10 things you need to know about building brand loyalty online

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Today’s customer speaks an entirely new language of brand loyalty, driven in large part by the digitisation of the retail space and proliferation of choice in this new ecommerce landscape.

In the past, brand loyalty revolved around price, product selection and store location. With the expansion of the global online marketplace, the above factors are no longer enough to demand strong brand loyalty. Instead, loyalty is driven by positive digital experiences.

Accenture recently surveyed more than 25,000 consumers in the United States on their attitudes on brand loyalty and their recent online transactions. More than half (54 per cent) have switched a provider in the past year, and 18 per cent of the respondents reported that their own expectations about brand loyalty have changed.

These numbers are reflected in the Australian market, where, according to a recent Australian study, only 17% of consumers who had an unsatisfactory digital experience would remain loyal to the brand.

Despite the changing parameters, it’s clear that brand loyalty is still alive and well in the modern ecommerce environment. So how do you make sure your business is speaking the right loyalty language for the digital consumer? Start with these 10 tips.

1. Know thyself
Building online brand loyalty needs to start with a carefully conceived brand identity. It’s crucial to identify your brand values from the outset and make sure every piece of digital design and communication reflects your core aesthetic.

One brand that nails it is Aesop. The Australian-founded skincare company has an elegant, simple, urban aesthetic; this strong brand identity extends from its products, to its bricks-and-mortar stores, to its digital presence. Another brand with a clear brand identity and customer loyalty is Country Road who invest heavily in rewarding their loyal fans with significant discounts and beautiful brand experiences. Study their customer journey and see if could work incorporating any of these ideas in your small business.

2. Know thy customer
People feel loyal to brands that ‘get’ them and this understanding needs to start with how they like to receive information, so choosing the right medium of communication is vital. In fact, 51 per cent of respondents in the Accenture survey reported that they are loyal to brands that interact with them through their preferred channels of communication.

3. Don’t try to be all things to all people
Trying to please everyone waters down your brand. Customers care about quality over quantity, so choose the things you want your brand to be known for, and nail them. This is an important consideration when designing your website and ecommerce portal; a busy or clunky site that tries to do too much is a deterrent from your overall objectives.

4. Convenience matters
In this fast-paced digital landscape, convenience is (understandably) one of the main pillars of building online brand loyalty. Time is one of our most valuable resources and if you consistently provide a convenient, efficient service, your customer will come back for more.

A great example of user convenience, is the simple upsell. While the goal might be to increase the sale value, it should be designed to delight the customer. Try embedding simple yet useful features such as if you have a digital shoe shop then storing returning customers shoe size so customers only see shoes that are in stock in their size when they visit the site.

5. Make it enjoyable
An enjoyable online shopping experience is crucial for cementing customer loyalty. This doesn’t mean showy design; instead, a considered, intuitive, user-friendly site and ecommerce portal makes for repeat customers. Study your user-journey and explore ways to bring a smile throughout the journey. Include smile making ecommerce with tongue-in-cheek messaging and surprise discounts offered along the purchase pathway.

6. Show all your cards
One of the best ways to gain trust is by being open and transparent. It’s not all about beautiful imagery (although a breathtaking homepage goes a long way), little things like providing shipping and delivery rate calculators at the start of the shopping experience, or having a very easy to use and functional returns page all do wonders to build a foundation of trust with your online customer, which in turn leads to customer loyalty. Flowers Vasette, a florist in Melbourne delivers a seamless online experience, with clear pricing and easy to understand delivery rates for various destinations, these features are key to delighting customers and converting them into loyal brand fans.

7. Get personal
The Accenture study also demonstrated that customers love the opportunity to personalise products to create bespoke items, with 41 per cent of respondents listing this as an influencing factor when it comes to brand loyalty. Do you sell handbags as part of your small business? Nail your niche by offering handbags customised with monogrammed initials. Consider if personalisation works for your brand’s product or service; adding this to your online consumer options will strengthen your loyal customer base.

8. Be different
Create points of difference by offering unique digital user experiences. Think about your brand identity and what elements really resonate with your customer base, and consider ways you can build value for your customers around these elements.

For example, Aesop is famous for its architecturally designed stores and recently launched the microsite Taxonomy of Design, which is a digital compendium of its signature shops. This gives digital customers the chance to experience another slice of the brand, strengthening the connection with the customer, which in turn strengthens brand loyalty.

9. Utilise automation
Automating the nuts and bolts of your service provision allows you to spend time on building your brand loyalty. By using ecommerce automation tools (such as Oberlo), order processing is automated—with the click of one button, orders are processed and sent to the supplier, freeing business owners up to focus on ensuring your customers are happy and engaged.

Automation can also be successful in on-boarding customers during campaigns.

We used automation on the Salvation Army’s 10 Thousand Meals campaign to thank donors immediately via email. We also developed the functionality for donors to nominate friends and share information about their meal donations on social media; all these elements build a positive online user experience and added to brand loyalty.

10. Get savvy with your socials
Given the time as individuals we spend engaging via social media, it is a vital platform to connect and engage with your audience to build brand. Once you know who your ideal client is, social media allows you to find where they’re hanging out online, to connect, and have two-way conversations with them.

We choose our friends and partners based on personality; it’s only natural to choose brands based on personality too. Social media allows you to present your brand’s persona in a consistent, friendly way. Over time, that allows you to develop a relationship with potential customers and for them to like you enough to want to do business with you.

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Laura Qureshi
Laura Qureshi is the Director and co-founder of DO Commerce, a full service digital agency specialising in end-to-end digital and ecommerce projects.

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