Create Brand Loyalty by Humanizing the Digital Experience

Here are three tips to retain your customers.

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By Melissa Stone

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You already know that relevant, personalized messaging can make or break your digital marketing campaign. So as we think about cutting through the noise during the increasingly competitive holiday season — where brands fine-tuned their Cyber Monday promotions for months and worked to solve supply chain shortages — how can your company use personalized content to stand out and drive incremental revenue, both for the all-important holiday season and beyond?

While technology has enabled more personal, immersive experiences, consumers' expectations remain higher than ever. Having a seamless e-commerce website experience is expected, and now is the time to go beyond offering transactional benefits — like low prices or free shipping offers — and instead focus on providing an enriching consumer journey, like with targeted messaging.

And there's no time like the present if you're looking to grow your brand's holiday revenue. In fact, almost half of consumers start their holiday shopping by mid-November (before Black Friday and Cyber Monday), and 56% finish by mid/late December (Dec 11-31), according to the Facebook Holiday Discovery Moment Study by YouGov.

Related: How New or Emerging Brands Can Get Big Holiday Shopping Coverage

So, how do you make the most of it? Based on my experience managing digital marketing at companies like Nike, L'Oreal, and Meta (formerly Facebook), here are my three tips to increase brand loyalty and reconnect with ambivalent consumers to improve your online revenue.

1. Craft purpose-driven messaging

Think about how your customers' priorities may have shifted this season and how your brand can meet their changing needs. Successful companies are re-evaluating how to stay relevant by crafting more purpose-driven messaging rather than creating purely transactional content. Your brand's communication strategy should be an extension of its DNA and amplify what your company believes.

According to a Deloitte study, 25% of respondents said they stopped shopping with brands that appeared to be acting in their self-interest. My takeaway? Consumers will stay loyal to the companies that demonstrate authentic empathy, and relationships will last longer when your customers feel invested in your company's success. When analyzing your outreach strategy to your consumers, whether through social media or email, ensure that your messaging engages, inspires, or impacts others.

Consider the three phases of a consumer's traditional path-to-purchase:

  • Discovery phase: How does your brand show up when your audience conducts research? When a consumer Googles you, do your brand's philanthropic initiatives show up at the top of the search results page?
  • Consideration phase: How does your brand show up when a consumer engages with your content? Do your influencer/creator's social media posts represent your brand's values?
  • Conversion phase: How does your brand show up when a consumer ultimately shops on your website? What action do you want your consumer to take beyond making a one-time purchase?

Ensure that your purpose-driven messaging is woven throughout all of your brand's "owned" channels.

For example, a recent blog post by Sheryl Sandberg, Meta's (formerly Facebook's) Chief Operating Officer, announced its #BuyBlack Friday Show. It features episodes led by television host Elaine Welteroth on their Facebook Shops tab — to highlight select Black-owned businesses that have continued to be the hardest hit by the pandemic, helping consumers learn about their business journeys and encouraging people to #BuyBlack for the holiday season.

Related: Retailers Prep for Early Holiday Shopping Amid Supply Chain Woes

2. Build an affinity-focused customer profile

Who are you talking to? Get to know your audience. Data is one of the most valuable resources that companies have. We know cookies are going away, which will make it more challenging for brands to collect and attribute third-party data. This makes it critical to continue gathering information directly from your consumers on your brand's owned website, like a consumer's first name, gender, and the last category shopped (foundational data points to build customer profiles to better market to them).

But, be sure to take it one step further and go beyond merely capturing transactional data points. Instead, use this as an opportunity to learn more about your consumer's interests and affinities. For example:

  • Are they interested in researching or buying? If they're undecided, would they prefer that you send them a sample to "try before they buy"?
  • Who are they buying for? Are they interested in purchasing the product for themselves, or are they buying gifts for a friend?
  • After they complete a purchase, would they like monthly stylist tips on how to "update their look?"
  • To continue the conversation, either after they browsed your website or purchased, would they prefer to get text messages or email communications from your brand?

Rather than making assumptions about vague customer personas, humanize the data capture experience. Get to know your audience by understanding their unique preferences, which will ultimately help you retain your consumers and reduce their churn rate.

3. Redefine customer retention

Marketers closely monitor traditional e-commerce metrics like conversion rate and bounce rate and often keep a careful watch on CRM (customer relationship management) analytics, like the monthly number of one-time purchases, repeat purchase rate (usually defined by 2+ purchases), and consumers' average replenishment rate (how long it takes a consumer to re-purchase from your brand's website).

While consumer demand for online buying hasn't waned, according to McKinsey, as many as 30 to 40% of consumers continue to switch brands or retailers. I encourage marketers to take this opportunity to redefine brand loyalty and retention before their customers start shopping elsewhere.

We should go beyond merely defining retention as a customer making two or more purchases and instead try to understand consumer behavior across all channels. This goes beyond "last-click attribution," which tells us the last channel they clicked before purchasing from your website.

Related: Give Your Website's Visitors an Easy-to-Navigate Experience by Learning UX and UI

What if we assigned tiered "values" to consumers who engaged with the brand during the "consideration" phase of their path-to-purchase, rather than just monitoring shoppers during the "conversion" phase of their journey? In other words, a loyal customer should be defined by both shopping and engagement behaviors.

For example, if a consumer searched for non-branded keywords in Google ("how to get glowing skin"), watched a how-to video, and then signed up for emails on your brand's website, traditional marketers might disregard this research behavior since they're only in the "consideration" phase of their path-to-purchase. However, a more nuanced marketer might consider this an excellent opportunity to assign a tiered "value" to this type of consumer and develop relevant content with a targeted communication strategy — hopefully converting them to a purchaser and brand loyalist down the road.

Melissa Stone

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Vice President, Head of Digital Media

A digital marketing leader with 15 years of experience generating revenue growth, creating content and optimizing the customer experience at global brands like Nike, L’Oréal, and Meta (Facebook). She is currently Vice President of Digital Media at Bliss, a mid-size marketing communications firm.

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