How Evolving Consumer Preferences Have Changed the Meaning of Brand Perception & Loyalty
Brand building, development and advertising were once simple marketing methods. Brands regularly bought placements in tabloids and magazines, that were displayed at critical consumer interaction points. Some products and service providers had to create new marketing campaigns only for a couple months every year.
From an advertiser or marketing professional’s point of view, those were the simple old days of traditional marketing. Fast forward to 2019, and the world has come far in terms of its information consumption, interaction with its favorite brands, and the need for brands to pay inequitable attention to its consumers. The modern consumer gets their daily dose of information from YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. They rely on streaming services, such as YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime, for entertainment.
“Finding the ideal channel for your brand is critical in the new content-heavy marketing culture. You want a significant brand presence on the platforms your customers are using,” says Christy Ho, founder and managing director of Secret Weapon, a digital design and branding agency in New York City. One of the first things that every business must define is its target audience and most enterprises already have established customer profiles. However, in addition to fundamental demographic information such as age, sex and preferences, reaching out to the modern consumer requires an in-depth analysis of their political views, loyalty values and interaction with brands.
“The first task of a business is to define its ideal consumer, with as many details as possible. A company should know how their target audience spends time online, their favorite source of information and factors that affect brand perception, among other insights,” adds Christy.
It is essential to understand that these traits will differ from one generation to the next. Let’s take a cue from what Christy said. If you’re an online publication platform or boutique financial services provider targeting personal finance for Millennials and/or Gen Z, the first thing you should identify is what matters most to your audience when it comes to choosing your brand over the competition.
For instance, research indicates that Millennials put honesty and reliability as key factors when it comes to brand preferences. However, they prefer peer endorsements- such as trending mentions, comments and reviews left on business social media pages- over traditional channels. In fact, over a third of millennials prefer products and services that someone in their trust circle of friends have tried.
Millennials’ nepotism of social media has made it mandatory for an eCommerce brand to have a significant presence on these networks. This is evident from the finding that Millennials are 13% more likely to share new purchases on social media than Gen X. “It is crucial for companies to exploit viral social media marketing. Offering substantial discounts in exchange for reviews or demonstrating brand loyalty is an excellent strategy. But it needs to be genuine and organic because that’s how online trust is built. Remember, people are more hesitant and doubtful than ever before in their consumption and spending habits. The ability to easily access the internet has given us the capability to fact check information and to protect us from scams. Everyone questions most things these days, so people will see through a brand’s false exterior if their story and values are fabricated.”
She then continues, “If you can’t even craft a genuine jumping point in regards to your own brand, success and longevity will be almost impossible. Loosing the public’s trust is easy, but gaining it is a constant battle. You can always find companies running social media contests, generating hundreds of organic customer posts in the process. But coming back to honesty and reliability, authentic customer reviews can be used to indicate your commitment towards consistent user experiences and results. An original and successful method I’ve come up with involves creating short and captivating mini movies for the brand, that tells a universal story. In exchange for free products, users are asked to submit honest videos regarding their take on the brand’s products and how that ties into whatever universal story the brand is telling.
These clips are then interwoven into the mini movie, giving the audience a story that is true, helpful, informative, and engaging.”
The emotions and feel-good factor of a purchase are important to Millennials. A product or service that satisfies their logistical as well as emotional needs is more appealing to this specific generation. It’s a chance for brands to communicate to their customers that they’re on the same page. A “Buy One, Get One Free” offer or a small monetary charitable donation with every purchase increases brand loyalty for companies. Christy mentions that in addition to integrating these habits into their marketing, brands should “run relevant social media campaigns” as well. Similarly, adding a review badge or widget to your company website serves as an anchor in building trust and loyalty.
A report from The Balance identifies the key factors Millennials consider when it comes to brand loyalty. The reliability or durability of a product, quality of a product in relation to its price, positive interactions with customer support, and the availability of a product dominate Millennials’ decision to stick with a brand. At least 68% of Millennials have specific brand preferences when it comes to making new purchases. However, if required, they’re open to alternatives.
