What Does Customer Loyalty Mean In 2021?

It seems nearly every company today has a loyalty program, but the meaning of loyalty itself is often still a mystery.

Customer loyalty in 2021 looks different than it has in the past and even than how many companies view it.

According to Bram Hechtkopf, CEO of loyalty marketing and technology company Kobie, loyalty is more than just how a customer behaves. A customer who regularly purchases from the same company can appear loyal, but what matters more than the transaction is their emotional loyalty, or how they feel about a brand.

Hechtkopf breaks emotional loyalty into three areas: status, habit and reciprocity. Measuring customers in those three areas, combined with behavioral data, provides companies with the best view of loyalty. That data can be used to drive better personalization and engagement.

Focusing on emotional loyalty goes against how many companies have traditionally viewed loyalty. In the past, loyalty was all about transactions, and the goal of a loyalty program was to get customers to the next purchase.

In 2021, however, loyalty is more than just transactional. Modern brands have to think about the emotional drivers of loyalty. Instead of focusing on just their most loyal customers, Hechtkopf says the best programs cast a wider net to reach out to all customers and then use tiers and gamification to segment customers. These brands build relationships and foster loyalty through more than just points and perks.

Like many aspects of customer experience, loyalty programs have faced changes and challenges during the pandemic. With supply chain strain and economic uncertainty, customers are more willing to try new brands instead of their trusted favorites. Hechtkopf says that brands that have established loyalty programs have seen the most success because they have been able to leverage their programs as their businesses have pivoted. Instead of focusing solely on transactions, these brands have been able to embrace pandemic trends and outperform the competition while still delivering a personalized experience that meets customers’ needs.

The companies that think about loyalty not as a program but as an outcome and enterprise strategy have the most success. Hechtkopf says the companies with the best loyalty programs have executives who realize that loyalty is crucial as more than just a transactional program. To tap into modern customer loyalty, brands need to ensure their loyalty strategy aligns with their brand strategy.

Customer loyalty programs can be powerful drivers for relationships and revenue. But modern companies have to think about loyalty as a state of mind instead of just a program.

Blake Morgan is the bestselling author of The Customer of the Future. Sign up for her new course here.

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