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Manish Dureja, Managing Director & CEO, InterMilesInterMiles
Brand loyalty strategies now have to encompass a new set of expectations as millennials have changed the rules of the l...
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Brand loyalty strategies need to evolve alongside consumers

Brand loyalty strategies now have to encompass a new set of expectations as millennials have changed the rules of the l...
  • The rules of brand loyalties have changed in the past few years.
  • Earlier loyalty programmes were primarily transactional, based on tracking purchase value and rewarding loyalty with gift points, discounts, and other monetary benefits.
  • Brand loyalty strategies now have to encompass a new set of expectations as millennials have changed the rules of the loyalty game.
  • Manish Dureja, MD & CEO, InterMiles writes how companies need to reshape brand loyalty strategies to stay relevant within the data-driven and technologically complex marketing landscape.

Consumer loyalty is the Holy Grail for brands. This intangible bond between customers and brands is the underlying driver of all brand-related marketing. Brand loyalty takes on extraordinary significance in times like the present, where marketplace disruption has changed the landscape of marketing completely. It’s interesting to see how brand loyalty strategies have evolved over the past few years. Earlier loyalty programmes were primarily transactional, based on tracking purchase value and rewarding loyalty with gift points, discounts, and other monetary benefits. That changed with the rise of a new generation of consumers as companies found themselves addressing digitally-savvy millennial buyers.

Brand loyalty strategies now have to encompass a new set of expectations as Millennials have changed the rules of the loyalty game. They bring to the table the desire for instant gratification. They are tech-savvy and completely comfortable trusting online reviews from strangers as these are seen to be more authentic. They research companies thoroughly and look for brands backed by sustainability and social impact. Their purchase decisions are more complex than ever, making brand loyalty more complicated and in some cases elusive. With millennials straddling online and physical platforms with ease, marketers need to build processes for engagement that are channel-neutral, consistent and credible.

As we navigate current times to adapt to the new world order to understand not only the changing consumer habits, trends and preferences but also the business model , companies need to reshape brand loyalty strategies to stay relevant within the data-driven and technologically complex marketing landscape. The consumer is looking beyond a transactional engagement and companies need to find new ways to connect. Brand loyalty is now about gaining a holistic view of the customer and defining the relationship within this deeper understanding of the consumer at each stage of the brand experience hence in many ways the goal of Loyalty is to make the Brand Experience better for its consumers.

Personalisation = Segment of 1a

Brand loyalty needs to be built over a more personal, individualized relationship. It’s also because we are now catering to an evolved consumers seeking certain level experience. For Brands to deliver a universally acceptable experience, they need to invest in data to ‘know’ the consumer and make that a mutually beneficial relationship. It is no longer a one-way street. Thus invest time and engaging with consumers effectively and each engagement allows brand to know more about the consumers. Marketers need to determine new ways to offer personalization experiences that show the customer that their patronage is appreciated and valued. At one end of the spectrum, it could be as simple as a personalized email. At the other end, it could be the offer of a bespoke curated experience. Whatever the shape and form, customers expect this personalized experience from brands. In a nutshell, Data is key to digitally deliver personalisation.

Machine-learning for human connect
The personalization journey is not constant. It needs to be refined and developed continuously over time. To build this stronger connection, the marketer needs to mine customer data for deeper insights into the customer. Machine learning and AI can help marketers analyse customer behaviours to build engagement models that can take interactions to the next level. Netflix’s AI-based algorithms that offer personalized recommendations are a good example of how well a brand can build personalized experiences. Analysing consumer’s response to email campaigns and offers can train an algorithmic model to deliver the key marketing message at the right time and in proper context. Recent announcement of GPT3 model by Open AI the Possibilities are endless especially in curating and building content. I must add here that it’s evolving fast and looks promising even though it may be too early to adopt it however few test and learn use cases can change the way forward for this new tech.

Authenticity as a core message
Millennials look beyond product attributes to understand and analyse the purpose of the brand. They gravitate naturally towards brands that are strongly aligned with a cause or are built to serve a sustainable and bigger purpose. Social equality, inclusion, sustainable development, environment protection, responsible sourcing, Simplicity– these are the attributes that millennials admire. Brands that speak to these social values find it easier to build long-standing loyalty.

COVID learnings
The COVID pandemic created an unprecedented upheaval with consumers changing behaviours almost overnight and to an extreme extent. The way customers buy, dine, shop, play, travel, work and socialize has changed immeasurably, leaving companies scrambling to learn new ways of engaging with locked down customers.

In many ways, the pandemic was a revelation in how far brands can and should go to maintain customer engagement by taking transactions completely out of the equation. As the pandemic unfurled across the planet and nations went into lockdown, several brands shifted smoothly to align their messaging. Instead of the normal ‘buy me’ messaging, brands beseeched customers, and consumer to stay safe and not step out. Trust and safety become the key brand messages, critical communication that assured customers that their health was valued by the brand.

With customers staying mostly indoors, brands also had to innovate new ways to engage. From online fitness classes to magic shows and storytelling sessions to webinars, brands went the extra mile to keep the connect strong during the lockdown. Personalization based on data analytics helped brands to continue to engage with customers through online channels.

As markets seem set for a long-term post-pandemic landscape, brand loyalty will for brands to take those extra steps to make a closer connect with consumers at a deeper, more meaningful level than ever before, that will help future-proof the engagement. Share of mind built on an emotional and experiential bridge will help brands stay a part of the customer’s wallet.