A new survey by Sitecore shows how authenticity, transparency and consistency, along with smart data use, can win back customers and keep them loyal.
Brand loyalty is being put to the test like never before. Over the past two years, consumer behavior has become increasingly transactional, driven first by panic, then necessity and now by price. But does this trend have staying power? What will it take for brands to win back customers and keep them loyal?
Sitecore’s recent Brand Authenticity study sought to answer those questions and explore what’s currently driving consumer expectations. The results reveal the significant challenge that lies ahead: Only four in 10 of those we surveyed describe themselves as “fans” of their favorite brands. As daunting as that sounds, the data we collected also illuminate a clear path forward. From our study, we found three critical elements respondents say can help rebuild customer loyalty—authenticity, transparency and consistency.
1. Authenticity involves empathy, understanding and representation.
Authenticity is multifaceted and brands can demonstrate it in different ways. For example, many consumers equate authenticity with being sincere and understanding. In fact, more than eight out of 10 consumers we polled say brands can build stronger relationships with customers through actions that exemplify these traits, such as demonstrating empathy for a customer’s in-the-moment needs, providing insightful recommendations and remembering actions already taken.
In addition, consumers expect to see themselves reflected in brand messaging. The vast majority of those surveyed (81%) say brands should try to ensure that customers feel represented in the organizations marketing and communications. Plus, 85% indicate they want brands to reflect “real life” versus “perfect life” experiences—an obvious appeal for authenticity.
2. Transparency includes clear and timely communications.
Our research underscores that transparency is one of the cornerstones of loyalty and that brands need to communicate clearly and openly, whether it’s about lofty topics like company values or more practical matters like price increases.
The results indicate that consumers are paying attention to corporate messaging, and 59% of those we polled say they choose to shop at brands with values that align with their own. Moreover, eight out of 10 (84%) say they believe brands need to prove they are acting fairly, and three-fourths (75%) say it’s important to see products or services from minority-owned businesses being offered.
This expectation of transparency carries over to price increases. While most survey respondents (86%) indicate they understand that businesses must pass along additional costs, nearly all (91%) say companies must be transparent about doing so. More than six out of 10 (62%) say they are willing to pay more for products and services if that means staff are being well paid.
3. Consistency, consistency, consistency.
Finally, we found that consumers expect brands to be consistent—and of course that means consistently good, throughout the entire customer experience. The results show there is very little patience for missteps, with nearly two-thirds (66%) of survey respondents vowing they would never purchase from a brand again following just one poor shopping experience.
Granted, what defines a “shopping experience” continues to shift. About one-third (30%) of those we polled report they shop almost exclusively online, but even more (46%) say they “live for the experience” of shopping in person. That means retailers can’t go all in on one or the other; instead, they must meet customers wherever they are and provide the interactions preferred in the moment.
Increasingly, the key here is to combine physical and digital interactions into one engaging and streamlined experience across all channels. From touchpoint to touchpoint, customers are wanting this consistent “phygital” experience. And that includes interactions after the sale, such as following up with an email after an in-store purchase or asking for feedback after a return.
Use smart data insights to begin rebuilding brand loyalty
Our research shows that in order for brands to move past purely transactional interactions and start meeting new customer expectations, they will need to become more authentic, transparent and consistent. That, in turn, requires the capabilities to thoroughly collect, unify and analyze customer data. In today’s complex omnichannel environments, there’s really no other way to gather the insights needed to deliver the understanding, clarity and reliability that consumers now crave.
With the right technology, brands will be able to effectively tell the right story, personalize experiences and drive action. Over time, these reliable, positive interactions can forge new connections, revitalize customer relationships and ultimately restore brand loyalty.