Marketers understand that the most valuable customers are not just those who buy, but those who often buy, buy, and tell a friend, buy, and remember.
Generating new interest in a product or service is a struggle, but maintaining and growing customer relationships is a completely different ball game. And it’s not a game for businesses hoping to stay afloat with individual buyers. It’s intended for those looking to turn first-time customers into buyers that aren’t fleeting or immaterial: brand loyalty.
Defining “brand loyalty” can be tricky because the purchase rate varies widely from industry to industry and from product to product. However, regardless of the definition of the elusive “brand loyalty”, marketers know that achieving a level of brand loyalty with customers is important.
Defining levels of loyalty can help bring customers deeper into their relationship with a brand.
The brand loyalty pyramid developed by David A. Aaker comprises five levels. It starts with potential customers “stepping in” at the foot of the pyramid and then moving upwards as they focus more on a product, service, or overarching brand.
The pyramid categories, from the least loyal at the base of the pyramid to the most loyal at its top:
- Toggle switch
- Satisfied or habitual buyers
- Satisfied buyers with conversion costs
- Brand lover
- Dedicated buyers
We can also think of these levels as steps in a conventional funnel, but of course in reverse order: switches step in at the top of the funnel and emerge as committed buyers below.
1. Toggle switch
Switches have made a purchase, but have no brand loyalty or even an affinity for a brand.
To best push the toggles down the funnel, marketers should do their best to reconnect with you soon after your purchase or at a strategic time – such as when they visit a product page on your website and spend a certain amount of time there Continue the conversation.
While Switches usually doesn’t care what brand they buy from, a positive first encounter with your brand could move them to the next category of buyer.
2. Satisfied or habitual buyers
People who are happy or habitual shoppers are happy with the brands they shop from, but mostly stick with a product or service because it’s easy.
It is important to feed these people even if you expect them to buy again, because what they consider “easy” may change as competitors knock on their door with deals or other options.
Offer relevant discounts or offers to people in this category, if any, and keep communication going between purchases.
Satisfied buyers with switching costs
Satisfied shoppers who are satisfied because of the convenience factor rather than the brand factor run the risk of jumping to a competitor if anything in their shopping and buying process prevents them from doing so. They stick with one brand because there are barriers that make switching their preferred brand less attractive. Obstacles may include the time, fees, or a feeling that a change requires a compromise on quality.
Since they don’t necessarily have a passion for the brand they are buying, this is a great opportunity to build brand awareness with these people.
It doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of promotions, but it is a good time to learn more about the people behind the company and your brand’s activities.
At this point, a brand finally deserves some loyalty from its customers!
Brand lovers may not be as engaged as committed buyers, but they do feel attached to a brand. This can be both an emotional connection and a preference for a particular product or service. Brand lovers may not even know why they like a brand so much.
This allows marketers to take the opportunity to build a deeper relationship. This includes more communication touchpoints – possibly email and text – that contain not only product information but company information as well.
Once customers step into the dedicated buyer category, they are incredibly knowledgeable about your brand. It is likely that the identity of the brand or company closely matches the personal values of the buyer.
Make sure the relationship stays two-way. One of the best things you can do is give these buyers loyalty benefits or discounts.
Keys to pushing customers into the brand loyalty funnel
Multiple strategies can push customers into the realm of brand loyalty, and no two companies will go exactly the same way. However, there are two universals to transitioning customers from switchers to dedicated buyers: impeccable customer service and loyalty benefits.
When someone reaches out to a brand to report a positive or negative experience, it is important that that person receives an authentic, quick response. Helping someone when they’re upset or disappointed can help build their trust in your brand. If you offer something other than help, you can send customers to a competitor for their next purchase.
A reward system may not seem appropriate for all products and services, but it can be. Rewards can come in the form of early access or free promotional experiences. Rewarding your customers for climbing (or descending the funnel) the brand loyalty pyramid can help deepen relationships and make them more likely to last.
The customer journey is different for each brand, but what often works well isn’t. Investing in exemplary customer service and a loyalty system that rewards those who remain loyal can lead to brand changers becoming brand loyalists in the years to come.
More brand loyalty resources
Brand Loyalty Programs: Satisfaction and Engagement Trends
Is Brand Loyalty Dead? [Infographic]
Five real content strategies for building brand loyalty