So far in the Building Brand Loyalty series, you've learn what brand loyalty is and why it matters as well as how to begin building brand loyalty. In Part 3, you learn how to keep brand loyalty once you've earned it from consumers. Remember, loyalty is more than just repeat purchases. It's an emotional connection based on perceptions and trust that the brand will meet consumers' expectations. You have to work to keep it.
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It's hard to keep consumers loyal to your brand if you don't know why they're loyal to it. What are their perceptions of the brand? What are their motivations for buying it? What factors influence their purchase decisions? What feelings does the brand evoke and how do they feel if the brand isn't available?
These are just some of the questions that can help you better understand why consumers are loyal to your brand, and you can get the answers through market research. As with all relationships, you have to work to keep them going and cultivate them so they flourish. Brand loyalty is a relationship between consumers and a brand backed by a company. Don't underestimate the need to cultivate that relationship. If customers feel like the brand is no longer meeting their needs or is letting them down, the time will come when they'll give up on the relationship and find a replacement -- no matter how hard that might be for them.
The Walt Disney Company provides a great example of a company that understands how important brand loyalty is and cultivates that relationship through every consumer touch point. In "Disney's Approach to Brand Loyalty" course at the Disney Institute, the company shares its position on the importance of building relationships to maintain brand loyalty:
"Many customers will discontinue their relationship with an organization because they gained a perception that the business didn't care. Empower your staff to spontaneously create relationship moments with your customers. When you surpass the experience offered by your competition, and when you add to that by exceeding expectations at every point of contact, you hold the key that will keep bringing customers back."
I've witnessed Walt Disney World cast members spontaneously creating relationship moments with park guests multiple times, and I can say first-hand that the strategy works.
Consumers have more choices available to them than ever and they're inundated with messages every day. Therefore, consumers are more fickle than ever. You have to work to keep them by consistently communicating with them and meeting their expectations through branded experiences. Fortunately, the social web provides a myriad of opportunities to do exactly that, which will be discussed in greater detail in Part 4 of this series.
Conducting Brand Research to Maintain Brand Loyalty
You need to know that you're always meeting consumers' needs, which are constantly changing. Brand research is more important than ever for maintaining brand loyalty. You should conduct informal market research by simply listening to consumer conversations and feedback about your brand. It's easy to find these conversations online. Setup Google Alerts for your brand name and use a Twitter app like Monitter.com to monitor keyword mentions of your brand name in tweets.
At the same time, you should conduct formal market research to learn more about consumers' emotional involvement with your brand, their degree of loyalty, and their expectations. Follow the links to learn more about researching brand emotions and brand perceptions. The information you gather from quantitative surveys will help you learn not only what you need to do to maintain existing loyalty but also how to gain new loyalty from customers who haven't moved beyond the repurchase stage yet.
Also, brand research can help you identify potential gaps and weaknesses in your brand strategy before it's too late and loyal customers are disappointed. In other words, your research data should be used to proactively create brand strategies, messages, and experiences that retain and strengthen brand loyalty.