Consumer Loyalty has long been measured in terms of transactions: customers who spend more and spend frequently are seen as the most valuable and loyal customers. Top retailers identify these loyal customers to encourage them to buy more and more often. This relationship is a 1:1 relationship between a retailer and a single consumer and is one directional, from the retailer to the consumer.
Engagement-based loyalty allows retailers and manufacturers to reach thousands of consumers during their purchase decision journey. This post describes how to build engagement-based loyalty through an authentic relationship with consumers. Learn more in our recent on demand webinar with PowerReviews CEO Matt Moog.
- The Buying Journey is a Maze, not a Funnel
According to Forrester, “today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to the vendor” — and this is true for both B2C and B2B. The sales funnel has transformed itself into a maze with multiple touch-points, and the most trusted and the most impactful are user generated.
- Rethink Loyalty to Survive and Thrive
A shifting competitive landscape — with retailers becoming manufacturers, manufacturers becoming retailers, and retailers and brands alike vying for consumer attention, trust and spend as they compete with Amazon, Walmart, and Google — is forcing brands and retailers to rethink how they engage with customers.Forward looking brands and retailers are redefining loyalty in order to build awareness and engagement among many consumers throughout the maze-like purchase decision journey. And brands are looking for ways to engage directly with consumers, while strengthening their relationship with retailers.
- Consumer Expectations are Changing
Consumers trust other consumers nearly as much as they do family members and more than they trust editorial content in publications (Pew Research Center Study) so it’s no surprise that ratings and reviews are used not only for restaurants, hotels, electronics, and toys, but also for taxis, employers, and even healthcare providers. Consumers expect on demand information and they demand transparency in all facets of their life.
- Authentic Content Drives Trust
Having visibility to positive and negative reviews, user-contributed images, and the ability to ask and answer questions– the ability to engage openly with other consumers– helps build trust among a consumer community. Consumers now trust each other enough to select child care providers online. Sittercity.com is an online service that matches parents with sitters, and has built its business on the foundation of consumer trust, connecting a family with a caregiver every three seconds.
- Authentic Content Converts Consumers from Browsers to Buyers to Sellers
Generating a solid collection of authentic reviews — negative and positive — and allowing consumers to answer questions from their fellow consumers is a proven tool for improving search results and increasing conversions. But user generated content including ratings and reviews has the potential to not only convert browsers to buyers, but also to promote buyers into your most effective sales force brand advocates.
- Create a Loyalty Platform for your Advocates
Traditional loyalty programs build loyalty one consumer at a time. Social loyalty programs identify and reward consumers who contribute reviews and images and share them with their friends, building a loyalty network. Consumers earn points and badges by contributing reviews. Leaderboards recognize and encourage the biggest contributors.By focusing on social loyalty programs, brands and retailers identify their most loyal consumers and amplify the voices of these advocates to extend their reach, allowing them to advocate on behalf of their favorite brands. This advocacy network becomes a valuable asset to be mined for many other uses. For example, Amazon’s Vine program not only recognizes their elite contributors, but also allows brands to send samples to advocates who will in turn write more reviews.
- Real Time Feedback Improves Products and Services
While surveys and focus groups help companies collect useful information, they don’t directly improve improve service, nor do they create brand advocates. User generated content — including ratings and reviews and social media — are helping airlines like Delta and American provide real-time customer service and create vocal brand advocates in the process. Netflix uses ratings to improve the suggestions it offers its consumers. Forward thinking manufacturers regularly analyze ratings and reviews to make product improvements much more quickly than they ever could before. And retailers use reviews to improve merchandise mix both online and in stores.
- Ratings and Reviews Power a Virtuous Cycle
Ratings and Reviews and Q&A are unique among user generated content in that they engage consumers at the moment of purchase and they help amplify the voice of loyal consumers. It’s a Virtuous Cycle: more reviews drive more transactions, which drive more reviews. More reviews drive improved products and services, which drives more transactions.