For any business, securing a loyal customer base is vital for success. This means marketing to your customers in the right way, whether that’s through recognizable virtual phone numbers for communication or simply the tone you use in emails.

 

In 2019 we first spoke to consumers about brand loyalty and what they want from the brands they support. With all that’s changed over the last two years, we’ve revisited the topic in 2021 to discover the key drivers in brand loyalty. Here’s what we learned…

 

Top 5 Business ethics

 

In 2019, we asked how important various ethics and values were to consumers in the USA. Now, two years later, we wanted to see what had changed.

 

We found that the three most important ethics and values from a brand (support workers’ rights, environmental responsibility, and no animal testing) remain the same in 2021 as they were in 2019 – however, workers’ rights have overtaken environmental responsibility in the top spot. Most interesting though, was the huge increase we saw across all our stats when it comes to how important people find these ethics and values. While just under half (44%) found workers’ rights important in 2019, three-quarters (76%) said they did in 2021. In 2019, only a quarter (26%) found it important that a business works to close the gender pay gap, compared to 64% in 2021. These results show that people are more concerned than ever with the ethics and values of the brands they are loyal to.

 

This is a trend that businesses are spotting across the board. We spoke to Brian Turner, CTO of ConvertBinary, who told us social proof is behind this.

“Social proof is a phenomenon whereby people copy the actions, behaviors and beliefs of others. Given that we live in a connected digital age, it has never been easier to adopt a ‘group-think’ mentality. If a company is trending on social media for environmental malpractice and people express distrust, it’s more likely that unacquainted readers will form an opinion based on that of society’s commentary. In other words, people no longer have to think very hard. It’s easier to take the position of ethically conscious than not when society at large is heading in that direction.

 

“Now that society has a much bigger voice as a collective, this phenomenon is only exacerbated. For this reason, it’s unsurprising that consumers these days are far more concerned about a brand’s ethics and values.”

 

When looking at age divides, perhaps surprisingly we found that Gen Z cares the least about a brand’s environmental responsibility. While well over a half (62%) said environmental responsibility was important to them, this falls short when compared to older generations, with 83% of 35-44s, 76% of 45-54s, and 66% of 55+ saying a brand’s environmental responsibility is important.

 

For a brand, ensuring your values align with those of your customers can lead to a huge increase in profit. We asked how much more people would be willing to spend in various sectors and found that consumers would spend 34% more in supermarkets, the tech sector, and clothing, if a brand aligned with their values.

 

The key drivers for brand loyalty are good customer service and benefits

Customers care increasingly about ethics, with 70% telling us improved ethics made them more likely to buy from a brand. However, looking at the top drivers for brand loyalty, it’s classic good customer service (84%) that keeps consumers coming back.

 

Likelihood of you purchasing from the brand

These results reflect 2019, when customer service, low prices, loyalty programs, discount codes, and free gifts came out on top. They show that, while ethics are important, the main drivers for brand loyalty are service: customers want good service with rewards that make them feel like they’re getting more for their money.

 

US consumers want marketing to be personalized to them

A key conversation when it comes to brands and marketing is around the use of customer data. Our survey found that personalized extras such as birthday emails make customers 61% more likely to buy from a brand, while almost three-quarters (74%) of consumers want marketing communications from brands to be personalized to them to some extent. Interestingly, men are twice as likely to want extremely personalized marketing, with 43% saying they want communications to be ‘very personalized’, compared to just one in five (21%) women who said the same.

 

Half (50%) of consumers want a brand to feel like a best friend, with 44% saying they’ll switch brand if they don’t feel like it knows them. Again, more men (62%) than women (38%) wanted a brand to feel like a best friend. There is also an age divide – almost half (46%) of Gen Z and over half (56%) of millennials want the brands they use to feel like a best friend, compared to only 8% of 55+.

 

Customers are happiest sharing personal data with industries they have the most loyalty to

There is a consumer appetite for personalized extras and communication from brands. To offer this personalized marketing, companies need access to data – but are customers willing to part with this?

 

We found the sharing of customer data and brand loyalty go hand in hand, with users more comfortable sharing data with brands or industries they are loyal to.

 

In 2019, we found that supermarkets, restaurants, clothing, technology, and cars were the sectors that had the most customer loyalty. In 2021, we found a clear correlation: people are most comfortable sharing data with industries they have loyalty to, with supermarkets (61% comfortable), tech (58% comfortable), restaurants (57% comfortable), clothing (57% comfortable) and hotels (56% comfortable) topping the list. On the whole, US consumers are comfortable sharing their personal data to improve customer experience across a range of sectors.

