What Drives Customer Loyalty? (Hint: It’s Not What You Think)

customer loyalty

Modern-day ecommerce brands sweat over one major thing: capturing and maintaining a loyal customer group. Over-bombardment of ads, audience ad control, ineffective marketing strategies, and more brand choices than ever all contribute to lackluster customer loyalty.

McKinsey and Company, top-tier business counselors, has done some serious digging into what it takes to foster customer loyalty—especially with the variety of brands and outlets shoppers can choose from today.

“Evidence has begun emerging, however, that consumer bonds with many brands is simultaneously slipping, with active engagement in those same loyalty programs falling by two percentage points and 58 percent of loyalty members not using the programs for which they are signed up,” notes McKinsey.

Most entrepreneurs, marketers, and shop owners understand the value of loyal customers—more money in the bank. In fact, Adobe reports that “returning purchasers generate three times higher RPV (revenue per visit) than shoppers.” 

They also note “if retailers can persuade a shopper who has made his or her first purchase to come back again, that subsequent visit would yield on average three times as much.”

Whatever the culprit to lack of customer loyalty, there’s a cure; understanding the customer journey and knowing at what point to hook customers into loyalists.

How Do Customers Make Decisions, Anyways?

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of what drives customers to turn into loyalists, here’s a better picture of the typical buyer journey.

After a consumer decides they want or NEED something, they wander down a very specific road, according to McKinsey research, and hit four major milestones:

Phase 1) Consideration: A consumer considers an initial set of brands

Phase 2) Evaluation: Brands are “nexted” or added to from a consumer’s consideration set upon any time prior to purchase

Phase 3) Selection: A consumer lands on a brand they want to buy from

Phase 4) Re-engagement: A consumer repurchases a product with no outside trigger

(Image credit: McKinsey)

Times Are A-Changin’: Customers Aren’t as Loyal as They Once Were

McKinsey also reveals only 13% of online shoppers are loyalists to a particular brand while 29% were vulnerable repeat purchasers straddling the line between staying and leaving, and 58% were tempted away by other brands. When previous generations of shoppers may have been seriously devoted to one brand, the story is different today.

How Can You Entice More Brand Loyalists?

The things in your control to improve brand loyalty are the type of marketing messages you serve a customer, and when, where, and how you reach them.

Still confused?

Here are some takeaways:

1. Understand It’s Not About Quantity

A recent study by the Association of Consumer Research indicates that subjects “voiced a greater preference for the product after receiving three ad exposures” compared with those who received “either one or five.” Some marketers say it’s beneficial for people to see your ads up to 20 times.

But it’s really not about quantity...

“Today’s marketers should worry less about how many times people see your ads and more about creating a remarkable and amazing experience for all your prospects,” remarks Square2Marketing.

How and when you serve up information about your brand is more critical, not frequency.

2. Hook ‘Em at the Initial Consideration Phase

Remember the phases of the consumer buying journey? Good, let’s go back to those. The best place to hook customers is in Phase 1, or the Consideration Phase. It’s right when curious shoppers are browsing the web for every option possible, and you want be sure your brand makes the cut.

“In a world where most categories are shopping driven, consideration and growth should be strongly correlated—and they are,” notes McKinsey. That is, the more often your company falls into someone’s consideration phase, the more often you’ll make it all the way to the finish line.

Earning a spot during someone’s initial consideration phase has never been more important. It’s during this phase that you want to prove to be that go-to resource for people’s pain points. Their salvation to all their problems. Their watering hole while they’re lost in the desert.

In order to hook a shopper at the consideration phase, you need to build a better connection with them than your competitors. Target relevant audiences and find ways to boost brand awareness that will give consumers a reason for learning more about your brand.

For example, in your ad messaging, answer questions like:

  • What makes your brand different from others?

  • Why should anyone buy from you?

  • What makes your brand high quality?

  • How will your customer feel when they buy from you?

Long story short, give people a clear picture of your unique benefits and value, so they can evaluate you among other products as well as build a trusting relationship with your brand.

3. Make Your Website a Good Experience for Each Customer

Eighty-one percent of shoppers conduct online research before they make a purchase. With the lion’s share of consumers taking the time to review your brand’s website, it’s critical to make your online shopping experience a memorable one.

You can do this by:

4. Bring Marketing Automation and Personalization into the Picture

Personalization is all about making your brand feel more relatable to prospects and customers—like your business is a trusty friend. And when your ecommerce company starts to build trust with customers, that’s when loyalty is made.

Ecommerce marketing platforms like Drip make it easy to real relationships with your customers, which translates to deeper loyalty and increased profits..


By understanding each customer.

With Drip, you can dig into each individual customer’s unique journey to see every move a customer makes, from signing up for a newsletter to making a purchase. Then you can act on that data to develop better insights and make smarter business decisions that resonate more with each customer.

Sending messages to those who are lapsed buyers, cart abandoners, and repeat purchasers is the lowest hanging fruit for brands (and will likely have the highest reward), and can be done with automated workflows and custom messaging.

Features to look for that can help you build customer loyalty:

  • Purchase intent marketing: Always keep tabs on how customers and prospects are interacting with your ecommerce business. With purchase intent marketing, you’ll see a visual display of what your customers are doing, so you can identify your most engaged shoppers and target them for repeat purchases. Plus, you can get an idea for which marketing assets are scoring big and which aren’t.

  • Tags and events: By automatically applying tags (or labels) and events to your customers, you’ll be able to see what each unique person has been doing along their customer journey. Plus, tags and events help you keep track of it all when it comes to segmenting customers, creating tailored messaging for each segment, and building automated workflows that nurture people from one-time shopper to loyal fan.

  • Automation: Automation allows you to segment customers, nurture leads, and continuously communicate all of the time. That’s right—your marketing automation is always running in the background, which saves you massive amounts of time spent manually tracking customer actions, segmenting customers, and sending relevant emails. Automation keeps your brand engaged with your customers at all times, which is a key part to keeping your online store one their radar.

Customer Loyalty Follows Good Experiences. Show Them What You Got

While a devout customer might seem like a thing of the past, we’re here to say, “It’s not.” When you have the ability to reach out to your online customers at the right time, in the right place, with the right message automatically, you’re primed and ready to turn one-time shoppers into repeat loyal customers.

If your company can connect with your audience at every stage of their journey to brand fandom—all the way from initial consideration through the loyalty loop—you’ll continuously be sitting pretty at the top of their mind. And when a potential customer feels engaged and cared for by a company in the early stages, you can count on them coming back for the same grand treatment again and again.

We know increasing revenue is the name of your game, and a key lever to do this is by improving brand loyalty. Keep the above tips in mind and you will be on your way to success!

Have additional tips to share? Let’s hear it!