At content marketing's core, it seeks to build expertise and trust by informing and assisting people within one's target audience.
My company, Access Development, sought to build something of value to our target audience—professionals in customer engagement and retention. It's an area with a lot of voices and conflicting opinions. What works for one company may flop for another.
We decided that one of the best ways we could assist this crowded industry is to become a hub of engagement and loyalty data from across the US.
So, for the last three years, we've tracked and recorded every publicly available piece of data we could find regarding customer engagement and loyalty. All of it can be found in what we call the Ultimate Collection of Loyalty Statistics.
There are well over 500 data points on the page, much of it conflicting. It's all third-party research, which can be sloppy and biased. Our job is to present the information, not necessarily to make judgments on what is and isn't useful.
But after poring over hundreds of white papers, press releases, ebooks, infographics, and even scholarly journals, we noticed some overarching themes in customer engagement and loyalty.
There isn't much hard science that applies to loyalty, but here are three big themes almost all the data seems to agree on.
1. Brand loyalty is on the decline
People are becoming less inclined to stick with a brand. Here are some stats from the collection (with links to original sources):
- Just 25% of US consumers consider brand loyalty as something that impacts their buying behavior. (Ernst & Young)
- Only 27% of consumers see brand loyalty as important. (The Marketing Store)
- 28% of consumers are loyal to their providers and brands. (Accenture)
- 78% of consumers are not loyal to a particular brand. (Nielsen)
There is a temptation to pin this on the economy or the wide adoption of ecommerce. There's even a temptation to lay the blame on Millennials, who are notoriously fidgety with brands (unless you ask them)...
- 44% of Millennials say they are loyal to brands they buy, and 52% will choose quality over price. (IRI)
- 60% of Millennials said that they are often or always loyal to brands that they currently purchase. (Elite Daily)
- 55% of Millennials claim to be more brand loyal today, compared to 39% of consumers in the 35-and-older group. (Marketing Executives Networking Group)
2. There isn't much consensus on what inspires brand loyalty
Customer loyalty isn't a science. There isn't a formula. In many ways, it differs from customer to customer and can't even be roughly generalized. To be fair, even the meaning of "loyalty" is up for debate.
That being said, some companies have produced research regarding why people stick with or churn from certain brands:
- 52% of consumers have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service. (Accenture)
- 15% of shoppers would give a brand or product a second chance after a poor experience. (InReality)
- 73% of consumers cite price and value as the leading factor that determined brand loyalty. (Support.com)
- 49% of consumers will gladly switch brands for a coupon. (GfK)
- 37% of consumers who ended a business relationship did so because they were frustrated with the IVR. (24/7)
- 73% of Millennials are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies dedicated to social and environmental change. (Nielsen)
- Top three reasons consumers switch brands: cheaper pricing (31%), rude staff (18%), and too many mistakes (16%). (Verint)
- 97% of consumers said they are somewhat likely to become more loyal to a company that implements their feedback. (Apptentive)
3. Loyalty programs are on the rise—sort of
The gut reaction for many businesses wanting to build customer loyalty is to turn to a loyalty program. Customers are nuts over loyalty programs, whether a simple punch card or an elaborate points scheme.
- There are 3.3 billion loyalty program memberships in the US, an average of 29 per household. (Colloquy)
- Consumers belong to an average of 13.4 loyalty programs. (Bond)
- 83% of consumers say they belong to a loyalty program. (DailyBreak)
- 75% belong to up to 10 loyalty programs. (Cognizant)
- American consumers are members of 10 loyalty programs on average. (The Marketing Store)
- 87% of consumers want a customer loyalty program. (Talech)
- 89% of shoppers currently participate in some type of loyalty/reward program. (General Mills)
- 69% of Millennials belong to a retail loyalty program. (Blackhawk Network)
People love the idea that every dollar they spend with a brand is building up to some sort of reward. Of course, their enthusiasm and willingness to sign up is quickly dampened... Most research shows that people are active in less than half of the programs they've joined:
- Of the total membership in loyalty programs, 58% don't actively participate in those memberships. (Colloquy)
- Despite the increase in average enrollments, the average number of programs in which members are active has decreased from 7.8 to 6.7. (Bond)
- The average household in the US actively uses 44% of enrolled loyalty programs. (Capgemini)
- 35% of points program members redeem awards. (Forrester)
- Over 20% of loyalty program members have never made a redemption. (Bond)
Stats vs. reality
Unfortunately, a collection of stats can only offer so much guidance. The data can be inspiring, but earning customer loyalty is far less specific. It's guided in large part by what customers want—which is usually a great product or service experience at a fair price.
That experience might involve a loyalty program, highly responsive customer support, backing environmental causes, or anything else you want to build your brand around.
What matters is the effort. No company has ever been worse off for trying to be more engaging and responsive to customer needs.
As we say on frequently on our blog, every industry is ripe for disruption from a company willing to do whatever it takes to help customers reach their goals.
And if you happen to produce some research around your engagement and loyalty efforts that you want to share, we'll gladly add it to our collection.