Why consumer loyalty has changed and what you can do about it

what makes a customer loyal
“Loyalty” seems to be the word of the moment, but it’s much more than flavour of the month. Loyalty is absolutely key to ensuring that your business goes from strength to strength in the current eCommerce climate, but what makes a consumer loyal? Read on to find out.

Loyalty is a hard ask of the modern consumer. Their fickle, bargain-hunter nature has developed from years of advertisement bombardment coupled with an increasingly global market which is open for them to find whatever they want, whenever they want it. Loyalty is incredibly difficult to achieve. 

It used to mean that a customer would return to your store because they trusted you and your brand. They knew that with you they would be looked after and be given a quality product that was worth the money, no matter what that product may be. Now, this isn’t the case, for three main reasons.

Etsy, Security and Being Ruthless

Firstly, the mass upon mass of small businesses that have emerged need nothing more than access to an internet connection and a limited budget to create a thriving eCommerce business. The sheer number of these shops on sites like Etsy, has meant that all those unique, quirky products that consumers couldn’t access before are now available for shipping anywhere in the world. Not only that, but such online stores offer a personal service and put a face to a business, acting as a means of story-telling which creates a connection with the consumer. This has led to a huge amount of loyalty for those sites and business owners when compared to faceless corporations. 

Secondly, one aspect that always held back the popularity of these smaller online stores was a fear of giving up details over the internet. Sites such as Etsy even five years ago would have raised eyebrows amongst consumers about security. Thanks to the numerous sites like eBay that put real people at the face of an e-store, that fear has dissipated. Add to this the younger generations entering into the world of eCommerce who view giving up details on the internet simply a matter of course, and it is easy to see why this has changed so dramatically.  

Finally, these consumers who are open to a global market and much freer with their contact details are by no means naive. They demand constant sales and have a ruthless attitude towards any company who thinks they can be fooled into buying by old-hat marketing tricks. Honesty is the best policy with this consumer, which is why the story-telling aspect appeals to them so fervently; it makes it personal, it makes them feel as though they are not being looked at as just another sale.

So, if we want a loyal customer we need to look at the reasons for loyalty. What will make them turn to you rather than anyone else?

Service, Experience and Memory

Service is absolutely key, but when I say this I’m referring to the physical buying process for the consumer. How easy is it for them to find you? How easy is it for them to deal with you? Look at the navigation of your site and consider the first things they encounter – is your marketing helpful or a hindrance? Does it offer them something or just scream “Buy This Now!” at them? The service they receive is crucial, so as a starter for ten, take a look at one of your product pages. You need to approach this as though you’re a consumer and consider the product information you have – not just the detail, but whether there are reviews available, whether there are any product videos from consumers, and recommended deals for things they may not have considered. 

The second consideration is when that consumer decides they want the product and click “Proceed to Checkout”. Do they need to trawl through page after page or fields to fill in? If the service they receive here is quick and easy, that is the experience that will stick in their mind. The experience is the thought process at the time, how they were affected by service and the feeling they have towards your company. If you can ensure that their overall experience is a great one, they’re not only more likely to become a loyal customer, but also more lenient in future if their experience is not as good. Another way for you to improve this experience is through the personal touch that the smaller business adds so well. Simple tricks like remembering accounts when a user returns and sending personalised discounts (like a birthday offer) can really make you stay at the forefront of the user’s mind.

Thirdly, what you’re trying to achieve through all this is to stick in the memory of the consumer, and make them come to you above anyone else. If the service and the experience stays with them, they will not only come back to you as their brand of choice, but they will recommend you to others, aiding your growth. Following tips like the above help you to achieve this, because it cements your brand as the one associated with caring about the consumer, being efficient and being easy to do business with.


The reasons I go back to a brand are based on the service I receive, my experience as a whole and the memory of them. Through the smaller retailers I have bought from, I have had much better service and consideration as a person rather than an order number, far more than I have with other larger companies. That is not to say that this applies to ALL retailers of course, but it is that personal touch which sets them aside. 

With one retailer, I had unknowingly missed out on a sale by a day or too, but she recognised me as a returning customer, informed me of the discount and told me that she was going to take the money off regardless because of my return purchase. It is this kind of personal touch that today’s consumer thrives on. Of course, such a level of personalisation is incredibly difficult to scale up, but not impossible. Recognising consumers for their return visits by sending emails offering those extra discounts, VIP benefits and so on are easy for you to offer and can mean a lot. 

Regardless of the current climate, if you are able to stick to these three core principles of loyalty, you will not only make that user return, but retain them as a lifelong customer.

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