Article

Robert Massa
Robert Massa 22 November 2019

Friend or foe? Six tips to help you build customer friendships to boost loyalty

Meaningful content that chimes with your customers and makes them feel closer to your brand can be incredibly powerful. Today’s consumers want more content, context, inspiration and connections with like-minded people.

Brands and retailers must tap into the topics individual customers value the most, from LGBT+, to environmentalism and employee diversity.The challenge for brands, however, is accurately identifying the right content for each individual consumer and finding the right time and channel to communicate with them. It is also imperative that consumers recognise brands are being sincere and authentic, rather than simply surfing the latest trend to increase brand visibility and sales. 

Here are six tips on how issues-based content can help your brand develop customer friendships that lead to loyalty. 

1. Identify issues of interest

First of all, it’s important that brands adhere to a general health warning. They are advised to look introspectively when deciding on the issues they want to support and communicate in their marketing. Their choices need to be authentic, genuinely align with their values and then permeate throughout the business beyond just their marketing. It should also be something they embody year-round and not only when they are looking to improve sales figures.

Recent events have seen a significant surge in email marketing content aligning brands with issues from the wider society. The genesis of this can be found in a 2014 Google Consumer Survey which found that over 45% of consumers under 34 years old say they are more likely to do repeat business with an LGBT-friendly company. Of them, more than 54% also say they’d choose an equality-focused brand over a competitor. Meanwhile a recent survey of 1,000 UK and US consumers for Futerra found that 88% of consumers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical.

The important point here is to ensure your ecommerce platform can track the customer journey and your customers’ actions when they are offered issue-based content. Do they access information about your brand’s sustainability credentials when they are given the option? Are they quick to access information about your brand’s support of LGBT+ pride? Do they click on content about your brand’s efforts to reduce plastic?  If you can accurately track individual customer’s behaviour (rather than just device-specific cookies) you will be able to identify content that excites and motivates your customers.

There is lots of evidence that brands are waking up to the potential in this area. A recent Mailjet study of 75,000 marketing subscribers found that 29% of marketers want information on how email can be leveraged to better communicate that sustainability is at the core of their brand values. Meanwhile, after rounding off a month of LGBT+ Pride celebrations, 27% of marketers are looking for information on how they can demonstrate that their company is LGBT+-friendly.

2. Personalisation

Once you know the issues that make your customers tick, you can then incorporate them into content across your channels. This means adding elements into your email newsletters, ads, website content, social media, app push notifications and promotions. For example, a consumer who has an interest in environmental issues can have their content tailored to show the extent to which the brand and its products are green and ethical.

Luxury health and beauty company, Clarins, is expert at crafting email newsletter content targeting its environmentally conscious customers.

The brand regularly shares its ‘Reasons to trust Clarins’ message which it has developed to emphasise its use of 250 natural plant extracts and its sustainability commitment in which it says it is dedicated to respecting nature, protecting biodiversity, supporting local communities and purchasing raw materials in accordance with fair-trade principles.

Clarins mixes in other personalised content into its newsletters based on customers’ online behaviour, including product selections, money-off vouchers and online advantages such as special offers, loyalty scheme boosters and free delivery.

3. Timing is everything

What’s the best time to send personalised, issue-specific content to your customer/prospect? The answer to this complex question will vary from customer to customer, but the beauty of adopting an ecommerce solution that is able to track your individual customer’s behaviour (rather than just a device-specific cookie) in real time is that you are able to try different strategies, measure effectiveness and adjust the timing of your next email/email newsletter accordingly. The key here is to the ability to watch and learn from your customer’s online body language.

4. Show up better and not just to sell the product

Let’s face it, few retailers and brands sell a product that is absolutely unique. Converting a customer to a sale is about making a case why they should buy from you rather than a competitor. Those differentiators may be cost, quality, product spec, but increasingly your brand’s stance on key issues may be the deciding factor in whether or not a prospect clicks the ‘buy now’ button.

5. Educate and inform

Shoppers increasingly don’t just want brands that agree with their point of view on key issues, they also want to be educated and informed. Whole Foods is a great example of a leading brand putting this into action with their content. For instance, the grocery retailer shares updates on the sustainability of different fish selections. The brand’s best ‘Seafood Watch’ rating, for example, is given to fish that are ‘abundant, well managed, and caught in an environmentally friendly way’. This is a great example of educating and informing. Whole Foods also uses its community newsletter to share delicious recipes with great photography, tips to keep your kids’ health and spotlights on new local vendors.

6. Cross-channel integration

Delivering informative, personalised messages about issues that individual customers care about is a sure-fire way to develop the context, inspiration and connections that lead to brand loyalty.

The next step in this journey is to ensure that customers receive joined-up messaging across all of your channels. This will enable them to weave in and out of your owned and social channels, seamlessly consuming the stories that matter most to them and enjoying a fluid journey of discovery and inspiration to purchase. 

Cross-channel integration also means you can reach consumers at different times of the day and also at different points of the purchasing cycle. For example, while an email might drive click-throughs, an email combined with a delayed push notification might be enough to remind a consumer to follow through on a purchase.

As customers engage with a brand on a more regular basis, the chances of them becoming and ultimately staying loyal to that brand also increases. This is largely due to the consistency in messaging – one of the main features of cross-channel marketing.

Conclusion

Whether you are looking to address the issues that matter to your customers, achieve cross-channel integration or deliver great personalisation, an accurate view of your customer’s online behaviour is essential. Cookies, which are device-specific, no longer provide clarity by themselves in the modern multi-device buying journey. Brands and retailers instead need to employ the latest solutions and strategies to capture unique identifiers, such as email, so that they can achieve the kind of brand loyalty that increases sales. 

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