Last updated: Customer loyalty vs. brand loyalty: Differences, stats, tips

Customer loyalty vs. brand loyalty: Differences, stats, tips


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Mom always bought Pepto Bismol for stomach problems, so the kids did too. Never mind that nobody knew what was in it, who made it, or if there were better alternatives. The kids were die-hard loyalists and would stick with the pink stuff — as long as the price wasn’t much higher than other tummy treatments.

Those same kids have a very different take on personal technology. They absolutely love the Apple brand and would utilize anything the company offered, whether it was the latest iPhone, Apple Pay options, or  Apple TV streaming service. It didn’t matter if competitors were matching or eclipsing the capabilities of Apple products. They just had a deep and unbreakable connection to all things Apple.

These split allegiances between specific products and overall emotions about brands highlight the distinction between customer loyalty vs brand loyalty.

Many marketers tend to lump customer and brand loyalty together as if they’re the same thing. But they aren’t – and failing to recognize the nuanced differences can undermine even the best marketing programs.

Distinguishing customer loyalty vs. brand loyalty

Customer loyalty is where consumers are comfortable enough with a product to keep buying it repeatedly.

Marketers often make the mistake of thinking this means they really, really like their company. But at the end of the day, the only things inspiring them to buy these products are familiarity, quality, and price or value, with the latter words being the operative drivers.

This suggests that if prices rise or the portions brands offer for the same price get smaller (ever notice how toilet paper rolls, bags of potato chips, and candy bars are shrinking?), customers will comparison shop for better deals.

Brand loyalty is all about creating personalized and meaningful experiences that create long-term connections between customers and companies they patronize.

Having brand loyalty doesn’t replace customer loyalty to specific products, but enhances it – a distinction many marketers misunderstand.

A statistical perspective on the distinction

Statistics help illustrate the difference between customer loyalty and brand loyalty.

According to a Brizfeel survey, price remains the top factor for making purchases online for 89% of consumers and is the main motivator for 89% of brick-and-mortar store shoppers. Similarly, 37% of consumers cite price as the most influential factor when selecting a merchant to patronize, according to a PYMTS and Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions study.

While price always remains a consideration for brand-loyal consumers, it becomes less so if they feel they’re getting what they need from a particular company. For instance, 42% of consumers in a recent Yotpo study say they would buy from a brand they’re loyal to even if there were cheaper competitors.

A recent Accenture global consumer survey indicates that companies will need to focus on building more brand loyalty. Between a global pandemic, rising inflation, and economic uncertainty, at least half are rethinking their personal purpose and re-evaluating what is important in their lives.

As part of that, 72% of those “reimagined” consumers want companies they do business with to understand and address their changing needs and preferences, the study found. If companies succeed in doing that, they can establish better brand loyalty.

What drives brand loyalty vs customer loyalty

Growing brand loyalty should be a major goal of every marketing department. Why? Because it creates competitive advantage. It leads to repeat purchases of products and services across portfolios (as opposed to one or two items within it). And it stimulates higher, more sustainable sales and profits.

What drives customers to become brand loyal? For one thing, 82% of shoppers in a Consumer Goods survey say they a brand’s values to align with their own – and they’ll vote with their wallets if they do not. That means they tend to be loyal to brands that share similar political, social, or environmental ideologies.

Consider these statistics:

  1. 66% of consumer goods survey respondents seek out eco-friendly brands
  2. 55% would pay more for sustainable products
  3. If there’s a values mismatch, 39% of shoppers would permanently boycott their favorite brand
  4. 28% would share concerns about a brand with family and friends, and 24% might break ties, at least temporarily

How to boost brand loyalty

To become brand loyal, shoppers look for brands that put their needs ahead of their own. This means that instead of driving toward specific sales targets, they do everything possible to drive customer lifetime value (CLV) by considering the entire customer journey rather than one or disconnected parts of it. They prioritize:

  • Omnichannel experiences. The customer has consistent, positive experiences everywhere they touch a brand, whether in a physical store, a website, or a social media channel
  • Personalized experiences. Brands use customer data, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) to glean insights and accurately predict and address their needs. So long as it doesn’t get too creepy, consumers are willing to trade a little privacy for this level of service and support. And that can lead to bottom-line improvement. In fact, companies that provide great customer experience grow revenues at 4% to 8% above their markets, according to Bain and Company
  • Appreciation experiences. It shouldn’t surprise marketers that consumers like the best rewards programs, which are typically more about a brand’s portfolio than specific products. Such programs don’t always provide that much payoff (a cup of coffee or scone now and then), but giving back forges bonds with consumers. What’s more, they don’t even have to be free programs to succeed. In fact, a 2020 McKinsey survey found paid loyalty program members are 60% more likely to spend on a brand after subscribing

Understanding the differences between customer and brand loyalty is critical for modern marketing success. The distinctions between the two are fuzzy and will always overlap. But with campaigns more accurately aligned to each emotion, brands can achieve more lifelong and lucrative consumer connections.

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