It’s a subtle difference, but brand loyalty and customer loyalty aren’t the same. Brand loyalty is about consumers having a number of options to choose from, but consistently choosing your brand above the rest. Meanwhile, customer loyalty symbolises a customer’s satisfaction with your brand which drives them to make repeat purchases.

While building each type of loyalty is achievable, it requires marketers having insight into how customers browse, shop, and buy, as well as key strategies in place to uncover and act on these consumer behaviours. And one thing is certain when brands turn towards wanting greater awareness and sales – building long-term strategy to strengthen brand or customer loyalty doesn’t involve excessive discounting. 

Boost confidence to boost brand loyalty

Marketers are aware of the plethora of options consumers have at their fingertips. Given this, marketers need to connect their brand with customers well before they reach the ‘buying stage.’  One strategy to do so is by developing engaging, short form content on various social media channels to pique consumer interest before they decide to make a purchase.

By having content readily available and accessible where consumers are, the interaction should grab enough attention to make a consumer want to know more and ultimately bring them to the brand’s e-commerce site. This is where the long form version of the original engaging content should live, offering a greater immersive experience.

This balance of ‘content engagement roulette’ on various channels allows consumers to enter the conversation stage with the brand. By having awareness-based content capitalised on at various touchpoints, it builds the brand’s reputation and builds greater confidence amongst customers – leading to brand loyalty.

Optimise the consumer funnel for customer loyalty

Customer lifecycles are pivotal to marketers. It allows them to form conclusive inferences by knowing who their customers are and how they like to shop. So, to truly understand the brand’s customers and build a lifecycle that promotes customer loyalty, marketers need to avoid serving all content to all their customers.

Comparatively, brand loyalty does the opposite. This nuance is because brand loyalty focuses on awareness of the overall brand while customer loyalty builds on the 1:1 relationship the brand has with its consumer.

So instead of using the ‘spray and pray’ approach when communicating with customers, marketers should turn towards personalisation. Personalisation is about people and creating trusted relationships – putting customers at the forefront of interactions and enabling the brand to tailor communication and content based on the customer’s past behaviour.

Considering personalisation is at the core of customer engagement communication, marketers must first collect customer data in one platform to build out their marketing strategies. By having a complete 360-degree view of the customer through integrated data, it feeds into the brand’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management), email and channel touchpoints to eventually strengthen customer loyalty.

To ease the process, think about the three most foundational automated journeys: the welcome journey, abandoned cart and abandoned browse. All journeys can be tailored to speak with customers on a 1:1 level. Yet not all marketers use them. By using a customer engagement solution to deliver dynamic content based on data, marketers can improve the customer experience and loyalty that comes from it.

Understanding loyalty types

Whether it is brand or customer loyalty, a brand’s relationship with its customers is an ongoing journey of mutual discovery. Emarsys Customer Loyalty Index indicates 71 per cent of Aussie shoppers consider themselves loyal to one or more brands. The Index also discovered five different loyalty types which can be seen across loyal customers, such as incentivised loyalty, inherited loyalty, silent loyalty, ethical loyalty, and true loyalty.

When a brand offers discounts to customers, it falls under the first loyalty type – incentivised loyalty. Emarsys research shows consumers often join loyalty programs specifically to get their hands on discounts as two-thirds of consumers will switch products if a cheaper option is available, and an additional 38 per cent admit to only staying loyal to brands due to being regularly offered discounts, points, prizes and rewards.

However, a new customer who just joined a loyalty program to get the introductory perks may never shop with a brand again. Comparatively, a customer who has shopped with a brand for many years due to the discounts might not be part of the brand’s loyalty program. When there is such a disconnect and lack of customer insights, it’s very difficult to make a loyalty program a success.

Instead, marketers should work out how to individualise these deals, from controlling who sees what reductions to deciding how much of a discount each person receives, is a key strategy. By personalising a marketing campaign towards the brand’s customers as well as cross-referencing against customers’ website engagement, marketers can find which product lines customers visited and purchased from. From this data, marketers can send tailored communication about the product to the customer in hopes of convincing them to purchase.

As we head into an economic downturn, it will continue to impact the way consumers shop and in turn have customers switch from brands they are loyal to, to grab the discounts. The way to help customers discover a brand in this current environment isn’t by offering excessive discounting.

Instead, marketers must demonstrate they understand consumers’ wants and needs through personalised content. Not only does personalisation enable the brand to continue a conversation rather than starting from scratch each time, it also builds on brand and customer loyalty and allows the consumer feel heard – something brands need to accomplish in order to succeed.

Kristyn Wallace is regional vice president for Asia Pacific & Japan at Emarsys.