People make purchases in different ways. With online stores developing new features and brick and mortar stores innovating to keep up, the options are limitless. However, focusing on this can sometimes make us forget that customers also buy for different reasons.
Some may give you repeat custom because they have bought with you before and they don’t see a reason not to do it again. A customer loyalty program should be in place to ensure the reasons for sticking with you are much more concrete. To help you do this, let’s take a look at the difference between habit and loyalty.
A habit is simply doing the same thing repeatedly. In terms of habit buying, a person will keep buying a product or using a service because they have done so before. Perhaps parents made the same purchase and their offspring kept it up. Or the shop they used to go to only sold one brand, so they keep buying it out of habit. These are not deep associations.
If you think a brand still benefits as their product is being bought, you neglect to see how precarious it is. A habit can easily change. If another product or service comes along which is cheaper, they won’t have enough reason not to switch. If the customer sees a deal or offer with something else, they will change without giving it much thought.
Habit buying is not great for the future. There is no passion for the brand, no reflection of lifestyle choices and, in a word, no loyalty.
Customer loyalty means creating a relationship between customer and brand which stands the test of time. A customer will buy into the brand because they see themselves in it. They share similar values and how they are perceived in a wider sense gels with their own standards.
Perhaps most importantly for a brand, loyalty is contagious. If a customer is loyal, they will spread the word, make recommendations and provide referrals. This is the way for your brand not only to keep customers, but build up and progress.
Now that we know the difference between loyalty and habit, we can look at how you might take your brand in the right direction.
Engagement Breeds Loyalty
We have already used the example out of customers buying out of generational habit. Their parents have bought a product and the children keep it up. This is a good example because it can show us two ways of looking at the same thing.
With habit, someone may buy something just because someone they know has done so. As we said, this is precarious. With loyalty you need to engage by knowing what this says about the customer.
If a customer will think to buy into a brand they respect, the brand needs to engage with the why. Using their customer loyalty software, they can find out what a customer values and what puts them off. If a customer buys something because someone they know also buys it, then what values does this represent? Perhaps they want something comforting, something which is tried and tested, something which has worked before and will work into the future.
Knowing what to engage with, what drives a customer to purchase, will make them feel understood. They will make them feel respected and it is difficult to understate how important this is. This can be done with the tone of promotions, the types of rewards offered (e.g. family related rewards for a family orientated customer) and even in the way in which their contact emails are written.
Brands Need to Build Trust
As much of our lives are increasingly acted out on social media, the transparency of brands has had to increase. Take the infamous 2017 Kendall Jenner Pepsi advert which appeared to make light of the Black Lives Matter movement. The backlash was immediate and fierce, leading many soda fans not wanting to buy into a brand this inconsiderate.
Customers know the power of their buck and they know they can use it elsewhere if they wish. Knowing they are investing their time and money in a brand which reflects their values is imperative. For brands, this means knowing their values. Furthermore, it means sharing them.
Using loyalty programs to build up customer profiles will help know their values. However, you need to actually reflect them to be successful. Unfortunately, there are enough demographics out there to market anything to anyone. Not all of these will last. The brands of the future are those which make a commitment to honesty, transparency and respect. Not having these may work in the short run (habit buying), but it won’t build a loyalty that lasts.
Loyalty is Connected to Emotion
A habit is not something which is thought out. It is done so much that it simply continues to happen. It is either without emotion or it negates emotion.
True loyalty makes customers feel. While we have already spoken about the power of feeling trusted, this is only one aspect. Loyal customers need to feel heard. This means not only carrying out surveys to find out the thoughts and opinions of customers. It means putting this information back into the loyalty program so that improvements can be made.
The emotions of loyalty are a wide spectrum. You can touch people’s hearts with thoughtful promotions (not exploitative ones), pique their interest with affiliate brands and, by no means a small feat, make them laugh. All of these will show you to be a brand a customer can feel proud to endorse.
Habits Have No Reward
Habits aren’t enacted because they make things better. They are simply a way to keep going without having to make decisions. There is no real outcome other than the actual purchase.
With loyalty, a customer will want to make purchases which have some meaning to them. Something which makes them feel valued. Rewards are one of the best ways to speak to this desire and build loyalty.
Building a customer loyalty program which considers the individual customer’s desires and provides tangible ways to show they understand them is vital for a brand’s success. If you want to know more on how to forge loyalty in this way, look our article on how to get ahead of the best rewards programs.
In terms of travel loyalty programs, we should first appreciate the privilege of being able to travel in the first place. Some people see it as a necessity, some as an adventure, but at the same time no one rides for free.
