In an uncertain market, shopper expectations are evolving – and brand loyalty is key
Brands need to be adaptable if they want to build loyalty with their customers, says Julianne Manoogian of PMG. It’s worth it though; a few changes can go a long way.
Brand loyalty is more important than ever, says PMG's Julianne Manoogian / Marcos Mayer via Unsplash
Against the backdrop of ever-changing buying trends and economic uncertainty that defined much of 2023, the concept of brand loyalty saw significant disruption. Brands now need to recalibrate their strategies if they are to scale successfully. Here’s how.
Brand expectations among shoppers are rapidly transforming
Consumers have become accustomed to shopping around to maximize value, making them less inclined to default to a preferred brand. Recent research we conducted at PMG found that the number one reason consumers switched brands was to find “better value for money”.We also found that younger customers are more and uniquely drawn to novelty, with over 40% of those surveyed wanting to “try something new,” 13% higher than the average for the wider population.
The factors that influence where consumers shop have varied in recent years. They include inventory availability, in-store and e-commerce customer experience, and a desire for deep discounts. In tandem with the growth of brand switching, which accelerated during the pandemic, marketers are looking to grow demand with their owned channels. This requires an active evaluation of the most persuasive value propositions that lead customers to return to the brand or spend more.
In the coming months, brands can strategically balance customer growth by expanding their overall customer population and nurturing a base of loyal customers at scale. Brands can achieve both objectives (demand increases with declines in brand switching among customers) by employing a full-funnel, integrated marketing mix, building authentic connections, delivering meaningful personalization across touchpoints and experiences, and aligning with the right trends to amplify both discoverability.
Here’s how to scale brand loyalty in 2024 and beyond
Here are three ways brands can successfully scale customer loyalty:
First, brands should calibrate acquisition and retention goals to align with business priorities, financial targets, recent trends, and anticipated market conditions based on product and brand positioning. Proactive considerations within planning not only empower brands to stay ahead of shifting trends but also foster greater agility and a more resilient foundation for strengthening brand loyalty. This is key in the face of an ever-shifting business environment.
Second, marketers should work to establish partnerships with customers and creators on social media, recognizing this is important as a source of product inspiration and as a catalyst for driving brand preference across diverse market segments. Almost a quarter of social media users report purchasing a product based on an influencer’s recommendation within the past three months, a 33% increase from the year prior, according to HubSpot research.
By actively engaging with and leveraging the influence of loyal customers and creators, brands can amplify their reach and cultivate more authentic connections with customers via the platforms they engage with most. This in turn lays the groundwork for sustained loyalty and brand advocacy.
Third, marketers striving to meet heightened consumer expectations can look to new initiatives for success. These include actively building brand preference across channels, optimizing rewards and benefit structures, utilizing data models or AI for hyper-personalized connections, strengthening engagement with gamification, or offering exclusive access to innovative collaborations.
In fact, our analysis of retail promotional activity throughout the 2023 holiday season showed that a significant majority, 63%, of brands with loyalty programs offered their customers exclusive access to sales or promotions, which made up an impressive 25% of their total promotional activity during the period.
The use of these ‘gated promotions’ rose among nearly three-quarters of brands year-on-year. These exclusive experiences are gaining traction as a means for brands to offer value, drive excitement, and, ultimately, encourage repeat engagement and purchases.
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The future of loyalty is hyper-personalized
As retailers look to fine-tune their promotional strategies throughout 2024 and beyond, brands with more mature programs and technological ‘martech’ infrastructures can experiment with hyper-personalized offers to maximize their profitability and sales. Messaging that meets a minimum threshold of value for the customer is ‘table stakes’ – the minimum needed to succeed – with leading brands often touting high value and convenience in their messaging. An example of this is Sephora offering ‘price drop’ messaging based on previously browsed or saved items.
Research shows that consumers welcome greater personalization, with 56 percent of adults worldwide stating they would become repeat buyers after a personalized experience – up from 49 percent in 2022. It’s clear that a data-driven strategy focusing on personalized offers can provide benefits for both brands and consumers. It’s no wonder that the top challenges cited by loyalty program professionals include maintaining margins while offering enticing discounts, as well as the ability to offer discounts attractive enough to sway customers.
Exacting the right approach will vary based on business positioning, the brand, and its customer strategy. However, as change remains the only constant in our industry, success in continuing to scale brand loyalty will lie in its ability to adapt.
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PMG is a global independent digital company that seeks to inspire people and brands that anything is possible. Driven by shared success, PMG uses strategy, creative, media, and insights, as well as its proprietary marketing intelligence platform Alli, to deliver Digital Made for Humans™. Our team is made up of over 900 employees globally, and our work for brands like Apple, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Dave & Buster's, Experian, Kohler, Nike, Sephora, and Shake Shack runs across 85+ countries and has received top industry recognition from Cannes Lions to Adweek Media Plan of the Year. Ranked by Deloitte, Inc., Entrepreneur, and Adweek as one of the fastest-growing companies in the nation, PMG has grown because of its commitment to continuous improvement, business integrity, cultivating dynamic relationships, and putting people first. Named 9X Ad Age's Best Places to Work, 5X Best Places for Working Parents, Fortune's Best Workplaces for Women and 2X Fast Company's Best Workplaces for Innovators, PMG has also been named to Ad Age's Agency A-List, Adweek's Breakthrough Media Agency of the Year and 2X MediaPost's Independent Agency of the Year.Find out more