Customer loyalty is viewed as a challenging undertaking for companies even during periods of normalcy. As business operations across the globe are slowing down or grinding to a halt completely because of the coronavirus, it becomes even more difficult for brands to see results from loyalty marketing efforts. But customer loyalty has always been a long-term growth strategy. Even as businesses reduce advertising and brand-building activities, there are opportunities to gain some momentum for growing customer loyalty.
This is because customer loyalty programs are all about relationship building. Relationships are developed over time, not over night. And when relationships are tested is when brands can truly demonstrate their appreciation and dedication to their customer base, especially by taking the below steps:
1. Know And Understand Your Customers
2. Stay Relevant
3. Keep Exploring Ways To Celebrate
4. Don't Ignore Emotional Connections
5. Recognize Brand Advocates
Know and Understand Your Customers
Understanding your audiences is crucial to running a successful business, and it becomes especially important during challenging times like a recession or a pandemic. Now is when brands need to really utilize the consumer research and insights they’ve collected and take a deep dive into understanding their customer lifestyles.
Across the globe people are forced to make drastic changes in their daily lives. Chances are if your day-to-day routine is getting upheaved, then the same thing is happening to your customers. Your brand will stand out by:
- Identifying the potential areas where your customer base is having to make changes
- Forecasting how these changes will in turn affect your brand
- Adapting your products, services, and processes to account for these customer lifestyle changes
It is important to show your brand understands the challenges customers are facing and the steps you’re taking to help them get what they need from you. For a pandemic situation like COVID-19, it is especially vital for brands to know where and how to implement new health and safety measures, and effectively communicate these new protections to their customer base. Showing your business is dedicated to your customers’ well-being (and not just their purchases) is a vital factor for building true customer loyalty.
One of the most unsettling points of the COVID-19 is the uncertainty regarding the length of time social distancing and shut-downs will be in place. Regardless if they end up being temporary or long-lasting measures, brands still need to adapt to ensure customers can continue accessing products and services as easily and safely as possible.
Part of adapting to fit customer lifestyle changes during a crisis means identifying areas where your business and products can be more beneficial to customers. While the specific methods will depend on your unique brand and business, now is the time to showcase how your brand provides value in all scenario types. Already we’re starting to see how some businesses are changing processes and products to better serve customers: commercial airplanes being reformatted for shipping needed medical supplies, and distillers and brew factories are starting to produce hand-sanitizer. Customer loyalty grows when brands can maintain their relevance during both good times and bad times.
Brainstorm ways your products or services can specifically address a need or a gap caused by the crisis. Identify how your products solve particular problems or the ways your products can adapt to fit new norms and communicate this information to your customers. Loyalty programs are especially helpful in this endeavor by letting brands offer particularly useful member rewards and benefits, and providing a central channel hub for communicating with their customer base.
Keep Exploring Ways To Celebrate
In keeping with customer appreciation, focusing on the positives is a good way to make your brand stand above the fold. With cancelled events, school closings, ill family or friends, your customers are experiencing a lot of disappointment and worry. Your brand should look for opportunities to provide positive and good elements for customers to enjoy, whether that means coming up with a brand new concept or changing a current plan.
For example, in March 2020 Blaze Pizza offered a store promotion for a $3.14 pizza on Pie Day (3.14.20). Unfortunately this was right in the time period when social distancing and shut-downs were beginning to kick into gear across the US. Understanding the new difficulties and concerns caused by in-store orders and pick-up, Blaze Pizza extended the promotion to the rest of the year to 12/31/20 and made it possible for customers to access the discount code through the app.
The company could have simply canceled the promotion entirely. Instead Blaze Pizza adapted the promotion to better serve their customers’ needs and to prevent any disappointment. It was a simple but meaningful way of showing customer appreciation and demonstrating the company’s intent to continue serving customers throughout challenging times.
Don’t Ignore Emotional Connections
Your most loyal customers supported your business in times of normalcy. So now it’s time for you to return the favor two-fold.
Now more than ever brands need to reach out to customers, listen to their concerns, and find methods to address those worries. This is where loyalty programs do their best work. Loyalty programs provide a channel where your brand can demonstrate its commitment to brand-customer relationships. Even when normal business processes are limited (like the social distancing caused by COVI-19) loyalty programs can keep continuing to serve and reward customers.
Your brand can also reaffirm its dedication to customer loyalty by making loyal actions and behaviors even more valuable for program members. Your brand can increase points awards for purchases and make it easier for customers to redeem for particular items by reducing the point costs for rewards. Birthday, anniversary, or referral point bonuses can be increased to show your appreciation for customers’ continued loyalty. Providing member content, such as quizzes, surveys, blogs, and visual media helps maintain engagement with your customer base.
A crisis is not when brands should withdraw from their customers; instead they should reach out to them even more. Taking actions to demonstrate how your brand values and appreciates customers during times of uncertainty will help long-term when the good times return.
Recognize Brand Advocates
In addition to continuing to connect with customers, your brand should also take the time and effort to recognize and support your most powerful brand advocates. Customer recommendations and reviews are one of the biggest contributors to making a sale. Your loyal customers and brand supporters are already your strongest advocates for your company, products, and services. These advocates become arguably more valuable during times of upheaval when people start relying more than ever on their families and communities.
Your most loyal customers are the best and most cost-effective way to continue growing brand awareness during tough times. Even as if your brand chooses to pause or cancel its marketing and advertising spend, customers will continue to be trust-worthy sources of information and guidance for their friends and families. Recognizing your brand advocates and reaffirming your appreciation of their support during tough times will result in long-lasting customer loyalty.
Loyal customers support brands in good times and protect them in bad times. Even as COVID-19 causes massive changes, customer loyalty is one growth strategy where companies should continue investing time and effort.
If you're looking for guidance on growing customer loyalty for your brand, get in touch with us today!