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Devotion Redefined

Are you trying to hook the consumer into becoming loyal to your brand? Maybe you need to reinvent your strategies.

Are you trying to hook the consumer into becoming loyal to your brand? Maybe you need to reinvent your strategies.

As a luxury brand you have attracted the correct kind of consumer and gotten him or her to strut to the payment counter. The question is that will you ever see him/her again? You would want to make a loyal consumer out of that one-off purchase and hope that word of mouth will cause footfalls and, of course, more awareness resulting in higher sales. Most brands indulge in going the extra step, adding a dash of personalisation and frequent correspondence, but at the end of it you need to step back and think, is it enough? From the consumer point of view, freshness and high quality is what you are constantly looking for. but can you get all of that from one brand over a period of time?

Luxury marketers today face an increasingly defiant consumer, who is less likely to splurge, and is increasingly getting immune to advertising focused on representation and reputation.  "The fact is today’s affluent consumer is less likely to give a new brand a chance," says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and author of the book Shopping:  Why We Love It and How Retailers Can Create the Ultimate Customer Experience. "It is in tough times like these where marketers are rewarded for their investment in brand loyalty programs. A brand loyal customer is one who buys your brand more frequently and spends more when they do," Danziger explains. Truly said, it is a tough spot that brands and consumers are put in today, with a simple answer which not many can figure it out.

Customer is king
Luxury brand loyalty marketing is specifically concerned with building faithfulness to luxury brands as opposed to simply raising brand awareness. There is little point in building brand awareness if customers don’t return to buy the products again. Therefore, instilling loyalty, of any kind, is of chief importance. But that does not mean that brand awareness does not have its own importance in the mind of the consumer. If one were to be observant, it would be noticed that over the recent years, luxury brand loyalty has decreased among global consumers. With more choices and rise in awareness, consumers today are spoilt to the t and they are considerably less loyal on an averageas compared to previous generations. In the 1970s and 1980s, groups of customers were consistently loyal to certain luxury brands that they felt they could identify with, but today, consumers like to communicate themselves in as many ways as possible. A consumer is now less likely to rely on luxury brand names which are simply ‘trusted’, and will shop around. Then how do luxury brands survive? It is essential that brands understand this, and yet attempt at building brand awareness and eventually brand loyalty, which will enable the brand to grow and sustain.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) initiatives have begun to noticeably pay off for luxury brands, but retention happens to be a major problem area for most brands today. What happens to be the cookie that attracts the consumers back to their favoured brands time and again so effortlessly? Essentially so, luxury branding and marketing has become an integral part of the customer loyalty game and surprisingly enough, the rules haven’t changed! The mindset of a luxury consumer, whether Indian or international hasn’t changed, and attention along with understanding seem to reign in any consumer’s hearts.

Follow my lead
With the above in mind, luxury brands have habitually been coupled with the core competences of creativity, exclusivity, high quality, innovation and premium pricing. The result? The consumer has the satisfaction of not only owning pricey items, but enjoying the extra-added psychological benefits like esteem, prestige and a sense of a high status that could serve as a reminder, however subtle today, that they belong to an exclusive group. Targeting the top end of the opulence spectrum, this group of people thrive on affluence and thus it isn’t shocking to see that some luxury brands do have customer loyalty.

Have you noticed how big ticket brands like Vuitton, Cartier or Prada have never been affected by trends as such? Simply put, these brands enjoy the status of being a prized possession and being literally ‘evergreen’. This results from the sheer understanding of the concept of customer loyalty. To be successful in India, it is both necessary to gauge the financial potential, as well as the mindset of the Indian luxury consumer. This will help in bringing forth the right product offerings to the targeted Indian consumer, eventually leading to happy brands and happy consumers!

Customer loyalty is widely received as being worth fostering, but what are the main business factors that directly influence the loyalty of your customers? Your core offering, satisfaction at every step, demographics and the power of the wallet. But of course, along the way you will learn that what works for others will not work for you.

Building blocks
It is important that your consumers understand that you care and that the loyalty program is easy and beneficial. The marketing adage, that says it takes three to four times as much money to find a new customer as it does to keep an existing one, has been proven time again. It’s time you get to work! A good luxury loyalty program according should increase sales, reward the consumer for being loyal and thereby elevate your brand and most importantly, understand your consumer’s needs!

According to an article on techtarget.com, some luxury brands don’t need loyalty programs, but play their cards in a unique way. Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons, for instance, don’t have loyalty programs and don’t feel they need one (Ritz-Carlton guests can, though, tap into the Marriott Rewards program). They rely on providing top-end, differentiated guest experiences. Porsche and Jaguar don’t have loyalty programs. Instead, they emphasize the lifestyle and experience associated with owning their vehicles. Neiman Marcus has the ‘InCircle’ loyalty program, which is built on superior service, information, special offers and exclusivity, such as customer-only events. Tiffany & Company and Gucci don’t have customer loyalty programs (although Gucci is part of American Express’ Platinum Rewards cardholder program). So, perhaps the best recommendation is to identify, through targeted qualitative or quantitative research, what your customers would find differentiating and valuable, and offer it.

It all boils down to how well you know your consumer and understand their needs in order to keep them coming back for more. My only advice, keep your eyes and ears open and keep your consumers smiling!

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