 

We also saw men were more comfortable than women when it comes to sharing personal data, with more men than women selecting ‘extremely comfortable’ for each question.

 

We asked about the kind of data users were comfortable sharing with brands, again finding that men are far more comfortable sharing various types of data. More than double the number of men than women said they’re comfortable with a brand storing their phone number (29% vs 14%), home address (28% vs 13%), and email address (32% vs 16%).

 

We spoke to clinical psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, about why this difference between the genders may occur.

“It has often been said that information is power. I entertain the following hypothesis as the reason why women hold on to their own personal information: personal information, represents, for them, a sense of control over their personhood. Losing information, or turning it over to an often unfamiliar person or entity represents a threat.

 

“For men, I entertain the following hypothesis: men are not as afraid of losing information, because they are not as afraid of losing power or control, or relinquishing power and control to an unknown person or entity.”

 

 

Consumers are concerned about the data brands store on them

There are concerns from consumers when it comes to the sharing of personal data, but does this affect their relationships with brands? We asked consumers which of the following would put them off purchasing from a brand:

 

  • If I felt they misused my data – 54%
  • If they stored information on me I didn’t deem relevant – 41%
  • Being sent offers that are not relevant – 35%
  • Over-communication – 33%
  • Brands failing to recognize me as an existing customer – 33%

 

The main thing that puts consumers off a brand is the misuse of data, however, this is something that younger generations seem less concerned about. Only a third (33%) of Gen Z told us they’d be put off a brand if they felt they’d misused their data, compared to three quarters (76%) of 55+.

 

On the whole, the majority of US consumers are concerned about the data brands store on them. Over three quarters (77%) want control over this data, 72% are concerned their data is overused, 64% think brands should pay them for their data, and 62% don’t fully understand how much personal data they share with brands.

 

However, the fact that people want relevant offers and to be recognized as an existing customer shows that brands require a certain amount of personal data from their customers. Half (51%) of consumers told us they want brands to store information on them to help improve their future experience. 47% want brands to make decisions for them based on their past behavior, for example suggesting what to have for dinner when they can’t decide. One in five even want brands to use their data to regulate their exercise (22%) and their diet (21%).

 

There is a disconnect when it comes to consumers’ views of why personal data is stored by brands. People are worried about privacy and don’t trust how their data is being used. It falls on brands to explain to consumers that their data is being used to personalize communications and streamline the customer journey, as most consumers are happy with their data being used in this way.

 

 

How to foster brand loyalty

Brand loyalty is more important than ever, ensuring a thriving customer base and consistent revenue streams and profit. Based on what we learned in our study, here are four key steps to take to foster consumer loyalty in your brand.

 

  1. Align ethics and values with your audience

Consumers are willing to spend more on brands that align with their ethics and values so make sure your customers know you stand for the causes they believe in. Workers’ rights, environmental responsibility, animal testing, supporting community initiatives, and closing the gender pay gap are all increasingly important to consumers in 2021.

 

  1. Invest in customer service and reward loyal customers

Receiving great customer service remains the most important thing consumers look for. Consumers also like to feel that they’re getting more for their money and are rewarded for their loyalty, so free gifts, loyalty programs, and discounts are also great tactics when looking to foster long-term loyalty.

 

  1. Be transparent about stored data

Most consumers are happy for data to be stored to help streamline and improve their experience – they’re just very concerned that it could be misused. As a brand, you should be transparent about the data you store, making sure customers know what you store and why. Creating clear policies around stored data and sharing these with customers will ensure they feel comfortable, and you can continue to use data to improve customer experience.

 

  1. Consider your audience and tailor your communications

We can see that not everyone likes the same level of communication from a brand. Some may only want an email confirmation when they’ve placed an order, while some are happy to receive regular offers and updates. When it comes to marketing, allowing customers to opt in or out of specific communications means they’ll only get the updates they want to see.

 

The way you talk to customers can also have an impact on loyalty, so consider your audience and how they would like to be communicated with. We can see that men prefer a higher level of personalization than women, and younger generations want a brand to feel like a best friend. Use your audience information to align brand communications while giving consumers the choice when it comes to the type of communication or updates they receive.

 

 

 

Customers are more focused than ever on the ethics and values of a brand. It is increasingly important that you uphold socially and ethically responsible business practices and communicate these to your customer base. Getting behind social causes that your customers care about, being transparent about the use of consumer data across your business, and making customer service a top priority are all key for securing customer loyalty in 2021.