The New Loyalty: It’s Not (that) Complicated

The modern “marriage” between businesses and consumers – like modern marriage itself – is no longer a one-way street…but that doesn’t mean it’s gone.


Take a moment and imagine a stereotypical 1950s married couple: the husband returns home from his nine to five to be doted on by his wife, who’s made him a home-cooked meal. While many modern relationships still feature a stay-at-home spouse, what doesn’t sit well about the above scenario is that this binary relationship was inherent to marriage (plus, that meal likely involved some kind of jellied meat).

Likewise, “customer loyalty” was, until recently, a one-way street. Businesses would create their products and ship them into the world, and their loyal consumers would snap them up, seldom looking for alternatives or competing products. Legacy loyalty meant that families would pass down their affinities for certain brands, creating generations of Ford, Hellman’s or Air Canada customers.

What happened? For one, the idyllic economic times of the 1950s became a thing of the past. Suddenly budget-conscious shoppers sought out cheaper alternatives to their once-favourite brands. In fact, new brands representing the generic option started cropping up (we maintain that Canada’s No Name brand has had the most success in becoming a “non-brand brand”).

A second and more long-lasting change is that consumers have unbridled access to information. Before, comparison shopping involved a huge investment in time, and was limited to checking grocery store flyers against each other, or visiting multiple car dealerships or travel agents. Now, “compare” is a standard function on most big ecommerce sites, not to mention scores of pages and apps devoted to crawling the web and finding you the lowest possible price.

Price aside, information access has also led to breaches in loyalty simply because consumers want to be more knowledgeable about the things they’re buying. When that knowledge is negative and spreads like wildfire through social media, boycotts happen and the reverse is true: consumers become loyal to anything but your brand.

A lot of pundits attribute this shift to being generational: that a gig economy and widespread uncertainty have rendered millennials loyal to none. In reality, the opposite is true. A study hailed millennials as the most brand-loyal generation. Social media’s disruption of consumer loyalty is a net positive, largely because 43.5 per cent of millennials, as its most active users, are sharing information about their favourite products, services, and brands through social channels.

A content strategy built around establishing trust with your audience – as we’ve mentioned before – is one that younger consumers will be motivated to invest in and share with others for the long haul. Putting it back into marriage terms: if you think of your audience as an equal partner in what you’re trying to do together, they’ll never stray. In fact, you might even become one of those social media couples.

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