Have you ever wondered why some stores see customers coming in repeatedly even if those stores don't offer discounts or have expensive products? The answer is: because of brand loyalty. To understand how brands build loyalty, we'll need to look at some brand loyalty examples and see what's working for those brands.
Brand loyalty is about customers choosing to buy from a specific store rather than its competitors because they have a connection with that brand.
In other words, these customers are brand loyal.
But what is brand loyalty and how can you build it? We'll be answering these questions and more. We'll also be talking about the world's top brand loyalty examples and what you can learn from them.
Brand loyalty is when customers buy from a brand because they trust it, not because it's the cheapest, the only option, or even the one that offers the most value.
Investopedia defines brand loyalty as:
"Customers who exhibit brand loyalty are devoted to a product or service, which is demonstrated by their repeat purchases despite competitors' efforts to lure them away."
For years, companies have been investing tons of money into marketing and customer service to create, build, and maintain brand loyalty.
Popular brands like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks are well-known brand loyalty examples.
As with these well-known brands, their brand loyal followers aren't using them because they are the only option (they aren't by any means) but because of their connection with them.
They'll blindly tell people to use or buy from these brands - their favorite brands.
You're probably thinking brand loyalty sounds A LOT like customer loyalty. So what's the difference between them?
Many people think brand loyalty and customer loyalty are the same thing. While they're closely related, there is one major difference.
Customer loyalty relates more to spending, special offers, and sales. Businesses attract customers through discounts and gradually turn them into loyalty customers.
One the other hand, brand loyalty is about perception. People connect with a brand on a deeper level. They don't care about discounts but rather about the brand itself.
You'll notice this with luxury brands like Michael Kors, Luis Vuitton, and Swarovski.
They're not cheap. They rarely – if ever – run offers. And still, there are many customers who are loyal to them.
Christie Nordhielm, a clinical associate professor of marketing at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, groups brand loyal customers into three categories: head, hand and heart.
This group follows its heart. This means their loyalty comes from connections and a desire to be part of a cause, like helping the environment or the poor.
A well-known brand where customers feel this connection is TOMS shoes, which gives away a pair of shoes to the needy for every pair bought.
While not many brands can perform a similar feat, you can see why customers feel loyal to them.
These are habit-focused customers. They are the type of people who buy out of habit more than out of convenience.
"They buy the same brand, every time, without checking for price or for what’s on sale. These are the type of folks who always buy Pepsi or […Coke] because that’s just what they like and they will not switch," explains Sales Screen.
Trying to sway this type of customers away from the brands they use is no easy feat. But one way to get your brand and products noticed it to use the free sample experiment.
You're likely to see more of this at supermarket and grocery shops and malls, where brands offer free samples of their jams, soaps, and other products. Since they may be harder to do in e-commerce, you might want to pair up with other brands for exposure.
These are customers who rely on common sense and rationality. They only buy what makes sense to them.
They're the complete opposite of heart-loyal customers. Selling to this group requires great customer service, a good value offering, and great marketing.
You now have an idea about the types of customers along with some of the different types of loyal customers, when it comes to brand loyalty.
Let's move on to some examples of brand loyalty and the lessons we can learn from them that can benefit your business.
If anyone asked about brand loyalty examples, Apple is likely to top at any list. When it comes to their iPhones, Android-lovers will tell you their features are inferior.
That said, Apple fans are hard-supporters of the brand. They'll buy the new iPhone 100 even if it has no new features.
Apple never creates offers, discounts, or any such benefits. But its fans still love the brand and will continue buying it for the next century.
Known as one of the world's best loyalty programs, Sephora has been making waves in a highly competitive market: the beauty industry.
Sephora sells its products as well as other brands' products. The beauty retailer has branded itself as the go-to store for anything beauty-related.
The beauty-products retailer offers several tiers in its rewards program. Each tier offers some perks. Sephora's program even has a free tier that includes seasonal savings and free shipping options.
Further reading: Customer Retention Secrets of the 14 Best Beauty Loyalty Programs
Sephora's program takes personalization to a whole new level. From birthday gift samples to 'Meet and Greet events' to events where customers get to multiply their points.
The Sephora rewards program is among the best in the US. Why? Because it doesn't just focus on creating loyal customers. Instead, Sephora has built a loyal community.
Starbucks is one of the leading coffeemakers in the world with a wide fan base spanning countries and continents.
The Seattle-based coffee shop makes both quality products and makes it easy for customers to buy their coffee.
Starbucks' app (not available in all countries) provides a unique experience with the 'Order & Pay' feature. It allows customers to quickly add their favorite orders, while also suggesting pairings for their beverages.
In addition, Starbucks' loyalty program has helped the brand increase its sales and its loyal followers. Customers, who use the app, get to earn stars for the money they spend, which translates into a free drink or treat.
While furniture may not come to mind when it comes to loyalty, the truth is: When people buy from a brand and they like their products, they come back for more.
IKEA is no exception. Plus, their loyalty program offers visitors a free drink when they visit (not applicable to all countries).
The ready-to-assemble furniture maker has built a loyal following over the years, especially as it expands to more countries and regions.
One way IKEA creates brand loyalty is by listening to its customers.
When doing research about the differences between customers' needs in the United States and Italy, IKEA found that US customers use drawers for storing their clothes more than Italian customers.
That's why in IKEA's branches in the US, you're likely to find deeper drawers.
