The definition of brand loyalty and how to build it

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There are plenty of guides out there for growing your audience and gaining a bunch of shiny, new customers. But even as you’re building your following, it’s important to remember to nurture the customers you already have and generate brand loyalty.

Think about the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. According to this rule, 80% of your company’s revenue will come from only 20% of your current customers. Meaning 20% of the effort can reap 80% of the results; even if you have 1,000 customers, just 200 of those customers will be pulling most of the weight. So if you can help keep that small group of customers happy and coming back for more, you can bring in a lot of money.

Not sure how to do that? We’ve got you covered.

Here’s our guide to understanding and cultivating brand loyalty—backed by strategies and examples from some of the most successful brands.

What is brand loyalty?

Brand loyalty refers to customers who make repeat purchases from your brand, build trust in your brand, and consistently choose your brand over competitors.

Even if they go to the store and your brand isn’t available, they’ll go home and order it online instead of buying an alternative. This loyalty involves an emotional attachment and overall positive affinity that you can earn by developing a great relationship with your customers.

That’s the qualitative definition, of course. The quantitative definition of brand loyalty may vary depending on your company, products, and audience behaviors. According to one survey, however, 80% of respondents said it takes at least three purchases to build that loyalty, and 37% said it takes five purchases.

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How long does it take for a consumer to develop loyalty towards a brand? Image via Yotpo.

While this is a good baseline to work with, you can pinpoint your own brand loyalty threshold through customer surveys and analytics reports.

Why is it important to build brand loyalty?

Brand loyalty is crucial for any growing business. Remember the Pareto Principle! Brand loyalty helps you nurture that profitable customer base so you can drive repeat purchases and up-sells, and build a community of happy customers.

In fact, brand-loyal customers are the gift that keeps on giving. If they’re satisfied with your products, they’ll be likely to leave reviews, tell friends and family, and advocate on behalf of your brand—helping you grow your audience and expand that brand loyalty.

The numbers speak for themselves. It’s reported that 60% of consumers will tell friends and family about a brand they’re loyal to and 37% will leave an online review. Additionally, 50% of retail brand loyalists show up to buy from their favorite brands in person and 56% check for messages from those brands at least once a week.

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The results of Yotpo's survery on American shoppers' attitudes towards customer loyalty is encouraging as a whole. Image via Yotpo.

It’s clear that if you can build brand loyalty among a core set of customers, you can feel secure in having an engaged community of buyers who look forward to hearing from you and buying your products on a regular basis.

What are strategies for building brand loyalty?

Building brand loyalty is the hard part, because it isn’t built overnight—and it’s actually getting harder to cultivate. According to Edelman’s 2018 trust barometer, only 54% of Americans trust businesses—which is a 20% drop from 2017.

That’s why it’s more important than ever for companies to prioritize brand loyalty and be deliberate about how they reach and care for their customers.

Ready to get started? Here are five strategies you can use to start building brand loyalty today.

Use customer data to offer personalized experiences

Customers want to know that they’re being heard, understood, and cared for. Especially in today’s ad-filled internet age, you can more effectively engage audiences if you deliver personalized messaging that’s relevant to their interests and cuts through the noise. In fact, according to Infosys, 73% of consumers said they prefer when brands do this.

That’s where data comes in. If you can track each customer’s behaviors and interactions with your brand, you can build content that matches that experience.

Take Netflix and Amazon, for example. Their platforms offer real-time recommendations based on products you’ve already looked at or enjoyed. The Netflix algorithm even uses data to choose which thumbnail to show you from a range of options, like these thumbnails for “Stranger Things”:

Images of various Stranger Things promotion brand loyalty

Image via Medium.

This personalized approach helps keep customers engaging on the platform, browsing for new content, and coming back for more. And the more they consume, the more the brand learns about their interests, so the cycle continues.

You can create multiple designs that still carry your brand's identity. Start with a template like the Desaturated Photo Travel YouTube Channel Art, use your brand's fonts and colors, then change the image as you need it.

Launch a rewards program

There’s nothing wrong with incentivizing repeat customers to stick around. Sure, your products may speak for themselves, but sometimes your customers just want to feel special—and to know that they’re earning extra points, money back, or exclusive offers by remaining loyal.

