4 Ideas for Creating Genuine Brand Loyalty at Retail

Key takeaways:

- Consumers value something significantly higher when they've played a part in building it
- Physical spaces that aid in community creation are a vital asset in loyalty growth
- Personalisation has the potential to make or break your brand: do it well
- Most loyalty programs don't generate loyalty; there's a big difference between loyalty and repeat purchase


Speak to any serious sports fan and you’ll get a feel for what real loyalty looks like.

Most will travel for hours not even caring if the game they're going to watch will be good or not, just to support their side. And the idea of switching teams? Don’t be ridiculous.

Few brands achieve this level of loyalty, but the special few that do enjoy a community of megafans that will endlessly buy their products and defend their brand.

So, the million-dollar question: how can your brand create that same, religious level of loyalty that major sports teams enjoy?

Here are 4 ideas for any brand leader who wants to create loyalty that goes way beyond repeat purchase.

1. The Ikea Effect

The Ikea Effect is a principle in Behavioural Economics which proves that consumers value something disproportionately higher when they’ve been involved in creating it.

As the name suggests, this cognitive bias takes its name from IKEA furniture; a 2011 study found that consumers are willing to pay 63% more for products they assembled themselves.

Glossier is a great example of a brand built on this principle.

Emily Weiss started beauty blog Into the Gloss back in 2010. After building and getting to know her community, she decided to launch four products directly inspired by their moans, groans, insights and ideas.

The products filled gaps in the market that definitely existed, while the community felt so valued by the brand that they became her army of advocates.

In the early days, UK-based clothing brand Boohoo danced to a similar tune, inviting followers to feedback on new collections before they were launched, giving them direct input and creating a host of supporters that loved the brand because they felt valued by it.

To lean on this principle in your physical retail experience, you could create moments that focus on User Generated Content and then use those assets throughout your physical spaces, making customers feel a part of your brand's story, or use co-collaboration moments so customers can create products (or even fix old ones) in a completely unique way, a la Levi's Haus.

BELONG Gaming Community Spaces

2. Foster C2C Connections

It’s great to focus on brand-to-customer relationships as mentioned above, but creating relationships between customers via your brand is also immensely powerful in building a loyal community.

Physical spaces are vital for this; yes, digital communities can exist in forums and social networks, but we have evolved over thousands of years to love the company of other humans.

In a recent trends briefing, WGSN described how even Gen Zers - the generation often described as 'digital natives' - are seeking offline experiences through which to 'collectively heal' after the mental health challenges of the pandemic.

No matter how our digital landscape changes over the coming years, physical connections will always be vital to our happiness. If you can find a way to bring your community together in a social setting that features shared experiences, you'll create a serious loyal base of advocates.

Our work for BELONG Gaming is a great example: we designed what is essentially the Web Café 2.0, giving online gamers a real-world place to meet, hangout and play together through their shared passions.

By bringing people together in the real world, you foster real connections and, in doing so, drive genuine loyalty. If you have strong online communities, think about what experiences you could create to bring them together in the real-world.

The COS Smart Store, Beverly Hills

3. Personalise Well

Emphasis on the 'well', because bad personalisation is one of the quickest ways to alienate your most loyal consumers and make them feel like you don't know them at all.

That said, getting the personalisation piece right is by far one of the biggest brand loyalty boosters: Boston Consulting Group found that 'when the shopping experience was highly personalized, customers indicated they were 40% more likely to spend more than they had planned.”

Customers who experienced a high level of personalization also provided Net Promoter Scores that were 20% higher than for low-level personalisation retailers.

So how can you personalise well in-store?

The more digitally-enabled we become, the more options we'll have to play with: the COS Smart Store concept in Beverly Hills is a great example, where shoppers' online accounts are recognised by smart mirrors in the changing rooms. From here, they can request new products and sizes to their fitting room without having to leave again, with the experience combining the best of physical shopping and eCom.

This tech also gives the sales assistants names and details of previous purchases, allowing them to hold meaningful, personal conversations around product, or at least say farewell with a customer's name.

But you don't need a huge tech investment to be truly personal, something luxury brands have done well for decades. The below image is a great example from Chanel, where - as part of the personal shopping service - assistants send hand written notes to their customers when they've been to see them. Simple, low-cost and extremely powerful.

Chanel's personal notes to customers

LUSH staff are instructed to randomly give out free product

4. Practice Random Acts of Kindness

Ironically, most loyalty programmes don't actually generate loyalty: when you have to earn a reward, it isn't met with gratitude, and gratitude is one of the key drivers of brand loyalty.

This is of course where repeat purchase and loyalty differ: we actually enjoy doing something again when we do it out of gratitude, but repeating something just to get more reward means that when the reward is removed, the repeat action is too.

A reward therefore has to be unexpected to generate loyalty; the surprise is the key.

Zappos.com for example will help you to find shoes at a competitor store if they don’t have your size in stock, generating a feeling of gratitude toward their brand because they genuinely want to help you.

UK-based coffee and sandwich chain Pret-a-Manger empowers staff to give random people their orders for free, while also sometimes giving out coffee sleeves that gift a friend or stranger a free drink; cosmetics brand LUSH also tell staff to give out free products throughout the week.

Pret-a-Manger give out cards and coffee sleeves that encourage customers to pass on a free drink to loved ones or random people

For this to work, it has to be random. If there is any kind of pattern or algorithm behind it, the romance is removed, as is the loyalty generated.

There's also great power in keeping it secret: as soon as it's a formal 'thing' your brand does that you've spoken about in the press, you undermine the unexpected element once more and drive people to your store just for a moment they might not get, leading to disappointment.

Combining all of this with the previous principles, why not ask customers for their opinions on new products, giving them freebies and samples to try in-store; this compliments the customer, makes them feel important while also gaining free research that can be fed back into the product team.

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405 Aug 22