Recently, we have talked about Gamification as an unconventional way to engage customers and increase loyalty, in a world where the two go hand-in-hand and are intimately related.
Now we take a step back to move forward, shifting the focus from the engagement to the understanding. Even before thinking about ‘how’ to drive customer loyalty, in fact, you need to figure out ‘who’ your loyal customers are.
Behavioral science has done a lot of work to provide marketers with valuable insights. The aim is to put customers in a buying mood, by pushing the right buttons, finding the right needs to tap and shaping them with the right words.
As an effect, you will be able to drive customers’ preferences and other virtuous behaviors, including positive word-of-mouth, loyalty, and so on. These goals are of primary concern to all marketers, regardless of the industry or the competitive arena.
If word choices reveal - consciously or unconsciously - our state of mind, so the shared language reveals shared meanings, and shows a certain view of the world which continues to strengthen over time.
In the same way, marketing language says a lot about the relevant culture, mindset, and attitude amongst professionals, and the more we think about it, the more we get skeptical about the long-term effectiveness of this approach.
We can sum it up in two questions. The first one is of a purely linguistic nature.
Who Takes Center Stage?
Reach the target audience, shape customers’ needs, drive preferences and choices, stimulate customers to buy. All these expressions have something in common, beyond being overused: the brand takes action, not the customer.
We talk a lot about customer-centricity and the shift from passive to empowered customers, but the reality is that more is said (and “story-told”) than done.
Our language reveals what implicit stereotypes and beliefs are still embedded in our brains, including such of companies and brands actively shaping customers’ attitudes and thus driving desired behavior - but does this not represent a step back from the very concept of customer empowerment?
One of the most important - and most sensitive - issues for brands is customer loyalty. When it comes to loyalty, we use to say that loyal customers are typically those more satisfied, engaged, and delighted.
That is absolutely true, but we are again taking in account solely the perspective of the Brand, and so considering an oversimplified and incomplete version of the reality, the one that better explains marketers’ goals rather than those of the customers.
And here comes the second question:
What about individual differences?
This approach takes into account customers as if they were a single monolithic entity, to be treated in the same way. Of course, as human beings, we are not totally separable: we share common basic human needs, motives and cognitive patterns that determine our spontaneous behavior in response to certain stimuli.
Individual differences, however, play a crucial role in determining people’s preferences and choices, whether it comes to personal life, professional decisions, or purchase behaviors.
Sometimes consciously, sometimes not, our dispositional motives continually shape and drive the experiences that we have, including our buying experiences. So, why should these factors not be considered in your marketing and communication strategy?
There is clear evidence that tailored messages are considerably more effective than one-size-fits-all campaigns, and that the effectiveness of tailoring increases with greater customization and adaptation to the unique features of the recipient.
For example, as suggested by Higgins in 2000, you should frame your message to match the recipient’s personal goals by focusing either on promoting gains (e.g., “Product X makes teeth stronger”) or on preventing losses (e.g., “Product X prevents cavities”).
Moreover, many other researchers have shown that messages that are consistent with an individual’s motivational orientation are processed more fluently and evaluated more positively than inconsistent ones.
The effects of what we can call the “message/person congruence” have been examined in correlation to differnt psychological characteristics, including the Big Five Factors, by changing the framing of a message to target specific motives, such as desires for excitement and social rewards, connection with family and community, efficiency and goal pursuit, safety and security, creativity and intellectual stimulation (i.e. see Personalized Persuasion).
For years, retailers have been using a variety of personal information, such as purchase and the website journey history, to tailor their online offers to individual customers. But an emerging literature in the field of Marketing Psychology says that personality traits are no less important.
“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own”, Henry Ford said.
One of the first rules of persuasion is: Know your audience. In a world of companies and Brands striving for relevance, understanding your audience’s point of view is a strong element of differentiation. Understanding every single customer’s point of view? That would be the turning point!
First of all, customers are individuals, and every individual is unique - the way we think, behave, and act, we all do it differently. As the way we communicate to others reflects our mindset, even the way we respond to (and are attracted by) different communication styles changes significantly, depending on our personality. We are more likely to interact, listen, share, believe and be persuaded by communication styles tailored on our peculiarities.
To cut it short, understating customers’ ability to shape the world around them proactively gets into conflict with the very idea of customer-centricity. More, overlooking customers’ individual characteristics undermines the concept of personalization, turning it into a ‘buzzword’ without any substance.
Taken together, these two ‘gaps’ offer huge opportunities for those who are willing to overcome the ‘Business As Usual’ (to quote Brian Solis) and define a real turning point in the world of customer experience. What would you do if you were able to “persona-lize” your marketing strategy?
Cover Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash
Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.