economic growth, the pandemic aftermath has since triggered stubborn inflation in countries around the globe. Living with rising costs, it's no surprise that 80% of Americans are members of at least one loyalty program, aiming to reduce expenses and redeem free rewards.
And while these loyalty programs have existed for decades, a renewed focus on cost-cutting has brought them back into the limelight. Today, companies can harness this consumer sentiment to proactively grow their loyalty initiatives — attracting new business while retaining brand-loyal customers. However, these efforts should also be multi-faceted, mainly because 44% of consumers "don't care" where they shop "as long as it works."
Fortunately, there are many ways modern companies can innovate their loyalty offerings to address this challenge. Here are three items companies should consider to nurture customer relationships in uncertain times.
1. Personalize the customer experience
Brand loyalty is psychological, meaning it's equal parts rational and emotional. In short, if brands capture hearts and minds by delivering personalization well, they'll grow valuable relationships that drive loyalty. In fact, personalization is one of the biggest drivers of brand loyalty in the digital age: 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that provides a tailored experience.
For this reason, it's more important than ever for companies to make a substantial impact by delivering a solid customer experience. Behind the scenes, a MACH or composable tech stack can help support the functionality needed for seamless personalization. A MACH approach allows brands to own customer relationships and eliminate restrictive platforms that dictate how interactions must happen.
"Businesses must embrace the transformative power of MACH technologies to adapt and thrive amidst evolving customer needs," says Thorunn Devoy, Global Head of Partnerships at Talon.One "By harnessing cutting-edge technology, companies can revolutionize their approach, delivering personalized experiences that exceed expectations. Stay ahead, connect deeper, and empower growth through customer-centricity and the synergy of MACH solutions."
Apply Digital took this approach when partnering with Dr. Barabara Sturm, a high-end, international skincare company. We developed and implemented a custom "Routine Finder," where shoppers could take an online questionnaire and receive a handpicked set of skincare products. This slick, design-forward solution has seen significant engagement on the site since its launch, highlighting the value of building brand loyalty through personalization.
2. Meet customers where they are
In addition to personalization, brands can build loyalty by meeting customers where they are to deliver a seamless experience across physical and digital touchpoints. And this isn't just a "nice to have;" companies risk losing valuable customers if they don't. According to PwC, 32% of all customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience. In Latin America, 49% say they'd leave a brand after just one bad experience.
It's clear that reducing the frequency of bad experiences is critical to building brand loyalty — but how is this achieved? In short, companies should ensure they have real-time insights through the customer journey, mainly because these journeys are increasing across channels. Such insights allow companies to proactively select the next best action for customers and deliver a seamless experience. Composable tech can further enhance these efforts by supporting an agile tech stack that quickly adapts to changing customer journeys.
Apply Digital took a similar approach when partnering with FEMSA, a multi-sector pharmacy leader in Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, and Mexico. During the project, we helped FEMSA develop a modern, unified storefront experience for their brands. This streamlined solution allowed them to provide consistently faster content updates that scale for multiple brands through a single content management platform. Following implementation, FEMSA saw a +55% increase in sales and a +66% increase in its conversion rate.
3. Listen to and accommodate changing customer needs
Once companies meet customers where they are, staying on top of changing needs is key to maintaining brand loyalty. In 2020, Salesforce surveyed over 6,000 consumers and found that 66% expected companies to understand their needs and expectations. In addition, 82% of survey respondents expect retailers to be able to accommodate their preferences and meet their expectations. This two-way communication of both sharing and listening is critical. Companies should support customers where possible to build authentic relationships — but it isn't always easy. To deliver on these expectations, companies should focus on a few key areas to ensure a better understanding of customer needs.
Identify the right needs: Customers have existing and unrealized needs, and companies should determine what they are early on. In doing so, organizations can focus on the requirements that drive loyalty, guiding internal and external strategic initiatives.
Find the right customer: Once companies hone in on what customers need, the next step is determining who makes purchasing decisions. While this process is usually straightforward in a B2C context, it can be a bit more challenging when navigating B2B stakeholders. In either case, it comes down to tracing products from when they leave the building to their final destination.
Listen closely: Once companies have addressed the right need and found the right customer, it's time to listen and ask relevant questions. At this step, companies can also use tracking and metrics to anticipate changing needs.
When working with The Very Group, we facilitated a shift towards improving the customer experience. Over a multi-year transition, Apply Digital implemented a MACH tech stack to make site changes quicker and more frequent, shifting The Very Group customer experience away from an existing platform.
Brand loyalty in a changing world
Global influences are dynamic and ever-changing, whether it's economic uncertainty, supply chain disruptions, or inflation. For this reason, companies should aim to retain and grow loyal customers by minimizing negative experiences and focusing on opportunities to overdeliver.
Regardless of size, many businesses have a tool to nurture customer loyalty. That means the days of simple, attention-grabbing programs are long gone. Today, only the most robust initiatives will stand out from the crowd. A well-designed loyalty program can help establish deep emotional bonds between a business and its customers, delivering results like those achieved by our Talon.One clients, which showed an average:
+8% increase in repeat purchases,
+13% increase in customer spend after sign-up,
-18% decrease in customer churn, and
-15% decrease in customer acquisition costs.
Personalizing the customer experience, meeting them where they are, and adapting to their evolving needs are all effective ways to develop authentic relationships. If you'd like to navigate the complex world of loyalty, reach out to us and let's explore how we can elevate your customer relationships.
Co-Written by Jordon Ahosaari