A loyal customer will return to a brand, but an advocate will evangelize for your brand, sharing what makes your company so special to their family, friends, and colleagues.
What turns a customer into a brand fanatic? What makes them willing – even excited – to sport a brand’s name on their clothes?
How do you convert the kind of consumer who will tell their friends about your products and promote your brand in online communities?
Today, many of the world’s leading consumer products companies are focusing on customer retention and loyalty. Rather than pouring their efforts into adding new customers, they’re improving their relationships with existing ones. In return, these customers are showering their favorite brands with repeat purchases and referrals.
At this year’s SAP Customer Experience LIVE, I learned what companies such as IKEA and Levi Strauss & Co. are doing to turn customers into brand fanatics. I caught up with three CX experts on LinkedIn Live after the event to find out what they think brands can do realize their own customer experience superpowers.
IKEA: Trust creates brand fanatics
IKEA’s customers-turned-fans will wait months for a specific bookshelf to restock. Once it’s in stock, they might order two and tell all their friends to do the same. Then, after they’ve assembled the shelves, they’ll share photos of their renovated at-home office on social media – and tag IKEA in every one.
This transformation into a global furniture phenomenon with a cult-like following didn’t happen serendipitously. Rather, IKEA envisioned an outcome and worked backward from that goal to design a strategy for creating legions of loyal customers.
“It sounds trite, but there’s so many shiny baubles in our space, and so many people do something just to do it, or their success criteria is that they did X – had a sustainability program,” says Jason Goldberg, Chief Commerce Strategy Officer, Publicis. “It’s super interesting to hear IKEA say, ‘No, no, no –sustainability is about increasing customer trust and that’s how we measure it and it’s about improving operational efficiency.’”
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for creating a winning customer experience strategy. To that end, the right strategy depends entirely on what your company values and what your customers want.
However, across industries, it’s obvious that customers everywhere want to be valued. And quality and innovation are two important ways of showing customers you value them, increasing the chance that they’ll become brand fanatics.
What makes customer loyalty programs succeed? Create experiences that delight customers by speaking to their heart, soul, and head.
Levi’s: Innovation powers a lasting brand
The immense staying power of legendary brands like Levi’s doesn’t happen by chance. Despite a steady stream of new contenders entering the denim business, Levi’s remains a leader in a deeply saturated market thanks to a unique mix of quality and innovation. The company has survived 150 years of evolving fashion trends by providing the quality that customers have come to trust – and then innovating on top of that reputation.
For those of us not as active in the world of fashion, it might be hard to imagine how much innovating can be done to a pair of jeans. But innovation in any industry goes far beyond the product itself.
Kunle Campbell, host of the 2X eCommerce podcast, cited a Deloitte study that said sustainability is the second most important thing on consumers’ minds. Levi’s must have been listening when it launched its own secondhand shopping experience.
This innovative new way of buying secondhand – direct from the brand itself rather than from a thrift store or online consignment business – speaks volumes of Levi’s ability to adapt. Shoppers can browse a wide variety of preowned and vintage denim styles and even select the exact condition of denim they prefer: “mint,” “near mint,” and “worn and torn.” Levi’s also provides detailed notes on the product’s imperfections, a key part of the online consignment model.
Levi’s secondhand customer experience builds upon the benefits of traditional thrifting experience – sustainability chief among them. But it’s the company’s innovation that eliminates many of the inconveniences related to the thrifting model, such as having to rifle through racks clothes to find your size.
And that element of trust I mentioned earlier? Levi’s customers can now purchase secondhand clothes from a brand they trust rather than buying them from a stranger on a consignment site.
Sustainability and fashion appear to be on opposing catwalks destined for collision. Fashion is a $2.5 trillion industry, producing 10% of global carbon emissions, 20% of global wastewater, and vast biodiversity loss. Consumers are demanding change, forcing sustainability in fashion as a requirement, not a trend.
CX and brand fanatics in the metaverse
Brands that successfully bridge the divide between their physical and digital customer experiences have long been considered innovators. But what about brands that break down silos between multiple digital experiences? That’s what the metaverse is all about.
The metaverse represents a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent and shared experiences that span the vast expanse of our lives online. This term may remind many superhero fans of something called the multiverse – where alternate universes unfold based on slight changes in a hero’s reality.
Goldberg compared the superhero multiverse to the e-commerce metaverse.
“The decoupling of shopping experiences or customer experiences across all these touch points plays out in a very similar way,” he says. “Maybe the web can finally recreate that physical experience more accurately. Hopefully it can, but also, the way it evolves on the web may in fact be very different – because it’s the web – than it did in the physical version.”
Brands may hesitate to move entirely to the web because they don’t think they can replicate the in-store experience online. But that isn’t the point. After all, Levi’s didn’t set out to replicate the thrift store experience with its secondhand denim e-commerce. It took an existing experience and innovated on top of it to create something that met customers’ needs and drove loyalty.
When your company creates new experiences, wherever they are, it also creates the opportunity to uncover an unexpected strength – or dare I say, superpower.