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How to Encourage Brand Loyalty During the Holidays

Bethany Johnson, Writer

Today’s shoppers can discover the perfect gift through dozens of channels, online and off. But there’s one type of customer who needs nothing more than their past experience to tell them where to go. Enter the brand loyalist.

As the COVID-19 pandemic affects the worldwide economy, brand loyalty is more important than ever — a June 2020 GlobalData COVID-19 tracker survey found that 61% of US consumers agree that they are currently only trying to buy products from their favorite brands.

A study from Deloitte encourages businesses to see this as an opportunity to find new ways to drive revenue and to be innovative with their digital properties and products. Strive to take care of your loyal customers during this upcoming holiday season, perhaps offering discounts and specials to reward consumers who have been loyal to your brand and even attract new ones.

By understanding what these shoppers care about, sellers can optimize their outreach and create an experience that keeps brand loyalists coming back.

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What is brand loyalty?

Brand loyalists divulge their dedication in everyday interactions. Here’s what you need to know about them.

They know what they want. And they keep coming back for more. Repeat purchasers who visit your online store convert at around nine times the rate of first-time visitors, according to Adobe.

They give your products and services to others. Brand loyalists know they’re bestowing a quality experience instead of gambling on unfamiliar, risky items from unknown merchants. Forbes analysts say referrals are the best way to reach new leads. A brand loyalist goes even beyond that, putting your offering into the hands of new customers.

They engage more publicly. Repeat purchasers interact with brands they love on social media, applauding, commenting on, and sharing your content more than casual followers, a trend covered by AdWeek.

They’re self-appointed “insiders.” Proud to be privy, dedicated customers often help quell rumors and pacify skeptics by pointing out true insider knowledge and company news.

How to meet the brand loyalist’s expectations

Brand loyalists aren’t necessarily found — they’re created. It’s up to merchants to deliver quality customer interactions and products that customers love and come back for.

Sell the best, and for less. Price-for-value is the number one reason repeat purchasers devote themselves to a retailer, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) most recent Brand Loyalty Survey. In an era when a better deal can be a click away, competitively pricing high-quality products based on competitor research is key to attracting and retaining loyalty.

Surprise and delight with personal touches. Keep customers happy by going above and beyond in creative ways. The winter holidays offer plenty of opportunities. Tuck product samples into packages with handwritten notes, offer free gift wrapping, or upgrade newcomers to expedited shipping. To make your top customers feel merry and bright, send notes or holiday cards with special discount codes for holiday gifts.

Offer rewards to incentivize them. Setting up a digital rewards program gives customers a strong reason to return. Around 52 percent of loyal customers will join a loyalty program if one is offered to them, according to a national survey on shoppers’ attitudes toward customer loyalty from Yotpo. Points toward future purchases motivate buyers to come back, and timing these for the holiday season ensures your shop is the one they visit to check gifts off their list. Consider doubling their first loyalty reward for an irresistible deal they won’t want to miss out on.

How to catch (and keep) the eye of a brand loyalist

The holidays can be a stressful time for shoppers. Use this moment to build the foundations of a long-term relationship by providing a positive, reliable customer experience. If you can meet the brand loyalist’s needs during their most hectic time of year, they’re more likely to come back long after New Year’s.

Here are some tips for creating a consistent, memorable shopping experience.

Prioritize customer service. According to a Square study, 63% of customers said the number one thing that keeps them loyal to a business is great customer service. This is especially important during the holidays, when shoppers are pressed for time. When someone contacts you with a problem or question, take the opportunity to build trust (which is the foundation of loyalty). Online tools, such as chatbots and messenger apps, not only help improve communication between sellers and shoppers but also offer the immediacy and speed customers are looking for.

Share your brand story. Customers want to feel like they know you, and this extends beyond your “About” page. Predictive emotional connection intelligence firm Motista found that people who felt emotionally connected to a brand spend up to twice as much, have over 300% the customer lifetime value (CLV), stick with the brand longer, and recommend the brand to others at a much higher rate. Connect your goods and services to the holidays and to your brand’s story. Crafting this unique narrative is also essential for garnering customer support as a small business.

Stay connected. Loyal shoppers like feeling like insiders or belonging to an exclusive list. Explore which channels are best for your customer base and establish regular communication. Email marketing is one of the best ways to present your brand as an expert on topics your customers care about, create buzz about new products, and generate FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s also among the key communication channels retailers invest in, according to the NRF, as is social media. By doing so, you establish a relationship that extends beyond a transaction.

Valassis researchers say that during the holiday season, 73% of consumers return to shop with retailers who have been in contact with them throughout the year. Reach out in the coming months to stay connected and keep customers interested. Take your brand updates and unique voice to social platforms like Twitter and Instagram to interact directly with shoppers, and participate in the holidays and other popular conversations throughout the year.

Remind them we’re all in this together. As part of forging a connection with your consumers, emphasize that times are tough for everyone and that supporting a brand they value ensures the brand will be there in the long run. If a consumer likes a business, supporting it now during these trying times is going to help the business weather the storm. This is also a way to make brand loyalists feel important.

Encouraging Brand Loyalty Checklist

  • Offer rewards or incentives to encourage loyalty. 
  • Utilize sales, deals, or specials for repeat customers. 
  • Prioritize customer service to ensure shoppers have a good experience.
  • Share your story about your brand to inspire a connection with shoppers.
  • Connect with brand loyalists to make them feel a part of something.
  • Show your gratitude for them supporting your business. 

By focusing on brand loyalists during these trying times, you can create an emotional connection with your brand and provide shoppers with special support to help them with their gift lists and perhaps take something off their very full plates. In developing a defined strategy for retention, sellers can quickly build a solid foundation upon which they can grow their brand throughout the year, online and in-store.

Bethany is a writer covering emerging technology for small businesses, content marketing for enterprise-level practitioners, and consumer trends.