There are numerous factors to consider when it comes to the wider concept of retail loyalty. Of course, there are the all-important mechanics that sit behind the loyalty scheme itself. While one retailer might choose to implement a rewards-based system to drive more customers into their stores, another might opt for a points-based scheme that allows shoppers to unlock exclusive discounts or offers once they reach a certain milestone.
One aspect of loyalty that is becoming ever-more important for retailers, however, is encouraging the most loyal of customers to spread the word and recommend their brand to followers across social media platforms — often referred to as social advocacy.
In such a competitive digital world, there is immense value in having loyal social media users publicly recommending a brand to their followers. Not only is it effectively free advertising, but it’s far more likely that the individual’s followers will pay attention to it — after all, those followers have subscribed to their thoughts and opinions.
Interestingly, it seems as though some customers don’t actually need that much encouragement to become social advocates. According to studies by Edelman, 87 per cent of committed customers will recommend a brand through liking and sharing, while a Search Engine Land article says that “your loyal customers will respond to recommendation requests and put their reputation on the line for you if they like your brand”. This can effectively create a cyclical loyalty model, with long-term customers becoming social advocates and persuading others to start spending their money with that brand, which could then also lead to loyalty among those customers.
This shows that loyalty schemes aren’t just about the direct benefits of rewards and discounts – they can also foster word-of-mouth advocacy, both online and offline. If brands implement a scheme that is effective, easy to use and seamless across multiple channels, it can help to shape customers’ overall impression of their brand immeasurably.
But there are still steps that brands can take to really make the most out of the potential available to them through social advocacy, and the biggest one involves keeping customers stimulated and engaged online during the retention stage of the loyalty journey — the stage at which social advocacy takes place.
There are several ways brands might typically do this. Some might hold social media-exclusive competitions in which users have to like, follow, retweet and use hashtags in order to enter, while others might take a more proactive approach to interacting with customers and actively generating conversation among different platforms, which can lead to more natural advocacy.
With so many shoppers now spending large amounts of time on social media, it only makes sense that retailers seek to squeeze as much value as possible out of social advocacy. Not only is it one of the most effective methods of driving shoppers to make a purchase, but it can also lead to a new generation of loyal customers.