The Challenge of Building Customer Loyalty

If you’re a brand leader today, it can feel like it’s harder than ever to build loyalty with customers. The stats are bleak: 71% of consumers switched brands at least once over the past year, hunting for better deals, better product quality, or better customer service among many other reasons.

 In fact, the biggest reason of all may be the “endless aisle,” that feeling that there’s always another option or a better choice. Blame Amazon, Tinder swiping, influencer culture or the infiltration of advertising into every corner of our lives, but the reality is that consumers are never NOT in the market to upgrade. And yet, if you can get them to be loyal, it is incredibly valuable. According to the Harvard Business Review, increasing retention by just 5% can equal an upwards of 95% increase in profit. 

TWEET: 71% of consumers switched brands at least once over the past year, hunting for better deals, better product quality, or better customer service among many other reasons.

Tipping Point in Consumer Loyalty

The good news is that our latest research shows that this era of switching may be reaching a tipping point, where the mental cost of considering something new is becoming increasingly exhausting. We conducted a survey of 1,500 US and Canadian social media users aged 18-64 to determine how loyalty was changing and what brands could do to win consumers over. What we found was that it’s not that people are inherently disloyal, it’s that they haven’t yet found a brand worthy of being loyal to.¹

Reddit: A Case Study in Switching Behavior

Reddit is a particularly powerful community to study switching behavior. Redditors are inherently curious. 90% of them say they are “open to new ideas when using Reddit,” and 74% say “Reddit is where I go to challenge my thinking and views.”²

Over half of redditors are likely to have “chosen a new brand” in the last week or the last month across everyday purchase categories such as grocery or personal care products, +40% higher than the competitor average and #1 overall.  And yet, 79% of redditors agreed that “once I find a brand I like, I stay loyal to that brand,” also tops among social media users.¹

How can this be true? How are redditors both avid switchers and brand loyalists? Well, it isn’t that they’re always hunting–it’s that they’re not yet satisfied. 


74% of Redditors state Reddit is where they go to challenge their thinking and views.
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A great example of this behavior is r/buyitforlife

r/buyitforlife Example

This subreddit continues to be one of Reddit’s most popular and fastest growing communities year after year with 1.7M subscribers and daily usage up nearly +45% in the last year.³ The goal of the subreddit is exactly what it sounds like: to stop the endless switching cycle and find a product I can have for life.

Credit: Reddit

People are yearning for a brand that they can commit to. We’re seeing this behavior change across the board. In fact, nearly a quarter of all posts on Reddit are “recommendation requests,” where people are soliciting advice from real people about the best product to buy. Interestingly, the emotion most associated with these posts isn’t excitement or anticipation, but instead exhaustion and frustration. They’re tired of all the options and just want to make a decision so they can move on with their lives. 


According to the Harvard Business Review, increasing retention by just 5% can equal an upwards of 95% increase in profit.
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Strategies for Cultivating Loyalty

So what can you do to combat this “culture of trialism?” How do you separate the consumers looking to settle down from those who will forever play the field?

Brands should consider these three key strategies, which I advise to my clients:

  1. Seize the Opportunity of Switching: First, while it’s easy to focus on the downside of consumers switching from your brand, this also means a lot of opportunity to steal share with people leaving your competitors’ brands. Embrace that challenge! Remember that for many (maybe most), selecting a brand means checking something off the mental “to-do” list. You’re not convincing them to move, you’re convincing them to end the search. 

I recommend that you use contextual advertising focused on keywords that connote frustration, indecision, or selection exhaustion. For instance, “too many options” was one of the most common phrases used on Reddit to describe a car purchase. Could your ad provide the certainty they need to stop searching?

  1. Provide Exhaustive Information: Second, you can never provide enough information. On Reddit, our clients leverage megathreads to go into exhaustive detail on every aspect of their product. Content lives forever and with AI improving every day, it’s easier than ever for people to search and scan. Give them the details now so they can find them when they’re ready. 
  2. Engage with Community Debates: And finally, lean in to the communities debating your products. Many advertisers I work with are scared of entering a conversation that could be critical of their brand, instead of seeing it as a chance to state your case. There must be some reason you’ve been successful, right? 

I’ve analyzed millions of conversations debating a variety of products, and the most surprising finding is that there is no answer! There is no one best product for everyone. There’s also no product that is completely despised. Especially on Reddit, people believe in nuance and personal circumstances. What’s right for me, may not be ideal for you. We all evaluate products with different criteria. Tell your story and be confident that it will resonate with the people it’s meant to.

Navigating the Future of Consumer Loyalty

In the complex landscape of consumer loyalty, understanding the decision journey is crucial. By acknowledging the challenges and opportunities within this journey, brands can better position themselves to earn and retain customer loyalty. Embracing transparency, detailed information, and active community engagement can set the foundation for lasting relationships in an era defined by choice and change.

Footnotes:

  1. Reddit Custom Survey, U.S., “Your Everyday Purchases”, n=1,500, A18-64, May 2023. Competitive platforms = Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube. *Regular Reddit users are defined as “using Reddit very frequently or frequently in the past month,” representing 69% of overall Reddit users.
  2. Reddit Custom Survey, US, “Conversations on Social Media”, n=1000, A18-60, Monthly Social Media Users, September 2023.
  3. Reddit Internal Data, Global, November 1, 2022 to October 31, 2023

You may be interested in listening to this episode on the Social Pros:

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