Marketers are constantly vying for customers’ attention but how long does it really take to secure brand commitment?

The answer is: too long.

There are certainly no ‘quick fixes’ but there are some ways to overcome this. Brands need to focus on better understanding the customer journey to accelerate brand commitment and advocacy.

Looking at the facts can help marketers reach their goals in this area.

As remarkable as it sounds, our latest research shows that brands now need to nurture customers for at least two years before securing that essential commitment that drives true loyalty. And it’s not as easy as waiting for a customer to reach that particular moment in time. Over that two-year period, marketers need to devote the first year to building trust and the second year to strengthening the relationship. After the initial nurture time, brands reach what we call the ‘relationship tipping point’ – this is when trust matures into a strong relationship and signifies when customers first show commitment to a brand. The first two years are therefore critical.

But, it doesn’t stop there. We also found that the biggest incremental change in customer spend happens even further down the road – at the 5+ years stage. Similar to the relationship tipping point, what we call the ‘revenue tipping point’ occurs when the revenue value of a customer increases dramatically relative to a brand’s investment in that customer. I’m talking about the intersection in the customer journey of brand trust, relationship and spend – and it takes at least half a decade to get there.

In today’s business environment, that much time can be an eternity. But there are steps you can take to accelerate customer progression to ‘the tipping point’.

More specifically, our research shows that in order for marketers to be successful in moving buyers along the customer journey, there three key elements.

Here are my top tips on where they need to focus their attention –

1. Effectively build customer trust and commitment:

You can only do this if you start understanding the critical factors that drive customer commitment and look at how to best fulfill the emotional needs for your customers. Successfully promoting your brand identity is a complex process that includes company ethics, transparency and the ability to efficiently and effectively deliver on your brand promise. Getting this right is essential to building trust.

2. Meet functional needs to improve the customer experience:

The customer experience you deliver must reflect the brand promise you establish in Step 1 – and it must be relevant, ongoing, consistent, meaningful and mutually-rewarding. To accomplish all that, you’ll need to develop an integrated omni-channel experience. You’ll need to use customer data deliberately so you can deliver messages that are reliable, considerate and relevant. For example, our study shows that customers have varying preferences for each channel.

The closer a channel is to a generation; the more critical that channel is to brand commitment for that segment of customers. And this differs by region. In Europe, for example, older Millennials have embraced Pinterest and younger Millennials prefer brands with online communities like branded Facebook pages and prefer to engage across social platforms. Once you do start using the channels that are most relevant to your key audiences, you’ll start building the kind of credibility that matures into brand loyalty.

3. Enable customer momentum by delivering a ‘frictionless’ customer journey:

The omni-channel experience you offer must include a variety of on- and off-line channels so customers can start, stop, rejoin and even, jump engagement levels. We now have the ability to create and target ‘content in context,’ which means content will truly have the ability to find the customer. This will allow them to carve out their own highly individualised paths to purchase – creating more loyalty. Providing customers with a seamless customer experience, no matter who they are, helps to build a community around your brand.

We’ve found that when brands routinely fulfill all three steps above, ROI improves significantly. Think of it as a three-way street – ROI comes at the intersection of a customer’s journey, experience and commitment. The real payoff is an exceptional brand experience. Our data tells us that a committed customer spends 1.5 times more, on average, than a customer who is not engaged. The most successful and preferred brands globally are those that fully understand these connections. They know that building trust is fundamental to securing a committed brand relationship.

**These findings are from a global survey of consumers to understand what drives customer brand commitment, and ultimately revenue. The survey was conducted in March through May 2014 and covered 6 continents, 9 markets, 5 languages and across 4 generations of consumers. Find out more here


By Paige O’Neill, CMO at SDL

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