Gone are the days when customers would buy a product and be stuck with that product. A technology purchase, for example, used to mean a long-term investment with a hefty upfront cost, buying the product that worked best with your system and the other software you used.
With the proliferation of EaaS (Everything as a Service), technology purchases have started to look a lot more like technology rentals. Contracts are easier to enter – and easier to leave. And it’s not just technology purchases that are heading this way – the subscription economy is in full flow.
What this means is that if a customer doesn’t like what you’re offering, they can get it somewhere else. And (as you’ll see) the data show that if they don’t like how you’re offering it, they’re likely to jump ship too.
This has left companies in a real quandary: if your customers don’t need to stay, how do you make them want to stay? The answer (which is easier said than done) is building brand loyalty.
I pledge allegiance to the brand
And how exactly do you go about that? Well, that’s the 10 million (or should that be billion) pound question. While we don’t have the definitive answer here, we do have some insight gained from our second edition of the State of the Connected Customer research report – a double-blind study of 6,700+ global consumers and business buyers, in which we quizzed them on the things that build (and break) brand loyalty.
Just to get the ball rolling, let’s start with a statistic that is pretty staggering: 80% of UK customers think that the experience a company provides is as important as the product or service it offers.
But not all experiences are created equal – and buyers know it. 58% of UK customers asked say that they’ve stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience. Not product, not service – a better experience.
So, how do you provide a better experience?
The customer behind the clickthrough
People like being treated like people. I know this falls into the same category as ‘water is wet’ and ‘fire is hot’ but it’s an easily forgotten thing in the digital age.
When so much of your time is spent looking at CTRs (click-through rates) and conversion tables, it becomes all too easy to think of your customers as numbers.
According to the State of the Connected Customer study, this impersonal approach is the ultimate CX crime: 86% of UK customers questioned say that it is very important that companies treat them as a person, not a number, to win their business.
This is particularly important in industries like financial services that already have a strong history of individual support. As the customer is used to personalisation when being dealt with in person, the other touch-points like the app or web interface need to maintain that level of experience.
When asked which were the most important actions to increase trust, both business buyers and consumers said ‘Giving me control over what information is collected about me’.
Interestingly, the study doesn’t point towards data collection in and of itself being a trust issue – just what’s actually being collected, how that data is being used, and how it’s being kept safe. 76% of UK customers were willing to share their information for personalised product recommendations, with that number climbing to 88% if it’s a personalised offer or discount.
What’s more, 91% of global customers say they are more likely to trust a company with their personal information if the company shows their commitment to protecting it.
Trust is one of the most fundamental ingredients for brand loyalty, with a whopping 92% of UK customers saying that they’re more likely to be loyal to a company they trust.
Again, consumers and business buyers are very similar in their responses here, with 90% of consumers and 95% of business buyers answering this way.
This isn’t the only instance of consumers and business buyers being similar in their thinking.
There’s a pretty compelling reason for this: they’re all people. After all, there’s not a sub-set of people that only make business decisions.
The consumer-business experience
75% of UK business buyers say that they have switched vendors for a more consumer-like experience.
A big part of this is personalisation. Using the data that you’ve collected about them to treat them (yes I’m going to say it again) like a person.
That might mean a personalised greeting if you can tell that they’re returning to your website. It might mean smoothly transitioning them between your departments if you can tell they need a different service.
In a retail environment, this could mean making sure that there’s an integrated experience across in-store and digital experiences so the customer gets a unified shopping experience.
Putting their money where their mouth is
While this may sound like a whole lot of things to bear in mind, the evidence suggests it’s worth the effort.
Get these things right, and not only will more than two-thirds of your customers share the fact that they’ve had a great experience – they’ll actually pay more for it.
That’s right: 70% of UK customers said that they’ll pay more for a great experience.