Travel companies understand that they provide a service which has a lot of competition and takes in many factors. With bad publicity on social media and growing concerns over travel’s effects on the planet, customer loyalty is more vital than ever. Here are the trends which are ensuring companies land smoothly.
Comfort is Key
Whether a one-off vacation or a return trip for a grueling business conference, comfort is a huge commodity. Customers understand that they get what they pay for. If they have an economy ticket or are staying in a cheap hotel, they’re not going to expect red carpet treatment.
This is why travel loyalty rewards need to be more than just air miles or a discount off their next stay. Millennials want a full experience which breeds memories. They will be happy to have less leg room for some flights or forgo a plush bed on some stays if it means they will be rewarded at the end with some luxury.
Travel companies need to use this desire to save up and be rewarded justly. If they do, they will provide individuals with experiences which provide good will during all the lackluster trips we all have to go through.
Owning Your Brand
We won’t mention them by name, but certain airlines get a pained reaction when their name is mentioned. Their brand becomes synonymous with disappointment and frustration. In the past all travel companies would claim to offer the same experience, but we are seeing the increasing value of owning what your brand says to a customer.
Brands are learning that they can’t make claims which are unsuitable for their brand. If your company is budget, then the benefits and rewards will support this idea. This could mean small improvements like queue jumping or a free drink during the flight. If you spend a lot of money on first class travel, the rewards equally need to meet this perception. If not, customers will be royally disappointed.
Making Travel Easier
There are many ways to travel. Making it easier is a priority for all travel companies, but this doesn’t just mean who gets to board first.
With loyalty reward programs, companies need to ensure theirs are intuitive and will never disappoint. This means incorporating their loyalty program into an app which has all of their advantages logged and easily accessible. It means not making it difficult to redeem these rewards through miles of red tape. It means being open with customers in terms of expectation and providing what you say you will provide.
Customers need a full experience which is catered to them as an individual. There are so many elements to travelling that restricting loyalty programs to simple points on purchases is a thing of the past.
The Importance of Engagement
Making it easier brings us to the importance of engagement. We don’t mean a brand contacting a customer. This is now a de facto aspect of all loyalty programs. The trend of engagement is one whereby the right kind of contact is made.
This can be as simple as checking a box whether or not they want a text reminder of their flight details. It also allows for more involved engagement whereby customers can select their meals through the app or unlock certain benefits add-ons when it comes to checking in.
Loyalty programs are seeing more control in terms of how customers are able to unlock rewards. They are also ensuring privacy and preventing user fatigue when it comes to how a brand gets in touch with a customer.
Notifications and privacy agreements need to be personalized, but travel loyalty doesn’t stop there. Using previous purchase history, feedback from surveys and meta data from brand interaction, businesses need to create rewards which will appeal to the individual.
Loyalty program software is so important because it allows brands to accumulate this information and analyze it effectively. Once this has been carried out, travel companies can then provide reward schemes which are unforgettable.
If someone is travelling alone, they may be more inclined to watch TV at a hotel. This means offering a premium sports or entertainment package to higher tiered customers. One customer may want to take part in special trips at a specific destination. A good travel loyalty program will offer these kinds of experiential rewards to the right people.
Expand Horizons Online
With social media, everyone is their own personal brand. Being able to share pictures, videos and live streams of a vacation is becoming one of the most important parts of holidaying.
For travel brands, harnessing this desire to document is the way of the future. Many individuals have built viable and marketable brands simply through sharing posts of their travel. Tapping into this trend allows businesses to expand their reach, provide aspirational product and, effectively, make referrals.
Use photo contests, hashtag promotions or viral videos to ensure the lifestyle your brand can provide is something users want to share. Customers use social media as a window into the lives of others. They also use it to see how they can improve their own. If you are part of this desirable lifestyle, it is going to ensure loyalty for years to come.
Even budget travel companies know the importance of comprehensive coverage. They will offer the option to make hotel reservations, use a hire company or even provide insurance options. Savvy travel brands will know that this kind of comprehensive service needs to extend to their loyalty programs. They also know it means its time to get creative.
Offering discounted trips or rentals with affiliated businesses is now commonplace. Brands need to incorporate affiliates into more interesting rewards and opportunities.
An airline can create a unique credit card for travelers to use at all points on a trip, providing discounts and upgrades non-cardholders will not be able to access. They can enter guests into contests for free dinners at the hotel restaurant, just for using the service.
Using customer loyalty software, brands can find out what an individual customer’s interests and appeal to them. The kind of engagement loyalty programs will need to use if they want to stay ahead in the marketplace is the kind which evolves with the customer.
