How to win your customers’ emotional loyalty

Whether it was curiosity which tempted your customers away from your competitors and through your doors, or your dazzling array of introductory offers, how will you keep your clients engaged and wanting to come back to you time and time again?

The subject of many studies over the years, brand loyalty is the holy grail of retail businesses and consumer service providers the world over.

It is generally split into 3 categories:

Behavioural loyalty – where customers tend to repurchase a brand or return to the same service provider either out of habit, due to a lack of alternatives or because it is too much effort to change providers.

Rational loyalty – where customers weigh up your product or service for value, and decide whether or not to remain loyal. This is based in thought processes and sometimes called ‘functional’ or ‘cognitive’ loyalty.

Emotional loyalty – where customers have formed an affectionate attachment to your brand or product, and therefore have a psychological preference for you above other providers.

Emotional Loyalty is often considered the most valuable type. Without Emotional Loyalty, a simple deal or good offer from your competitor could easily tempt customers away from you. However it can be very difficult to manufacture, as it is often organic or based on personal experience.

Susan Binda, head of loyalty marketing at The Logic Group, tells “As an example, when I was 14 my mother gave me my first bottle of Oil of Olay. I have very fond, emotional connections with that brand as a result, because it reminds me of my youth and my mother, and I’ve used that brand ever since. …It’s a gut instinct that it feels right. And it’s very powerful for brands.”

So how could you begin to boost Emotional Loyalty in your client base?

  1. Establish a personal relationship
    Whether it’s using customer data to give personalised offers based on previous purchases or sending a card every year on their birthday, approaching each customer as an individual – or at least giving the appearance that you are doing so, if your business is too large to get to know each client personally – appeals to a customer’s ego and identity. Simply using an individual’s name can make a person feel valued, so even including first names in your email mail-outs could make a difference.
  2. Think about your product or service in context
    Customers buy your product or choose to use your service as a relatively small choice in the bigger picture of their life. Think about your typical customer, their lifestyle and what is likely to be important to them. Their small children? Gourmet cooking, sports clubs or live music? Now think about what you could offer as a value-added service which could help them with something they struggle with, or which they would likely appreciate. Points towards a hotel room to take their family on a mini break? Live gig tickets as a loyalty reward?
  3. Don’t underestimate nostalgia
    Nostalgia is a valuable emotion, as people are always looking to connect with local history. Use opportunities such as advertising and marketing to delve into your brand’s history. Even if you are the new kid on the block, explaining your back story and giving biographies of your founders can engage customers to care on a human level.
  4. Show – and create – gratitude
    As well as providing what you’re being paid for, going above and beyond a customer’s expectations will create experiential value that makes you stand out, and create feelings of gratitude in your customers. Practically, this will depend on what your business does, but think along the lines of including hand-written thank you notes with orders, coming up with an unusual rewards scheme or holding customer events. Similarly, showing gratitude to your clients for their custom will create a connection which they are likely to remember when they are ready to repeat the transaction.
  5. Create a sense of belonging
    Reminding customers that they are making a conscientious decision to support an independent business or small start-up is likely to create positive feelings about their action, and therefore your brand – as well as sparking a familial atmosphere. Creating a ‘club’ or sense of exclusivity among your client base, through membership schemes or simply in your marketing, can also create this sense of belonging.