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Monday, July 15, 2024

Emotional Connection Is the New Currency for Brand Loyalty

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Building brand loyalty previously relied on price. Discounts, deals and offers for referrals and reviews were typical promotional tactics. In the current competitive marketplace, however, the key to sustainable growth and success lies in building brand loyalty through emotional connection, a connection between brand and customer that goes beyond promotional tactics. Omnichannel consistency is the best way to accomplish this.

An omnichannel approach to building brand loyalty weaves a consistent narrative across channels as seamlessly as possible. Brands that focus on omnichannel consistency throughout their implementation benefit from a cohesive, emotionally engaging story across the diverse channels their audiences frequent. The result, often, is a deeper and more lasting brand connection.

For instance, Sephora understands the power of investing in a seamless omnichannel experience by integrating online and in-store shopping, allowing customers to easily switch between channels. Its collaboration with Kohl’s to build stores-in-stores drove a substantial portion of Sephora’s record-breaking profits in 2023 — showcasing the power of consistency. These small Sephora stores that reside within Kohl’s brick-and-mortar locations look and feel exactly like standalone Sephora stores.

Related: Why Consistency Is Vital to Your Branding Efforts

Why omnichannel consistency is important for strong brand and customer relationships

Today’s consumers are inundated with brands vying for their attention. With thousands of brands offering similar products or services at the same price point with the same discounts, which voice will they listen to?

The voice that stands out will be the one that feels most authentic and shows up in the same way no matter where or when a consumer encounters it. Consistency is what makes a strong brand identity.

When customer relationships grow out of deep emotional understanding and connection, loyalty comes naturally, and price becomes less important to the customer. Omnichannel consistency helps build that emotional connection by linking one brand moment to another, giving consumers a sense of an ongoing, deepening journey rather than isolated flashes of interest.

Some brands excel at building community across channels. Take The Body Shop, for example, a brand that weaves a powerful narrative about cruelty-free practices into all its marketing, connecting with customers on a deep emotional level and fostering brand loyalty. Or Harley-Davidson, which cultivates a strong sense of community by hosting events both online and offline that strengthen affinity and make customers feel part of a collective identity. Others create emotional brand connections by delivering exceptional, consistent service. The Ritz-Carlton trains staff to anticipate guest needs and deliver personalized service across its locations, creating memorable experiences that have customers coming back.

Building brand loyalty through omnichannel consistency is a big undertaking. However, for brands willing to evolve and invest in the relationships with their customers, the benefits of increased loyalty can materialize quickly. Here are three strategies to ground your omnichannel efforts.

Related: How to Finally Get Some Consistency Behind Your Branding

1. Prepare to go deeper

Before you can craft an omnichannel strategy, you need to know more about the people you wish to serve — beyond simple demographics to a deep understanding of individual customer’s needs. You can do this by sending surveys, creating feedback mechanisms and engaging directly with customers. Track sentiment and trends and use social media listening to stay ahead of changing preferences and expectations.

Then, go deeper still to tailor each touchpoint. How can you use the information about your customers to craft more personally engaging experiences across channels? Can you tailor communications? Product offerings? Loyalty programs? Once you start consistently personalizing your brand for people, you can co-create a brand story that resonates with them, reflecting their values and sense of purpose.

To enhance customers’ digital experiences, my company, i2c, builds its platform around the customer to create segments of one, allowing our clients to hyper-personalize their communications and products. Through the platform, clients can let their customers choose the loyalty rewards they want, whether they choose cash or product previews. We focus on deepening client relationships by helping them create these bespoke experiences for their customers. Through consistent action, we empower our loyal clients to become brand ambassadors, sharing their positive experiences and building trust with others. Through our Visionary Program, for example, we elevate our most loyal customers with PR, speaking opportunities and social media promotions.

2. Match perception and reality

Building brand loyalty often means making promises. However, if you want consumers to form an emotional connection to your brand, that vision must become a reality. A mismatch between perception and reality can erode trust and, therefore, loyalty. After all, 32% of consumers have said that they will stop doing business with a brand they love after one bad experience.

Brands can bridge the gap by setting realistic expectations. Avoid exaggerations in marketing; instead, focus on highlighting genuine strengths and benefits. Be transparent about potential limitations or delays. Close the feedback loop by actively and regularly seeking input, responding thoughtfully and actionably to that input and using it to implement changes that deliver on consumers’ needs and expectations.

A strong brand identity requires close alignment between the promise of a brand and the world it delivers for its customers across multiple channels.

Related: How to Turn Your Expensive Mistakes Into Massive Growth Opportunities

3. Don’t filter out learning

Building a seamless experience across channels doesn’t mean your brand has to be “perfect.” Brand missteps will be easier to avoid if you practice these steps, but the occasional misstep is inevitable. The important thing for a strong brand and customer relationship is to recognize when you’ve made a mistake and take responsibility.

Taking responsibility means following through. Avoid the temptation to defend or dodge blame, and certainly don’t lay the blame where it does not belong. Statements must lead to action in a timely, safe way. And once you start, don’t stop. Continue to work toward correcting the issue until it is remedied on all channels.

Handling a mistake well can actually boost brand loyalty. Use stumbling blocks as a chance to have honest conversations about your values and how they extend to customers. Remind people of your brand identity by showing sincerity and quality. The good news is that if your brand has been consistent, your loyal customers are five times more likely to forgive.

In most scenarios, the question of how to build brand loyalty could be rephrased as how to make an emotional connection with customers. The answer to this more profound question will only come from understanding your customers, and it will change constantly. Agility will be key, as well as critical listening to customers and adapting your strategies to their evolving needs and the changing market. A dedication to crafting seamless brand experiences will ultimately transform casual shoppers into loyal advocates, driving sustainable growth and success in an increasingly competitive environment.



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