Customer Loyalty in the Digital World

Recently I have been spending a lot of time in our Tech Centre in Madrid and been thinking about digital marketing. I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you.

I think that the most important part of any marketing, especially digital marketing campaign, is the ability to build and maintain customer loyalty. But in the age of digital marketing achieving that has become much harder. What does customer loyalty even mean in the digital world and how does one go about achieving it?

I think that the most important way to build loyalty is to focus on gratitude. From a psychological perspective this is the emotion in most humans that is the best indication of whether loyalty is present. How do you get to gratitude? This needs to come through reciprocity. You need to give things first to your customers for them build this sense of reciprocity. And this is not just free things but something that recognizes their value to you. So for example if you have 24950 air miles and to achieve the next tier you need 50 miles. The airline should just give it to you and not make you buy it. If they make you buy it then you will never be loyal. But if they gave it to you they make you feel valuable and you reciprocate through a sense of gratitude. Now once you achieve that sense of gratitude you need to ensure you get advocacy which is the final step in achieving loyalty. You need these grateful customers to go out there and advocate for your products. So how do you get the customers to advocate for you? The way to do this is to bring consumers into your ORBIT.

What is the ORBIT?

Ongoing

Relationships

Beyond

Individual

Transactions

This is where the digital world is changing the way people transact. Old school marketers focused on the transaction and the BUY. We need to change this. We need to not focus only on the BUY but the entire relationship with the customer both before and after the BUY. Infact, especially with subscription businesses, the customer is not so interested in the BUY. The focal point for the customer is the entire experience. We have to focus on the entire customer journey and ensure that we keep the customer engaged throughout the journey. More importantly we need create a long term relationship with the customer and embed the transaction within the relationship. It is these relationships that drive the transactions and not the other way around.

Creating the long term relationship is also recognizing that the internet has changed the way marketing is done. In the past marketing was one way with the usual customer segmentation and targeting customers and sending them the message. Digital communication has changed that forever. Firstly through social media the audience now starts to talk back. Secondly they are also the co-creators of content (think of sites like YELP and Opentable reviews). So now the job of a brand is to empower and enable that connection and collaboration where people talk back and then are part of the process with you.

All these thoughts that I think of when I am sitting on these long flights are great but perhaps a bit theoretical – although I like the ORBIT one as it is very appropriate for when I am on the plane. So I think that for our ‘round, black and boring’ industry we need some practical applications for these thoughts. So what do we need to do with this information?

We need to build a sense of community through a shared purpose that has to be aligned with our brand DNA. We need to ensure that we have continuous engagement with this community and this is particularly important in the case of a subscription model where a lot of people only focus on the renewal. Finally we need to create a social currency that we can offer to our community to further bind it together.

Community

So if you want to build a community the best way is to align it around a purpose. But in the digital world we have to ensure that it is the right kind of purpose; one that is built with our customers. We have to try and achieve this purpose together with our customers and use it to connect disparate groups of people together. In our case what aligns best with our DNA is the Zenises foundation. We need to build a community of like-minded people who see the value in a company that not only wants to change the world but also the way tyres are consumed. Secondly we are an automotive company and we need to engage a community around people who love their cars and want to engage more with others who share that passion. We have a lot of knowledge and passion about both subjects and could easily curate communities around those purposes.

Continuous Engagement

We need to ensure that we are with them through the customer journey providing content, content and content on a regular basis that is outside the transaction but focused on the customer need. This is ensuring that the relevant content is provided both for the demographic as well as the time. So we need to provide specialized focused content for different demographics such as women, millennials, and Gen Z. Then we also need to provide content that is time relevant. This is ensuring that before the summer we provide relevant content for people who may be taking long drives. Or in the Christmas period we provide more relevant content to holiday makers or perhaps people going skiing. With regards to the content on the Foundation we need ways to provide people relevant content which may allow them to connect with the children directly. This could be interviews with the children or more details on the homes that we build. Also we need to provide them ways to get involved should they want to.

Social Currency

This currency is valuable to build engagement within the community and also provide a sense of gratitude. All companies today have big data on their clients. Using that big data to provide little data to customers costs little to the companies but could be of value to the consumer. For example a large electricity company started providing its customers with data on neighborhood consumption patterns in the customer bill. This helped many customers understand how much their bills varied from the average and then to take actions to rectify this. Whilst this cost the company nothing it built a sense of loyalty with the customers. We need to look at the big data we generate and see what we can offer the consumer throughout the relationship that will enhance his experience. The other great thing about social currency is that consumers should be able to freely share it. As such we need to provide the customer with things that he can easily share online with his friends and community. This allows him to feel more part of the community and also bring more of his network into our orbit.

All the theories here are fine but it really boils down to treat your customer with the same level of respect and dignity you want to be treated with and ensure that you are there with the customer for the long term for the good and the bad! At the end of the day relationships are relationships – online or offline!