Loyalty is often used by marketers as something of a buzzword, but in a competitive market, it’s crucial for lasting business success. Loyalty not only drives repeat sales, but offers a viable alternative to sky-high customer acquisition costs.

Of course, earning loyalty involves more than simply launching a rewards program. Intuit Mailchimp’s “The Science of Loyalty” report found that 88% of Australian consumers prefer brands that make them feel good, while only 50% of shoppers expect brands to reward them with deals and discounts. Developed with behavioural scientists and consumer psychologists, the report highlights a shift in loyalty dynamics: emotional resonance and authentic connections can be more compelling than transactional incentives in driving repeat purchases.

To better understand loyalty, let’s dive into six of the twelve strategies underscored by Intuit Mailchimp’s Strategic Loyalty Playbook, including practical tips to assist retailers in building meaningful relationships with consumers.

1.  Smooth selling

Ease of purchase was the number one brand association for Australians, with 97% of repeat shoppers saying they preferred brands that make it quick and easy to purchase. Retailers can boost loyalty by removing unnecessary steps or detours and gently guiding the customer towards desired behaviours, which provides them with a more straightforward way to interact with their favourite brands and saves them precious time when shopping.

To create more frictionless shopping journeys, retailers can consider optimising website design for an easier navigation and checkout process, whether that means reducing barriers in payment collection, adding virtual assistants to offer real-time support, or providing users with the option to create lists where they can bookmark products, saving time on future purchases. Another important strategy is providing customers with the option to receive purchases when and where they want, which could happen via different shipping options, or in-store pick up for online purchases.

They can also incorporate email or SMS reminders to guide customers to pick up where they left off in the checkout process and reduce abandonment rates.

2.  Familiar foundations

About half (48%) of repeat purchasers in Australia said that recommendations from friends or family help them decide what to buy, underscoring the importance of trust in their decision-making process. Showing up in these circles can build a feeling of familiarity for customers, leading to a natural sense of loyalty.

Businesses can nurture this by introducing refer-a-friend initiatives, encouraging organic word-of-mouth promotion by offering both the referrer and the referee benefits for supporting the brand.

Retailers can also position new products within familiar settings to keep customers in their comfort zones. By associating innovations with established favourites, businesses can ease customers into trying and embracing new offerings. Investing in strong ratings or review mechanisms provides newcomers with social proof from other customers. The more opportunities you create for your audience to hear about your product from sources outside your company, the more you can foster the kind of consumer confidence that can help you move the needle.

3. Easy decisions

Half (49%) of repeat purchasers in Australia explore new product offerings through brand emails and 42% went on to make a purchase after reading the message.In an era marked by overwhelming choice, the ability to connect with customers in their inbox—where personalised recommendations and messages are delivered directly to them in a context that makes them more likely to act—is crucial for building loyalty and driving repeat purchases.

Businesses can use predictive analytics and leverage data from previous interactions (browsing behaviour or purchase history, for example) to anticipate customers’ needs, curate selections, and send personalised messages, simplifying the decision-making process and positioning the brand as a trusted advisor.

4. Choice validation

The majority of loyal customers globally had a very favourable opinion of their preferred brand.

Marketers wishing to make or maintain a positive impression can remind customers of the enjoyable experience they’ve had with the brand or product, helping them feel confident in their choice. Feeling confident in their decision makes customers more likely to repeat purchases.

Demonstrating the value of the product or service over time can also help prevent customers from switching. Another option is to acknowledge repeat customers with personalised email prompts that highlight the benefits (whether time, cost savings, or experience) the customer has gotten over time by supporting the business. The yearly Spotify Wrapped campaign is a great example of this. Providing users with a personalised recap of their year using the application, it not only celebrates their unique musical taste, but also strengthens their emotional connection with the platform by highlighting favourite moments.

5. Insider status

Amongst Australian shoppers, the most popular method of contact is email, with 55% looking to keep in touch with brands this way. Not only that, but 1 in 4 said they would consider switching brands if a brand can’t offer quality customer service across channels, underscoring the importance of having strong feedback mechanisms to ensure customers feel that their input is valued.

Even something as simple and low-cost as requesting customers’ opinions via an email survey can deepen their engagement with the brand. One way to maximise this relationship might be a community feedback program, where the most loyal customers are invited to participate in exclusive surveys or give feedback to help shape products and services. Email is a one-to-one communication channel that offers the ability for deeply personalised messages, and it can be a great medium to make loyal customers feel valued and heard.

6. Smart exposure

Almost half (46%) of Australian repeat purchasers said they know a lot about the brands they purchase from. Multichannel marketing that keeps brands top-of-mind during purchasing decisions can pay off (literally!) by reinforcing brand awareness and influencing repeat purchases.

Marketers should consider how strong branding elements, unique design, and identity assets can strengthen their brand’s overall recognizability. It’s important here to not only ensure that the brand stands out, but also that it remains consistent across all the different multichannel touchpoints. 

They can also explore opportunities to deepen customers’ mental associations with the brand through strategic partnerships and sponsorships in relevant areas. Wherever you find it, the right exposure can solidify your brand’s identity and increase customer affinity.

Mastering the art and science of customer loyalty

In a competitive market driven by consumer choice and evolving preferences, mastering the art and science behind lasting customer relationships is essential for sustained success.

While these are only six out of twelve tactics outlined by Intuit Mailchimp’s Strategic Loyalty Playbook, they provide a great starting point to elevating customer engagement and fostering loyalty. By doing so, businesses can navigate the dynamic landscape of customer relationships with precision and purpose, ensuring meaningful connections that stand the test of time.

Malinda Sandman is senior director of global marketing at Intuit Mailchimp.