This month saw M&S crowned as the UK’s best brand in the annual YouGov Global Best Brand survey. “It’s a fantastic recognition for our colleagues, who are so passionate about our brand and work day in and day out to protect the magic of it”, said M&S chief executive, Stuart Machin.
Brand loyalty is obviously highly prized - not just for staff moral and publicity - but because of its direct correlation to profitability. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, businesses with high brand loyalty ratings grow their revenues 2.5 times faster than their industry peers.
It’s widely known that one of the most important conditions for brand loyalty is ‘quality’, something customers perceive as ‘trusted value’ in a brand. This perception, that a certain brand represents both higher quality and better service than a competitor, has real value for businesses like M&S because brand-loyal customers purchase 90% more frequently than new customers. The more of them you have, the more profitable you will be.
Of course, brand loyalty is not earned over night. It takes time to build as well as consistent strategic input, and importantly it needs focused buy-in from the boardroom to succeed. However, the danger for businesses in the current climate, is that there are so many challenges to solve, it is all too easy to prioritise short-term fixes over longer-term goals.
Ahead of this year’s Black Friday, Jo Caulson of the Institute of Customer Service called for businesses in all sectors to move from short-termism to a long-term service strategy. She suggested that Black Friday discounting risks squandering long-term loyalty and reputation building for the sake of short-terms sales. Smart brands, she proposes, should be turning away from the lowest price approach to balancing cost, quality and service for their consumers.
We see this need for a greater investment in brand building born out in a recent survey by Up to the Light, where 80% of design agency clients revealed their concern that brand strategy planning is still too reactive and not strategic enough. So, what to do if you’re a retail leader wanting to grow brand loyalty – where do you start?
At the beginning of a new store development project, we start by interrogating what brand loyalty means to our client’s customers. Understanding what brand qualities their customers value most gives us critical insights into the opportunities to design brand spaces that will support and build on the existing brand loyalty their customers feel.
So, with a new year on the horizon, and strategy meetings underway for many retail businesses, here’s our recommended priority list for the coming months as you delve into your businesses’ brand qualities and service values.
Check your business vision and mission statement - is up to date?
Stay close to your customers – are they happy? Do they share your vision?
Stay close to your staff – are they motivated? Do they share your vision?
Identify the emotional needs your brand fulfils for customers – do you know what they are?
Establish customer quality and service expectations – are you delivering?
Review the physical and digital shopping journey – is it blended for customers?
Follow your competitors – can you learn from their successes and failures?
And finally, lean on your design agency, 96% of clients surveyed by Up to the Light agree that breakthrough creative ideas come from working with external design agencies, rather than relying solely on in-house teams. So, use them wisely!
If you can commit to doing all the above, then maybe you’ll soon be giving M&S a run for their money on that number 1 best brand slot!
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