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Adapting to a New Reality: Building Emotional Connections That Retain Loyal Customers

Has retail reached a turning point?

Since COVID-19 hit the U.S. earlier this year and continues to wreak havoc in various parts of the country, many retailers are not only struggling, but closing their doors permanently.

This leaves companies searching for answers.

How do you know what is best for your company to thrive in this strange new retail life?

The answer can be found by looking to your customers.

Your loyal customers will help your company survive and prosper.

But, with unlimited choices at the tips of their fingers, how can you appeal to today’s consumers?

Here’s what you need to know to help better engage your customers and retain them through your brand appeal and product selection.


Consumers Are Searching for Emotional Connections from Brands

While the pandemic has turned retail shopping upside down, adapting to the “new normal” is crucial to the survival of all companies.

Now more than ever, customers are looking for emotional connections from brands, along with enjoyable shopping experiences that keep them coming back.

As a consumer who frequently shops online, when I make a purchase, I follow a thought process shared by others.

Initially having a need for an item is the first step, but from there comes the decision on where to buy it.

While price is always important, in recent months other factors have entered the decision-making process.

I want to know that where I’m buying not only cares about my purchase but will take care of me as a customer.

Amazon would have been my top contender, but with most of my purchases taking about a month to arrive, I looked at other companies to see if they could do better.

That is when I found Walmart.

Walmart has become my go-to shopping destination during this pandemic. Walmart is sanitary with its products and strictly follows protocols.

Also, Walmart provides free delivery or free curbside pickup for customers who do not feel comfortable going inside.

After your purchase, they follow up and ask if you enjoy your product and truly care about the experience that you had.

This type of customer service is the reason I continue to shop there since I know that Walmart cherishes my loyalty and makes each purchase more meaningful.

Especially with Walmart+ being released soon that provides exclusive benefits like Amazon Prime, Walmart will be receiving more business from me in the future.

But not all retailers have the same resources as Walmart. What about the brands that are smaller?


Are You Engaging Your Customers the Right Way?

While other companies use tactics like Walmart, what is preventing them from succeeding?

The reason is they’re not engaging their customers correctly.

COVID-19 has profoundly impacted consumer behavior where convenience is paramount, and shoppers will travel to stores that meet that expectation.

This scenario begs the question: How can a brand be successful in a time it’s most vulnerable?

Consumers say that companies aren’t doing enough to earn their loyalty.

Retailers need to ask: What can we do?

The key to success is engaging customers with loyalty.

Traditional programs that offer points and rewards don’t satisfy consumers anymore. They are looking for something more that engages them in an emotional way.

Many different companies have already adapted to this lifestyle.

Take Sephora, for example.

Sephora is at the forefront of loyalty and customer engagement.

After the pandemic forced consumers into their homes and many stores to close, Sephora took the initiative to promote through its Beauty Insider loyalty program.

The company began giving members opportunities to collect cash from points in times where money was tight and donate to current movements around the country.

Being there as a brand for your customers is always crucial, but especially during a time of grave uncertainty because customers seek those strong emotional connections.

Another aspect of Sephora’s program focuses on the makeovers and tutorials that members receive.

These benefits not only are fitting for Sephora’s customers, but show that company officials truly care by offering these exclusive benefits.

By creating a loyalty program, your company can create a distinction between you and your competition in the marketplace.

As a company, how do you provide an emotional connection, experiential benefits, and a beneficial program to consumers like Sephora?

Philanthropy and core messaging are vital in sparking engagement.

How does your company increase emotional benefits?


Make Sure Your Program Truly Benefits Your Members

While emotional loyalty is important, creating a program that provides relevant and engaging benefits for the customer is critical.

Consumers aren’t interested in simple rewards programs anymore.

They’re looking for more and are incentivized by activities and benefits they can use.

Our 2020 Premium Loyalty Data Study also shows 40% of consumers expect immediate benefits if they are a part of a premium loyalty program.

Lululemon’s new premium loyalty program is an example of what customers are looking for.

For an annual $128 fee, members can take yoga classes, receive exclusive offers, and get free shipping on all products.

This satisfies consumers’ expectations as they’re willing to pay for the benefits they exclusively receive.

According to the  2020 Premium Loyalty Data Study, 89% of consumers said they would recommend a brand to family or friends if they are happy with the special benefits offered by the program.

Creating these programs not only engages your current customers but gives your company a competitive edge.

Providing meaningful benefits, along with emotional ties to your brand, gives companies a leg up during the purchasing decision process.

Consumers gravitate toward convenience and what they want instead of price and other important factors.


Changing the Narrative and Adapting to a New World

Like Lululemon and Sephora, many other companies have already adapted to this new lifestyle and are thriving in this difficult time.

During a time of struggle and failure, they changed the narrative and found success.

So why can’t you?

This is the time to change and adapt to this new world that we are living in.

Focusing on the customer is the only way to survive in the retail world.

Retention has never been more important to the lifeblood of a company and its loyalty program.

Customers are looking for companies that will provide them emotional, experiential, and beneficial assets.

How will you utilize loyalty to show your customers how much you appreciate them?

Amanda Whalen

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ebbo™ is an all-in-one loyalty company. With our data driven strategy, full-service approach, and the unwavering support of the people behind the platform, our dedicated team will work with you to understand your loyalty goals, innovate solutions and help you build customer engagement on repeat.

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