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.


Habit Buying

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.


Loyalty Buying

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.

Kelly Rogan
CMO Social&Loyal
Kelly is our VP of Business Development and a loyalty and customer retention expert having worked with large brands all over the globe to grow true brand loyalty. She’s written for media outlets such as Forbes, Inc and Startup Grind on topics related to digital marketing and brand loyalty. She is passionate about combining behavioural psychology and technology to boost results.

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