Customer Loyalty is Broken (But Not Dead)

If you follow sports at all, you know (and probably loathe) the fairweather fan. You know, the person whose favorite teams tend to closely resemble whoever has been winning championships lately. Despite living nowhere near Seattle or Boston they're replacing a Patriots bumper sticker with a Seahawks one, and swiftly listing their Miami Heat jerseys on eBay in hopes of acquiring some Spurs or Cavaliers gear.

Yeah, that person.

When it comes to sports, no one likes a bandwagon fan.

When it comes to spending money, we are all bandwagon buyers.

Access Development's Dave Bona is part of the Summer School "faculty" today, presenting to 200 or so finance, retail, and payments executives on the topic of, "Is Loyalty Broken?"

Here's a spoiler of his presentation: Yes, customer loyalty is broken.

Take a scan through our collection of loyalty stats and it'll become clear pretty quickly: loyalty as knew it, or at least as your grandparents knew it, is gone. Three-quarters of consumers don't claim loyalty to any brands, 61% of Americans switch brands due to price, 80% of us would ditch a store for a promotion elsewhere.


But, customer loyalty isn't dead. It's just taken on a different form for a new generation of consumer mentality. We have more information available at our fingertips than ever before, and far more competition for our attention and dollars than at any other time in history. Consumers can have a great experience making a purchase and forget about it within a day.

lebron james tshirtThe Return of the King (and Cleveland Fans)

Four years ago the best basketball player in the world left his hometown team in Cleveland for the greener grass (golden-er beach?) in Miami. The jilted Cavaliers fans revolted, burning every piece of LeBron James paraphernalia they could get their hands on.

More significant were the thousands of empty seats each night. Cleveland fans were upset their team had been spurned, but not enough to continue patronizing said team.

This past July, James announced he was heading home, and season tickets for the Cleveland Cavaliers sold out within hours. There isn't much room left on that bandwagon.

Today, loyalty is about what a brand has done for us today. How can a brand put more money back into a consumer's wallet, or more points toward their loyalty program membership? For millennials, it's about who their friends recommend as well as what good causes the brand has contributed to. For the affluent, it's about price and coupons.

It's a Bandwagon Buyer's World

In other words, loyalty is earned on an everyday basis, and can be won or lost in any interaction. Since we can't all add LeBron James to our organizations, the best path is consistently providing relevant value to customers, communicating that value, and being open to their feedback.

Yes, it's a world of bandwagon buyers, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Bandwagon buyers are at risk of fleeing but they're also passionately responsive to the right messages and benefits.

Yes, they'll run away swiftly when a brand stops meeting their needs, but business, like sports, has winners and losers. The bandwagon buyers will always find their way to the winners.

Loyalty Statistics The Ultimate Collection

Topics: Customer Engagement, Customer Incentives, Ongoing Incentive Programs, Access Development, customer loyalty

Written by: Brandon Carter

Brandon is a former writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @bscarter

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