Consumers only feel true loyalty to three brands, Emarsys study finds

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The biggest challenge facing online consumer brands today is customer loyalty, as consumers give their hearts to just three brands and three-quarters (79%) prefer those that have a physical store, according to a new study by Emarsys, a leading provider of cloud-based marketing solutions.

The study reveals personalisation plays a vital role in building customer loyalty and trust for online-only brands, with 42% saying special or personalised treatment would keep them coming back.

Across the UK, e-shopping is frenetic – with a quarter of adults visiting brands online every single day and two-thirds doing so several times a week. Consumers are drawn by the flexibility of shopping anywhere and at any time (71%), the value of online reviews (34%) and the wide range of products available (32%). As a result, two-thirds (64 per cent) of those surveyed have bought something online in the previous three months.

Making the genuine customer connections that underpin long term sales success can prove challenging for online-only brands as 21% of consumers say a physical store is the best place to experience the style and personality of a brand, its service (25%), and advice, such as recommendations (21%), all key influencers of loyalty. Fortunately, these can be effectively recreated online using personalised communications and preferential treatment for regular customers.

“Our study shows that every consumer has a small group of brands they truly care about, and breaking into that group can be particularly challenging for online-only brands,” said Steven Ledgerwood, UK managing director of Emarsys.

“Consumers want a relationship with their favourite brands, and to be valued and understood. The key to achieving this for brands is personalisation. They need to make better use of the data customers share with them to target offers and ideas that are truly relevant. As well as offering the usual loyalty points and discounts, our survey found customers want preferential services for their loyalty (29%) and offers tailored around birthdays and anniversaries (33%). In our experience it’s this personalisation that keeps customers coming back, and repeat visits build loyalty and trust. That creates a virtuous circle of benefit for both consumer and brand. We know many online brands aren’t doing this, yet half of those consumers we spoke to say they will happily share more personal information with a brand they trust, enabling even greater personalisation.

“The business benefits of this are tangible. Two-thirds (65%) of those surveyed say they buy regularly from brands they trust, a quarter (27%) open all the communications received and one in 10 (11%) act on brand recommendations,” said Ledgerwood.

The sectors that inspire the greatest online brand loyalty are fashion (51% – rising to 64% for women); entertainment, such as games, books or films (27%); lifestyle, such as cookery (20%); music (19%); travel (18%); sports brands (15%); personal IT (14%); and sports activity (13%).