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Brand loyalty: What it is, why it’s important, and how to build it

When customers come back for your business, they’re saying they trust your brand. If you’ve gotten to this point, you’ve achieved brand loyalty. These customers will likely be the first in line when you introduce another product and be willing to pay a premium for the quality your brand represents.

Brand loyalty is when a customer prefers your brand over your competitors. A loyal customer isn’t interested in trying out your competitors’ options because they already feel that your product totally meets their needs. They’ll make repeat purchases, buy from your brand regardless of the convenience or price of your products, and recommend your products to others. All of this drives your business and boosts your bottom line.

Let’s dig into how to build and maintain brand loyalty, how to use surveys to find out what customers want from your brand, and what you can learn from brand loyalty examples.

Find out with SurveyMonkey's brand tracking solution and uncover how you can keep them coming back for more.

The characteristics of brand loyalty are all about perception. How customers view your brand influences how loyal they'll be. If your brand has perceived brand value, customers believe they're getting a good deal on a quality product. Perceived brand quality means the product or service has met a customer's expectations, which leads to perceived brand trust because when customers are pleased with a product or service, they will most likely come back again and again.  

Now that you know how customers perceive brand loyalty, you should also better understand the three levels of brand loyalty: brand recognition, brand preference, and brand insistence.

Brand recognition aims to capture a consumer's attention while retaining your customer's attention. Before achieving brand recognition, customers must first be able to recognize your brand through a logo, tagline, jingle, or narrative. Having the ability to familiarize customers with your brand before they make a purchase strengthens brand equity. Part of brand recognition requires smart marketing strategies that expose your brand to your target audience. 

Brand preferences mean that a consumer will select your brand over the competitors if the product or service itself is the same. Brand recognition plays a large role in brand preference since how the product is packaged or marketed can influence consumer and customer buying decisions. For instance, what establishes Post Raisin Bran from Walmart's Great Value Bran Flakes is: brighter color packaging, larger wording, fun graphics, and mention of another well-known brand, Sun-Maid Raisins, in their ingredients. Once you've achieved brand loyalty with customers, you will also have achieved brand preference. 

When customers associate a brand with the industry its part of, its has likely achieved brand insistence. For instance, if consumers think of Clorox when it's time to buy bleach, then that means no other brand compares to it. Brand insistence means a consumer has become a loyal customer of the Procter & Gamble brand of bleach and will most likely commit to any other product associated with Clorox. 

What drives brand loyalty is closely related to the brand’s quality, trust, and value characteristics. Important factors that help create brand loyalty are excellent customer service, high-quality products, and previous engagement with the brand, meaning how pleasant their overall buying experience was. 

A customer's buying experience starts when they enter your store or website. How quickly they can navigate to what they're looking for, how quickly questions are answered, the check-out experience, any follow-ups, returns, or exchanges, and even how long they must wait all play a role in excellent customer service. You might gain a life-long customer if you can execute these things speedily and efficiently. 

High-quality products can often sell themselves and instantly create brand loyalty. These products are typically known for their reliability in meeting customers' needs. Releasing a defective product that doesn't solve a customer's problem reflects the quality. People expect to buy products and services that work, and when they don’t, customers doubt the reliability of that brand. It’s important to focus on a product’s quality.

Customer experience is related to customer service, ideally leading to customer satisfaction. A satisfied customer will likely become a repeat customer and refer your product or service to others. 

Brand loyalty has a huge effect on your business’s revenue and profit. Loyal customers typically spend more money than other customers, especially over the course of their entire customer lifespan. Loyal customers are also less price-conscious than other customers, so it’s easier to retain them if your prices increase or a cheaper alternative hits the market.

Consider Apple, a widely-cited example of brand loyalty. Over the years, the company has amassed a devoted customer base; 90.5% of current iPhone owners plan to stay loyal to Apple the next time they upgrade, despite the fact that newer models typically have higher price tags and cheaper alternatives are readily available.Loyal customers are more likely to try new products from your brand, which makes it easier to launch new products successfully. Because 3 in 5 people say they’d rather purchase a new product from a familiar brand than from a brand they don’t know, loyal customers are often your most enthusiastic early adopters. This demonstrates how brand loyalty is a critical component of brand equity, or the extra value that a business gets from a product with a recognizable name compared to the generic alternative. When more people are loyal to your brand, you can leverage your brand equity to raise your prices and expand your product line.

