It's probably fair to say that all business owners want to have loyal customers -- people who love their product or service and keep coming back for it. But something called "reciprocal loyalty" can help take your business to the next level and ahead of your competitors.
Traditionally, brand marketers talk about their customers as falling into one of four loyalty buckets:
- No loyalty: a person who rarely has an affinity toward a brand.
- Inertia loyalty: when someone buys out of habit or convenience.
- Latent loyalty: when a person is loyal to you but only purchases once in a while.
- Premium loyalty: when someone is loyal to your brand, purchases often and shares pride after the purchase.
In general, loyalty takes a long time to build, can be difficult to measure and be costly to invest in. But it can also be a huge advantage in a competitive market. Customer loyalty is more important today than ever before, given the sheer volume of options and level of noise surrounding consumers.
But while building premium loyalty has been the goal of most marketers, it isn't enough anymore. That's where reciprocal loyalty comes in.
Reciprocal loyalty is a premium relationship benefitting both the brand and the consumer. It creates a relationship where consumers support brands through advocacy, purchase behavior and community participation. As a result, brands then appreciate consumers through investing in their experiences, providing valuable content and thanking consumer with rewards and benefits.
This two-way loyalty is a differentiating factor between brands that do well and those that dominate. In the past, companies would launch loyalty campaigns to increase the value of each customer. Now, loyalty campaigns are being refactored to be mutually beneficial.
We see brands recommitting to the customer in numerous ways. Some examples include:
Investing in beautiful websites. We've heard a lot about the visual web. Images, great design and exceptional user experiences are all part of building trust for todays' websites. The same applies to building loyalty with your customers. If you invest in giving them beautiful experiences you are showing them that their time is important to you. You want to delight them with every visit.
Streamlined shopping experiences. In the past companies were all about collecting as much information as they needed and often it was at the detriment of the shopping experience itself. Today's companies need to be streamlining every part of the consumer shopping experience.
Are you suggesting other relevant products? Are you providing the best filters, views and descriptions? Are you making it easy to compare and possibly choose another brand or product? The more you invest in making your consumers feel safe and experience peace of mind, the more loyalty they should feel toward your brand and shopping experience.
Excellent and authentic customer service. More companies are realizing the best way to show customers you care is to improve your customer service and feedback loops.
Are you setting up easy ways for customers to ask for new features, submit ideas, and contact you? Are you responding quickly and authentically to their concerns? Are you circling back as things get fixed and reminding them how much you appreciate their time? All of this goes a long way when seeding reciprocal loyalty.
Customer-centric benefits. Free shipping. Free content. Free tools. All of these can be effective ways to show customers that you aren't just running a business for your own sake but you want to provide real value to them continuously. Customers recognize this sort of investment and return it by advocating on your behalf.
Reciprocal loyalty benefits brands when customers respond to the extra service by providing them with great reviews, referrals, brand advocacy, community participation and word-of-mouth support. There are more platforms available to consumers today to tell the world that they love your company and why.
It's this mutual support and investment in each other that makes reciprocal loyalty the new standard for loyalty marketing. You have to actively be prioritizing the same support and investment back into your consumers. Companies that rethink their roadmaps and put the customer first will ultimately win.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.