Does brand loyalty exist online? I mean, sure it does, in some manner, but is loyalty less effective when your audience has access to the endless information, accurate or not, about your brand online?
In the race for manufacturers and brands to undercut costs online, consumers have become more accustomed to the real-world value of their purchases instead of the perceived value of a brand. According to a recent Ernst & Young study, only 25 percent of Americans say brand loyalty affects their actual purchases.
Additionally, an AisleBuyer study found that 75 percent of consumers would switch brands if offered real-time discounts delivered to their phones while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store.
So where does brand loyalty exist?
Loyalty from Community
From Twitter and Yelp!, to Amazon and Google Reviews, to a personal blog, people expect to be a part of the discussion of your brand, and often communities will pop up around shared interests, like the competing I Love Apple and I Hate Apple Facebook pages.
Connecting and engaging these communities that exist on a brand level (Apple) or an industry level (technology), creates a connection between the positive feelings the audience has about your products and the actual brand behind the scenes.
Loyalty from Channels
Your audience is everywhere; you should be everywhere, too. Take advantage of people who are dedicated to a channel and spend their time there (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn) by providing the content they want to see in that space.
You need to find out where your target audience is – which is done through lots of data and market research – but once you do so, tailor your content to better suit that channel and begin to connect and create loyalty.
It should be noted that an omni-channel approach to content marketing not only increases reach by messaging to a scattered digital audience but also protects your strategy by not being tied to a single channel. If Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest or Vine disappeared tomorrow, a content-centered marketing approach (instead of a channel-centered one) can adapt on the fly.
Loyalty from Content
In the end, it’s all about content. Knowing what, when and how to present your message to your audience is vital. Creating brand loyalty through content is done the same way you create loyalty in a human-to-human relationship: find common interests, engage, respond, share stories and provide value. Content can do all of those things if done correctly and with the primary focus on what the audience wants, not what you want them to do.