A brand loyalty survey helps you understand the opinions and habits of the loyal customers who advocate for your brand. To build brand loyalty for long term success and track shifting brand loyalty, stay in communication with your audience. Ask for periodic feedback by surveying your customers and target market 2 to 4 times per year.

Here are a few great ways to measure brand loyalty over time:

Calculate your Net Promoter® Score (NPS). Your NPS is the percentage of people who would recommend your brand (your promoters), minus the percentage of people who would not recommend your brand (your detractors). It’s an excellent way to determine brand loyalty, as it indicates the likelihood of both repurchase and referral. View a NPS template

You should also let the customer speak. While quantitative data like NPS is useful, the most actionable insights often come from open-ended survey questions. Feedback from these questions give you the qualitative data you need to make targeted improvements to your brand.

Gauge your customer satisfaction. In your brand loyalty survey, ask customers specific questions about your brand’s products, prices, and convenience to find out what keeps your customers coming back (or what’s keeping them from making another purchase). Measure customer satisfaction for your business. 

Two in three senior marketing managers find the “brand loyalty” metric very useful in their work. The results of a brand loyalty survey tell you what your loyal customers like about your brand, which helps you position and develop the brand over time. By using SurveyMonkey Audience, marketers can also learn why people are loyal to competitors instead of their brands.Ready to start building and measuring brand loyalty? Get started with our brand loyalty survey template.

While the path to brand loyalty is different for each brand (look to your survey results for guidance), here are a few strategies to increase brand loyalty:

A brand’s customer service plays a big part in whether or not it earns a customer’s loyalty. Since 1 in 3 consumers say they would walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience, it’s important to focus on every step of the customer journey, from social media to customer support. When you can give your audience an experience they can’t get anywhere else, they’ll always come back to your brand for more. 

A customer meetup or a social media hashtag can promote feelings of loyalty, trust, and belonging in your customers. GoPro, for example, turns user-generated content into powerful marketing material with its social media campaigns. These campaigns provide social proof for new audiences and bring loyal customers closer together as they become united under one hashtag.

Encourage repeat purchases with a rewards program. Most loyal customers will join a rewards program if you ask them. These programs help lock in your most profitable customers by providing extra perks and incentives to continue their relationship with your brand. Brand rivals Coca-Cola and Pepsi, for example, keep their passionate customer bases polarized with rewards programs like My Coke Rewards and Pepsi Stuff. The Starbucks loyalty program, a.k.a. Starbucks Rewards, has around 17 million members in the U.S. and 10 million members in China, making it one of the most popular loyalty programs in the restaurant industry.

Improve customer service by letting your customers know your business is dedicated to meeting their needs by wanting to hear what they have to say. Customers who feel your business is keeping their best interest at heart can increase trust and loyalty. 

The customer journey begins the moment they see your product online. Arranging your website to make their buying experience more pleasant can also increase brand loyalty. One way of learning how to improve your customer’s buying experience is to ask them what you can do to improve.  

Building a compelling brand story strengthens the authenticity of your business. Communicating a brand story that relays your mission statement may resonate with customers who share the same values. Customers who share the same core values with your business will likely be more committed to your brand and purchase your products. 

It’s always beneficial to find out what your customer needs, and then take it a step further and implement marketing personalization. Offer a customer loyalty program that offers perks for being a consistent customer. This approach allows your business to collect metrics that help you learn product preferences and other buying habits. 

Brand ambassadors can help represent brand loyalty by representing your product or service on social media and other media outlets. Anyone with a strong online presence can be a brand ambassador, but you want to ensure that their image reflects your core values consistently.

Starbucks offers a loyalty reward program that includes more than just a free coffee. Their perks provide modern gaming experiences with additional rewards and shopping features that make a customer’s buying experience more engaging. 

Sephora’s representation of brand loyalty models a rewarding system where customers earn points redeemable for luxury products they might otherwise not have been privy to buying. Their loyalty program is offered in tiers incentivizing customers to buy more products to earn more points for a free product. 

Measure customer loyalty with a robust AI-platform that delivers strategic insights. Track your brand along with your competitors’ brands to see what appeals to customers.

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