Referrals are an intrinsic part of any customer loyalty rewards program. Without growth, a brand will stagnate. Referrals are also a sign of success as they prove your customers not only like working with you, but they want to promote you to others.
However, unlike some industries, referrals are the most important part of real estate rewards programs. This is because the nature of real estate means that the minority of your clients are going to make repeat purchases.
But how do you stay in a customer’s mind enough for them to make a referral? Without repeat purchase, how do you stay in a client’s mind? Social&Loyal are here to answer these questions and more.
Not Creating a Reason to Stay in Touch
Some businesses create email newsletters which are compulsive viewing. Think of t-shirt websites like threadless.com. Every week new designs are brought out and customers are notified of regular deals for something you’re going to want more than one of. The same cannot be said for real estate reward programs.
This is why you need to find ways to maintain your relationship. Purchasing a property, whether a business or residential location, can be extremely taxing. Making sure it is the right place for your company or family requires a lot of consideration and even the best real estate agents will find their clients having moments of stress.
If you send an email newsletter which doesn’t engage with the client before, during and after the purchase, they are going to be annoyed and much less likely to make a referral. This is why you should have communication which appeals to clients even after they have made their purchase. One of these elements is pure nosiness.
Having a newsletter which showcases properties, has great pictures of interesting places and reveals something about the people who live and work in them can mean they are reading something appealing to more than just practical necessity. You could have a ‘Property of the Month’ section or create features on how the real estate game is changing.
This is a way whereby you provide clients with something interesting, thus keeping you in mind without alienating them. You may even showcase a property which leads them to think it would be somewhere suitable for a friend or colleague and therein lies your referral.
Not Creating Memorable Rewards
People are generally busy and often at their busiest after purchasing a property. They have to move, renovate and get used to the new space and location. It can mean they might put you on the back burner of their mind relatively quickly after closing escrow.
With a successful real estate customer loyalty program, you need to find a way to stay part of this new process.
You can arrange a courtesy check up a week after they move in to ensure everything is going smooth or if they have any questions. This not only provides the opportunity for the customer to pick your brain, it really shows you care. Showing you care is the kind of engagement any brand’s loyalty program wants to aspire to.
However, often actions speak louder than words. Using a rewards program which keeps you in the client’s mind is one way to encourage a referral.
If you provide a gift certificate or a useful house warming prize, then you are going to be playing the association game with the customer. Every time they see this reward, they are going to be reminded of how great a company you are.
Only Using One-Off Rewards
Building your loyalty program doesn’t stop there. While many real estate deals are one-off purchases, you can use a points system to earn rewards in other ways. You can join up with an appliance store to offer discounts on products (this could be a great win-win for both businesses if a deal is brokered in the right spirit).
This way of creating useful rewards is why you need the right customer loyalty software. You need to build up client profiles and find what they are looking for. This can be done through use of an app or simply ensuring your agents are comprehensive in recording their data.
You can also encourage referrals by giving a gift for every referral made. While you may have to shell out a little capital for this referral, think how much you will earn on commission and it pays for itself over and over again.
Forgetting it is the 21st Century
Real estate reward programs need to function as well, if not better than many other businesses. You may have already created your customer loyalty profiles, but you need to find a way to keep in touch without the continual point of purchase information you will get from repeat purchases.
If you have managed to work in conjunction with other businesses to mutually promote customer loyalty, then you can create an app for this information to be recorded. Every time they buy some new plaster or a fancy blender, they can get some points on their loyalty program which unlocks further rewards.
These rewards should also be experiential. While clients may have purchased their own property, they may still want to look at other properties for future reference or our of sheer interest. Have social events which allow you to promote referrals. Existing customers can earn rewards for simply bringing along interested parties. If these guests become a customer, then the referral is made and the original client can receive another reward. Equally, having a decent spread and creating an event people want to attend can be the reward in itself.
You can use social media to keep existing customers in mind and increase the possibility of referrals. If you used your loyalty software to create a successful real estate rewards program, the you will likely have synched it with your social media presence.
If it has been agreed upon in your terms and conditions of data usage, you can congratulate customers for the sale on Twitter or Facebook. You can also provide rewards for them doing the same to their followers, but this may not be cost effective in the real estate market.
Lastly, speaking of terms and conditions, it is important you acknowledge the referral. This is because, depending on your location, you can run afoul of the law if you do not. Fortunately, real estate referral programs can do this automatically. Agents getting compensation can abuse the system and make money for themselves underhandedly. A good loyalty program in real estate will keep everything above board, incorporate local terms and conditions into their agreements and ensure all requirements are met. Not having loyalty software to ensure you are covered could be the biggest mistake you make if fines are involved.