The maker of easy-to-use excellent-quality video cameras has been building loyalty by creating a community of fans and followers.
If you visit GoPro's social media pages, you'll find that most of their posts are user-generated content.
They even add much of it to their official website. This has turned their fans into brand loyal followers.
Do you often see the Harley Davidson fans moving groups? It's because of the community the brand builds.
The Wisconsin-based bike maker is all about community and family. The company has a 25% market share in the US with its annual sales averaging $2.9 billion a year.
Harley Davidson bikes are expensive but its fans are brand loyal.
Yes, Star Wars is one of the leading brand loyalty examples. The franchise has had five TV series, many books, and nine movies. Not to mention, more-than-you-can-count conventions.
It's unlikely any of this would have happened if Star Wars didn't have loyal fans.
And because of these avid followers, the Star Wars franchise has grossed hundreds of millions of dollars.
One of the stores using Gameball's loyalty programs created its tiers and badges using Star Wars characters.
Learn how to create your own tiered loyalty program using this guide!
The Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been going at it for decades.
But Coca-Cola has earned brand loyal followers because of its marketing messages and the sense of community it encourages.
The beverage-maker has 50 million fans on its Facebook page.
"Its “Share a Coke” campaign actively encourages a positive community of people who get along – you can even order Coke cans with customized names on it, meaning no one is excluded from this community," notes Bluleadz.
Loyalty can be built. Not overnight. But over weeks and months and years.
To build and increase brand loyalty, businesses need to be able to stand out from their competitors – in a few ways.
"Hitting the right notes throughout the buyer's journey and customer experience helps foster customer loyalty and brand loyalty," stresses Bluleadz.
Each of the above brands have experimented and then focused their efforts on one or more of the following tactics.
So what can you, as a business owner, learn from the world's top brand loyalty examples and their methods?
Customer service is one of the most important tactics for creating customer loyalty and expanding it to customer success and retention.
The thing is customers appreciate being taken care of. Having their problems solved makes them feel heard.
You don't need to be available round the clock to support your customers but you should tell them what your working hours are so they know when to expect to get a response.
Another tip is to use a chatbot. Chatbots have come a long way and many can replicate human interaction and speech.
No customer has ever complained of getting an incentive to buy a product or service.
Incentives are like those free samples in supermarkets. Or 'buy 1, get 1 free' offers created by newly-launching brands.
Then, of course, there are customer loyalty programs, which allow you to constantly incentivize your customers and build customer loyalty.
Loyalty programs, part of the greater concept of loyalty marketing, have been around for decades. And they have been helping brands build loyalty for that many decades.
Whether you're just starting an online store or have one already, a rewards program can help you build a relationship and loyalty among your customers.
Because by integrating a loyalty or rewards app or program, you can both attract new customers and retain old ones.
Brand ambassadors are those customers who tell others about your store. They're the ones singing your praises.
Having an ambassador strategy can help you create a strong following and strong customer base.
Why? Because customers trust each other.
There are two ways to use brand ambassadors: an ineffective way and an effective way.
The ineffective method is simply hoping that customers who regularly come to your store will tell others about it. There's no way to measure that.
By asking your customers refer you to their friends and family, you can track referrals and reward your customers for bringing you new customers.
You can do this with a referral marketing program.
If you're using Gameball's loyalty program, referrals are already part of the offering. By getting customers to refer others, they can earn points or other rewards based on criteria you set such as when that new customer gives you their email or when they make their first purchase.
You can even reward customers who bring in a large number of referrals. These are your brand ambassadors.
If there's anything many of the above brand loyalty examples have in common – and that's proving to be a success – it's having a community.
Sephora and Harley Davidson are all about creating a community.
Many brands are building communities now to explore their effectiveness and build a stronger relationship with their customers.
Data by Higher Logic indicates that "on average, internal and external communities generate 6,469% ROI for organizations."
Power tool company DEWALT said it saved $6 million in research expenses when it launched its online community. The community served as a focus group that enabled the company to get feedback and further its product innovation, while cutting on support costs.
DEWALT currently has over 2 million followers on Facebook alone.
Creating a community doesn't mean you have to go overboard with a separate board or website. A simple Facebook group can support your initial efforts and see where to go from there.
It's probably never enough to stress this point but today's customers are all about personalization. Seeing you greet them by name when they log on to your store is an example of personalization.
Similarly, sending emails with their name or better yet creating customized messages for them based on their buying habits, countries, time zones, special days like birthdays, all fall under the larger umbrella of creating personalized experiences.
Once established, brand loyalty is something you can maintain and grow. Having a following of people who like your store, products, and services translates into higher long-term returns for you.
And although "brand-loyal customers don’t usually purchase as many items, the profit margins on the things they do buy are generally larger," notes Adroll.
Loyalty and retention are basically two sides of the same coin. Loyal customers are those who keep coming back to your store. This means they are retained customers.
But sometimes they might need some incentive to keep them attached to your store instead of turning to alternatives.
You now know a lot about customers and loyalty. You've seen what the top brand loyalty examples do and how you can create your own band of loyal followers.
We've given you 5 tips that you can use to build brand loyalty. Now it's your turn. You don't have to go in all-at-once with all the tips included.
Consider your resources and decide on which tactics you want to start with first. You can start by creating a community, launching a loyalty program, or focusing on customer services.
Got questions about brand and customer loyalty? Ask us in the comments.
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