Brands are always at risk of losing their customers.
Retaining your customers isn’t just about having more ads or the right shelf space anymore; it’s about establishing a social connection between your customers and your brand. This social connection is what keeps your customers invested and dedicated to your brand, increasing customer retention and transforming customers into loyal, long-term fans.
Types of Loyalty
Before we dive in, let’s take a second to discuss brand loyalty. There are many different reasons why a customer could feel loyal to a brand, each corresponding with varying levels of loyalty. What this means is that not all “loyal customers” are the same.
In actuality, customer loyalty can fall into one of three classifications:
- Behavioural Loyalty
- Rational Loyalty
- Emotional Loyalty
Behaviour loyalty is usually generated when someone is a long term buyer of your brand, and simply repeats their purchases out of habit. There is no genuine connection between the customer and the brand, and the purchase is made out of convenience.
A simple example of this would be a customer repeatedly buying, say, Tropicana Orange Juice at the grocery store. Perhaps they grew up with Tropicana in the house, and now they themselves purchase this brand out of habit.
Rational loyalty is when a customer continues to purchase from a brand because of the price. They are loyal to the brand insofar as the brand provides the best bang for their buck. Rationally loyal customers are just that: rational. This means that they will switch brands in a heartbeat if they can find a more affordable option.
An example of this would be those who use a cheap mobile phone company that offers better prices than the industry leaders. Almost all of these types of customers are rationally loyal; they select the brand in question because it’s an affordable option for great service. If, however, an option were to emerge with even better prices, you’d probably see a flock of these customers switch over.
Rationally loyal customers are about the money, not the brand.
Emotional loyalty is exactly what it sounds like: customers feel an emotional connection to a brand and as a result, stick with the brand through thick and thin. Emotionally loyal customers are the ones that will recommend your brand to friends and will often act as brand advocates.
An egg-cellent example of this would be customers of the Big Green Egg. They established an emotional connection with their customers to create thousands of highly engaged and loyal EGGheads (their fans). Their loyal band of customers act as brand advocates, and for many, getting an Egg (the name for their BBQ product) means you can become an exclusive member of their growing and active community. Members in this community share recipes they’ve made with their Egg and connect with other EGGheads.
After taking a look at the three classifications of loyalty, it’s clear that customers who are emotionally loyal to a brand are the most valuable to a company.
As such, brands should aim to establish a social connection with their customers in order to provoke a positive emotional reaction.
Understanding Social Connection
To understand why this social connection is vital to brand loyalty and evoking an emotional response, we need to take a closer look at the science behind it.
As I’m sure you all know, a social connection is the feeling of belonging to a certain social group, and the emotions evoked from feeling close to others within that group. A social connection is about commonalities; finding similarities between yourself and others, and then associating yourself as one larger group connected over one (or more) things.
The human need for social connectivity is more than just an underlying driving force behind every action or inaction; the need for social connectivity is literally built into our DNA and biological history. It’s part of what being human is all about.
In fact, our own well-being is dependent on having these social connections. We are wired to connect, and as such, humans naturally seek out opportunities to establish social connections with others since it naturally leads to positive emotional responses.
These positive emotional responses include:
- Feelings of belonging: The person feels as though they are part of something larger and that they belong, are accepted and are not alone.
- Feeling of importance: The person feels as though they can contribute as a member of the social circle and have a voice. They feel as though they matter.
- Feeling of security: The person feels safe being connected to other like-minded individuals and doesn’t have to worry about being judged.
- Feeling of happiness: Last but not least is the feeling of happiness that comes with social connectivity due to all the other positive emotions, noted above.
All of these positive emotional responses lead to a sense of loyalty. Thus, the key to brand loyalty is establishing a social connection.
Why Brand Loyalty is Important
Establishing brand loyalty is one of the most important things a business can do to ensure its success in the long run and solidify a constant stream of profit.
The fact of the matter is that having a strong and large pool of loyal customers will provide your business with a number of key opportunities. As discussed in our article on customer experience, many companies will make the mistake of focusing their efforts on attracting new customers, when they should really be focusing on their existing customers.
Evident from the chart above, attracting new customers will come organically if you’re able to make a loyal army of fans out of your existing pool of customers. Investing in your existing customers is one of the best ways to increase your customer acquisition.
Establishing A Social Connection Through Community
So, we’ve established why brand loyalty is important, and that creating a social connection which evokes an emotional response is the best way to achieve it. Now comes the more difficult part: how do you establish this social connection?
Well the answer is twofold. Firstly, an online community forum is the perfect space to foster this loyalty. In fact, 58% of online communities says that their customers are more loyal to the brand because of their community.
Next, you need to develop a customer engagement strategy within your community (engagement doesn't happen without some work!)
Identify Member Segments
Identify the Desires of Each Member Segment
Craft your Community Engagement and Participation Plan
According to Richard Millington, the founder of FeverBee and the author of Buzzing Communities, the goal of your community engagement plan is to, “really get behind what [your community] is saying and understand what their deeper desires actually are…[these] strategies [that you will employ in your plan] are about the emotions that you are going to amplify or perhaps dissipate to help members become deeply engaged in your community.”
Ultimately, your community engagement plan will be about evoking an emotional response from your community members, which as we know, leads to increasing customer loyalty.
Your social connection is really about reading what your members say they want from your community, and knowing how to translate it into the emotional response they are looking for.
To learn more about how to create a social connection to increase brand loyalty using your community, take a look at our webinar with Richard Millington, below.
Case In Point
Community is in fact, one of the best ways to establish this social connection with your customers. It’s a great way to get your brand personality heard and make your customers feel special.
Just take a look at Rinker, a provider of high-quality watercrafts, who has done a fantastic job at creating a social connection with their customers through their community.
Their social connection: Rinker doesn’t just sell boats - they sell a lifestyle.
Here’s what Steve Rosenberg, Chief Content Officer at Rinker Boats had said about their brand:
“When people buy Rinker boats, it’s part of their personality. They are not boat owners, but boaters. It’s part of a lifestyle. Owning a Rinker is part of an identity. Sharing with others engaged in the lifestyle is very rewarding for them. The highs and lows, the joy of boating with others is something unique.”
Rinker was able to increase community engagement and drive brand loyalty after making the Vanilla Switch. They were able to revamp their community to voice to fit the personality of their brand and connect emotionally with their fans.
This is even shown in their community welcome message, which touches on the lifestyle that the brand offers:
Whether you prefer spending time with family and friends on a sunset cruise or cranking up the pace with action water sports, Rinker is committed to making your time on the water enjoyable and memorable.
Rinkers’ social connection with their customers had been successful in increased engagement, and it’s clear through their community that those loyal to Rinker are proud boaters that connect with each other over the brand.