Ethan Song, CEO of Rare CirclesFormerly CEO of Frank And Oak.
In the ever-evolving world of commerce, brands are always looking for ways to attract and retain customers. While brands have traditionally relied on advertising and promotions – primarily discounts – to drive sales and build loyalty, some of these practices are being challenged in a post-Covid world.
What customers are looking for in 2023
Today I see that customers are looking for much more than just products and services; they are looking for a deeper connection to the brands they interact with. Customers want to feel like they are part of a community and valued more than just the dollars they spend. This is shown by recent research 89% of customers say they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that shares their values.
Virtually all non-essential expenses are expected to occur fall this year, so in response, I believe brands should show empathy by focusing on relationship building. As someone who runs a community and engagement platform for brands, I’ve seen how customers today are more aware of their purchasing decisions and, as a result, are more likely to value community and experiences over discounts.
In addition to shared values, customers are also looking for a personalized experience. They want to feel that their products and services are tailored to their needs and preferences.
The cost and impact of discounts
In addition to reducing profit margins, discounts harm the perceived value of products and services. Offers and promotions may seem quick and easy to drive sales, but they can come at a high cost.
Higher discounts often correlate with low customer lifetime value, lower satisfaction scores and higher turnover turnover. By discounting, customers learn to wait for sales and companies can ultimately attract less-than-ideal customers.
The perceived quality of the products and services brands offer can actually decrease when brands rely too heavily on discounts. Offering the lowest price can lead to a race to the bottom, reducing overall sales as companies compete to offer the best deal.
Ways companies can prioritize engagement
Fortunately, brands can also build customer loyalty through a holistic approach rather than relying solely on discounts and promotions. I urge brands to create a sense of community with their customers and build lasting relationships by focusing on deepening their engagement. Here are some ways to do that:
One way to engage customers, especially Gen Z, is to create unique and valuable content that speaks to their interests and needs. Whether it’s blog posts, social media content, or videos, businesses can use content to share their values, educate their customers, and build a community around their brand.
Rewards and gamification
Brands can create incentives through point-based systems, experiences, and exclusive discounts (versus general discounts) that encourage customers to engage with the brand more often. These rewards can be seen as a way to encourage and thank loyal customers. By offering rewards, companies can create a sense of value and recognition for their customers.
Gamification, on the other hand, involves incorporating game-like elements into the customer experience and can include rewards, such as digital collectibles, as part of the game. I’ve found that rewards and gamification are two effective ways for companies to build brand engagement, drive growth, and build a strong foundation for success.
Community and connection
Companies can also foster customer loyalty by creating communities and connections by providing forums and other spaces where customers can interact with the brand. After years of fragmented communication, companies that cultivate a sense of community build stronger relationships and more loyal customers. Customers feel heard and understood when a brand actively seeks and responds to customer feedback. Companies can strengthen customer relationships by identifying and responding to customer needs, increasing trust, loyalty and engagement.
In addition to creating communities, companies can provide access to exclusive customer experiences such as products, services or events. Perhaps you can consider the burgeoning phygital arena where technology and reality coexist. By providing access to something not available to the general public, companies can create a sense of exclusivity and make customers feel unique and valued.
Build customer loyalty through a community program
While discounts and promotions may have worked in the past, I think it takes more now to build long-lasting customer relationships. When you create a community or membership around your brand, you can engage and reward your customers more directly. Try to build loyalty by prioritizing authentic engagement beyond just a transactional relationship. This is what I believe will ultimately drive growth and help you build a strong foundation for long-term success.