Is brand loyalty dead with millennials?
This question is setting off alarm bells in the retail space over the past few years as the concept that the same customers will keep returning to the same brand over and over again, whether because of cost, convenience, or mere consistency, fades away.
To remain competitive and relevant, brands need to adapt as consumer mindsets change. Millennials have a much different approach to brand loyalty and consumption – a company needs to align with their beliefs and values to earn their business.
Brand loyalty isn’t created overnight; it is a continuous journey. If brands haven’t already begun to recognize that millennials require an entirely different approach to doing business, they are already behind the eight ball.
Most importantly, is brand loyalty dead with millennials?
Marketing to millennials: 4 questions brands must answer
In 2016, I wrote about how I remain loyal to Starbucks regardless of their loyalty program. However, as I reflect on that now, I’m certain that’s the case with every retailer, whether it be consumer goods or food retail. As a millennial, I stay loyal to a few brands, but for the most part, I enjoy trying different things.
In this digital landscape where options are limitless, I choose the brands I patronize based on a few key items.
1. Does the brand align with my values and beliefs?
This is one of the most important things I, along with most millennials, look for in a company and brand. For example, if an individual consumer is invested in helping the environment and is opposed to animal testing, they are more likely to seek out brands that don’t test products on animals and whose products are biodegradable.
Similarly, if someone doesn’t want goods that are made internationally, they are willing to spend a little more on things made within the country that they call home. With infinite options, there’s a brand that fits with everyone’s values. Companies need to understand that not everyone will be loyal to their brand, and work with that instead of trying to cater to every single person.
2. Does the brand provide consistency?
Millennials tend to select brands that have a proven track record of consistency, whether it be food retailers serving the same quality food on a daily basis, or consumer goods companies providing impeccable customer service. This concept in itself has made me loyal to a few select brands.
For example, I buy my eyeliner only from Sephora. There are, of course, many eyeliner options in the market, but I choose Sephora because it’s reliable, not costly, and works for me. It’s simple to restock on my favorites, so I don’t spend time shopping around since I have already found something that meets my needs.
On the other hand, I enjoy trying different food retailers. Although Starbucks is my preferred caffeine fix, trying different coffee brands broadens my pallet. Brands need to provide consistency to keep customers happy, and also understand that’s not where the customer journey ends.
3. Does the brand innovate?
Innovation is key to not only keeping customers happy but also in keeping them loyal to your brand. A company that is always innovating keeps customers on their feet. Apple is a great example of this. Apple is the epitome of innovation, and it enjoys massive brand loyalty because the company is continually evolving and encouraging users to grow as well.
As I noted earlier, brand loyalty doesn’t happen overnight. Apple has been honing this art since 1976. According to Forbes, “By creating an emotional connection with its customers, Apple has done the near impossible – it has acquired a loyal following.” This is a true testament to emotional connection driving brand loyalty. Regardless of software updates or device crashes, Apple customers stay loyal because they believe in the values and power of Apple.
4. Does the brand provide an experience?
Finally, millennials seek experiences over goods. We want to form an emotional connection with the brand, whether it be happiness, calmness, love, or something else, and to experience something. A few weeks ago I went to the Harney and Sons tea shop in New York City. In addition to selling tea, they have a small coffee/tea shop in the back of the store. This creates an experience: Customers can not only purchase the tea, they can also savor the products while working or relaxing with friends in the shop.
As brands and organizations learn these lessons, millennials are disrupting the digital landscape. It will be interesting to see how companies keep up with change in their efforts to turn millennials into loyal brand customers.
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