“The key is to understand that Millennials may have some preferential biases when it comes to choosing a brand, but they’re open to similar alternatives. This provides a fresh market that’s ready to consume,” adds Christy.
A part of attracting new customers is to build content that appeals to them. Millennials prefer brands that share their views and create relevant, personalized content. For every brand, consumer research must be an integral part of their content creation strategy, allowing for development of relevancy. Strategically created and placed content can trigger higher interactions with the target customer base, as well.
Research highlights that Millennials put a high value on experiences. A brand that creates memorable user experiences holds a better chance of retaining its customers and acquiring new ones. A classic example of this approach is Apple. Apple operates more than 271 stores in the US alone and over 506 stores across 24 countries. When you visit an Apple store, you don’t just look at an iPhone or Mac; you get to use one. You can see and physically feel the Apple product- the excitement is tangible. As a brand, you should aim at building similar experiences. While you cannot go opening stores all over the world to sell your products or services, you can, however, create a virtual reality experience for your potential users. If you are a gaming studio that creates VR games, providing a demo on your website goes a long way in acquiring new customers. You can set up occasional meetups around different cities or run webinars for existing players to improve brand retention and loyalty.
Another critical aspect of brand loyalty and management is customer retention. “Nothing can alienate consumers like bad customer support. Every enterprise places the utmost importance on its customer service, and so should you,” suggests Christy. According to Inc., poor customer service is one of the easiest ways to lose a customer and brand loyalty. As per reports, businesses lose over $75 billion in revenue because of poor customer service. NewVoiceMedia’s report, “Serial Switchers,” finds that brands’ inability to meet customer experiences is creating Serial Switchers at unprecedented rates; 67% of customers switch to a new brand because of below-average customer support. The report further highlights that in the case of poor customer experience, the customer not only compares your brand to your direct competition, but they evaluate your service against the best experiences they’ve had. In short, your competition just got a whole lot bigger.
“Being customer focused is the biggest part of brand success. No brand can afford to circumvent it or to falter in regards to customer support, especially in this current viral content era,” says Christy. As a brand, you should look at the positives of creating excellent customer experiences. NewVoiceMedia’s report highlights 66% of customers remain loyal to brands that provide excellent service. Additionally, roughly half of the customers would be happy to spend more, and another 65% would recommend your company to others. The easiest way to up your customer support game is to focus on factors that are responsible for bad customer experiences. NewVoiceMedia’s report puts a lack of appreciation at the top of the list, followed by receiving unsatisfactory answers from the customer representative, having an awkward or unpleasant conversation with customer support, having to talk to multiple people, and being put on hold for unreasonable lengths of time.
As the CEO or head of the customer retention for your brand, focus on eliminating these issues and motivate your customer service teams to create an emotional and relatable connection with the consumer. Understand that customers value honesty and reliability the most, especially true for Millennials, when it comes to brand interaction. Providing high-quality support within realistic time frames is crucial for keeping your audience satisfied.
“While the whole customer-centric approach might seem a little too much to traditional marketers, this should have been the method from the jump. Beyond the financial aspects, nothing motivates more than approval from others,” said Christy. With changing customer expectations and a plethora of options in front of us, creating a consistent brand identity is more important than ever before.
Implementing these strategies to create a consistent, engaging story for your brand can increase your business exponentially and help outperform your direct competitors.
However, the complex visual and emotional components that go into creating a brand identity can be difficult and overwhelming, and often businesses fall short because they aren’t experts in the field. The demand for crafting a better brand identity has given rise to full service branding agencies, like NYC based, Secret Weapon, that are hired to breathe new life into brands to help increase revenue, attract and retain consumers, and amplify awareness.
Check out Secret Weapon here: www.secweapon.com