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Customer Loyalty Isn't Just a 'Marketing Thing'

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The growth of social media and the emergence of the sharing economy mean marketers need to collaborate with customers. The Mad Men days of rolling out clever advertising campaigns and watching sales grow are gone. The brands that win today do not simply broadcast to customers—they engage with them.

In today's new consumer landscape, companies need to rethink brand loyalty and its ownership.

Here are three reasons why loyalty isn't just a "marketing" thing.
1. A shift is taking place within marketing

Traditionally, the effectiveness of marketing teams has been closely tied to customer loyalty key performance indicators (KPIs). But keep in mind that teams will focus on what's worth measuring. Legacy loyalty metrics, which are used to measure marketing success, encourage teams to be too focused on driving existing messages home—rather than finding out what customers are looking for and understanding what resonates best with the target audience.

Marketing teams can provide the most value not by trying to influence brand loyalty but by helping drive innovation. CMOs (chief marketing officers) like me need to flip innovation on its head and empower brands to engage customers, getting a better understanding of their needs, concerns, and future wants. That shift within marketing—a move from broadcasting to collaboration—can eventually result in true brand loyalty without focusing on the wrong dynamic.

2. Multiple touchpoints exist in the customer journey

How people buy has never been more complex. Research shows that 73% of consumers agree that the journey to their final purchase is less direct than before. Moreover, our own investigation shows that the paths to purchase differ by category shopped—with gender, age, store shopped, and other variables further complicating the processes within each category.

Given that complex path to purchase, marketing is just one of the many points of contact in the customer journey. To drive loyalty, brands need to provide a great experience at each opportunity, not just when they come in direct contact with marketing. Instead of putting the pressure on marketing to drive loyalty metrics, brands should go beyond creating transactions and provide enjoyable customer experiences that build relationships at every touchpoint.

3. Brand is everyone's responsibility

Data and trends alike show that customer loyalty is in decline. Many customers won't hesitate to move their business to whoever is offering the latest Groupon or to book with Airbnb instead of a well-known hotel.

While brands scramble to reverse that decline in loyalty, consumers often look for companies that are not only good for their customers and employees but also for society. That's why a new marketing campaign alone cannot solve a loyalty problem; the problem lies on a deeper level. Brand trust is more than just about a great product, an affordable price, or a successful promotional strategy.

To win the hearts and wallets of customers, an entire organization should know and exemplify the company's unique value proposition. My fellow CMOs can help drive brand loyalty by communicating a clear vision of the value their company has to offer. It will take the rest of the C-suite and other leaders in the organization to translate the company's vision for employees and customers.

* * *

The battle to win brand loyalty will only intensify in 2014 as emerging trends, such as wearable technology and Internet-connected gadgets and appliances, hit mainstream. Consumers want brands to listen—and those new technologies will continue to empower people to share. As consumer buying habits shift with those technological changes, marketing teams can assume their rightful role in the customer relationship lifecycle, listen to the customer voice earlier in the innovation process, and provide more value once CMOs and CEOs stop viewing customer loyalty as marketing's problem alone.

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Tyler Douglas is CMO of Vision Critical.

LinkedIn: Tyler Douglas

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