According to Forrester Research, 72% of US adults belong to at least one loyalty program, and loyalty program members spend an average of $42.33 USD more than shoppers not in a loyalty program. When it comes to what people want out of those loyalty programs, discounts, certificates, points, miles, and coupons top the list.

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Image via Forresters.

Just look at the Starbucks Rewards program. Since it launched in 2009, the program has granted members access to exclusive perks like free in-store refills, free birthday drinks, and the ability to order ahead on the Starbucks app. Customers can even rack up points—or “Stars”—for more benefits like free food and drink, and eligibility for a Gold Status membership.

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Image via Starbucks Rewards.

Create your own rewards club perks in Canva with templates like Membership ID Card. It can be customized with your own brand palette and logo. And you can share them with customers to carry in their wallets or even use online.

Deliver online customer service

Brand loyalty is based on trust. And customers want to trust that they can reach you with their questions and concerns, and that you’ll respond in a timely manner. Consider the fact that 67% of customers expect a response within 24 hours and 26% want a response in half that time. Additionally, 23% said brands would “lose their loyalty” if they delivered poor customer service.

You get the point. Be there for your customers, and they’ll be there for you.

That’s why American Express launched a separate Twitter account called @AskAmex solely dedicated to providing customer service. As stated in the bio, representatives are available through the account during set hours, when customers can tweet questions and receive quick, personalized responses.

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The AskAmex Twitter account is focused on providing customer service to its users.

Create a Twitter header for your own customer service account with Canva templates like Website Launch Rocketship Twitter Header. Use it to let customers know you’re launching your dedicated support page, or customize it with your own text and illustrations to let customers know where and when they can reach you.

Create a community of email subscribers

Email is a great tool for building an engaged community outside of your website, app, or blog. It lets you easily deliver exclusive content, relevant updates, and special offers right to people’s inboxes. As Campaign Monitor found, email marketing drives $44 USD for every $1 USD spent, and email campaigns drive 6x more clicks than tweets do.

Cision, for instance, makes email an integral part of building brand loyalty and nurturing its online customer community, Cision City.

“Offering exclusive content to your customers can help mobilize them into advocates,” wrote Cision’s community manager, Melissa Meyer. “Alongside an open daily and weekly newsletter, Cision produces a monthly customer newsletter containing exclusive content such as customer interviews and an in-depth feature touching on current PR and communications trends.”

Retail brands like Urban Outfitters also use email to keep customers up to date on new products and discounts.

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Image from Urban Outfitter's email newsletter

Create your own email newsletters in Canva with templates like Pink Fashion Newsletter or the Yellow Dark Grey Modern Newsletter. It’s ready-made for you to fill with your products and offers. Or you can insert thumbnails and links to blog posts for specific audience segments, directing them right back to your website for further engagement.

Stand up for a cause

When customers buy your products, they want to know that they’re investing in a company that gives back to its communities and helps make the world a better place.

As one customer said in a survey about brand loyalty, “I can only think of one brand to which I have a lot of loyalty, and it is a skin care brand. I have come to trust the company’s founder. I believe that she does, indeed, try to put the best ingredients into her products, and that they’ll do what she says they’ll do.”

Whole Foods, for example, practices what it preaches by promoting its sustainability efforts in sourcing health, organic food for its stores. The brand also launched programs like the Whole Planet Foundation, which partners with developing communities around the world, and the Whole Kids Foundation, which helps schools and families improve nutrition for children.

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Image from the Whole Planet Foundation on Instagram.

Create your own inspirational Instagram posts in Canva with templates like Mountain Photo Earth Hour Instagram Post. It even includes the same quote! Still, you can easily insert your own quote or background image to fit your cause and share your mission on social media.

The royalties of brand loyalty

Investing in brand loyalty doesn’t just make your customers happy and you feel warm and fuzzy. (Though establishing that trust and emotional connection is fulfilling!) It also contributes to your bottom line.

Customers who are loyal to your brand are more likely to recommend it to others and keep buying—even if you raise your prices or competitors try to woo them away.

That’s why it’s important to use strategies like launching rewards programs, creating social good campaigns, and providing customer service on social media. You can then start enjoying the royalties of brand loyalty: increased revenue and satisfied customers.

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