How Companies Initiate Long-Term Loyalty With Brand CommunitiesAdd bookmark
Customers are now looking for experiences that go beyond just simplicity. While everyone still appreciates a seamless, intuitive purchasing process, many are seeking out brands that encourage a greater sense of community and belonging in the isolated COVID-19 era.
Forbes Council Member Andrew Bateman recently highlighted the growing trend of community-based marketing and brand identities as a tool to build loyalty apart from structured and transactional rewards programs.
Rather than prioritizing loyalty programs that encourage temporary ‘sugar-hit’ repeat purchases, he urges brands to focus on more meaningful relationship-based strategy to facilitate long-term loyalty. To achieve this, he outlines community standards of family, values, lifestyle, work, and interest, and notes that brands should base their product and customer journeys on input from these established communities for a more personalized end-to-end experience.
The community-based approach is appealing; as customers have spent a year at home, it makes sense that they desire a more engaging, social experience. But brands are still lagging on their implementation; CCW Digital research found that only 16% of customers describe themselves as very satisfied with customer communities. And yet, there is still a large demographic of individuals interacting on online communities, according to a recent Facebook study, 77% of respondents noted that the most important group they are currently a part of now operates online.
With so many people utilizing online communities, there is a clear opportunity for brands to grow their outlets for customer collaboration and interaction. Here are two examples of brands working to establish genuine customer relationships through shared values and community:
Peloton Brands Community as a Service
When discussing brand communities, it would be remiss not to mention Peloton. Although the home workout equipment company has endured more than a few challenges recently, its commitment to community-building and emphasis on shared workout experiences has led the brand to acquire an extremely active fanbase.
The company’s focus on fostering community has paid off, and during the height of the pandemic, Peloton actually halted its marketing efforts altogether. The brand paused cancellable advertising in most major markets last march due to both an increased demand for at-home fitness and a successful word-of-mouth marketing strategy.
Peloton boasts an incredibly vocal and involved customer base; with its intention of bringing the group fitness experience home, it ended up building an active community that shares the same goals and values. The platform allows users to form their own groups like ‘Working Mom’s of Peloton’, share hashtags and high fives, and even video call other users.
This level of community is now ultimately part of Peloton’s overall mission — although it may have started as a group workout alternative, its unique selling point is really the social and communal-based experience. Therefore, Peloton’s customer community now acts more as a service and an intrinsic piece of the entire experience, rather than an added bonus. While this kind of community may be a bit more difficult to form, including elements that promote greater interaction between customers may help build a more engaged and active fanbase.
Patagonia Maintains a Consistent Perspective
Since the pandemic began, customers have become much more aware of the brands they shop from. As individuals were spending more time online, they also started to more actively research and investigate the products or companies they most frequently interact with.
Brands that promote a clear and authentic perspective benefitted from this more skeptical consumer. Additionally, companies that may have veered from their brand position are now becoming more purposeful with their priorities and overall messaging strategy.
Patagonia recently announced it would no longer embroider corporate logos on its products. The clothing company has long been a proponent of sustainable fashion — it even offers to repair products for customers to avoid replacements — and this new initiative marks a positive step towards that mission. The company stated that the policy change argues that corporate logos effectively reduce the lifespan of a garment because the owner is less likely to pass it on, or continue to wear it if they leave the company.
This new policy represents an effort to establish and uphold a clear brand perspective. Patagonia is focused on offering sustainable products and is taking notable steps to improve its carbon footprint. This dedication is admirable, and it gives customers values to connect with. Customers that wear or purchase Patagonia products know they are supporting a company that shares their same worldview — which is key in establishing a shared community.