6 Psychological Triggers That Build Brand Loyalty

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Most of the choices we make every day are based on how we feel, how we see ourselves and the people around us. The same principle applies to our brand choices.

Brands are no different from people.

The more personal relationship between a consumer and a brand is, the stronger the brand gets and the more loyal the consumer becomes. Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, and their continued engagement and positive customer experience need to be at the constant forefront of your marketing strategy. If they need something, you do your best to provide it and do so in a way that makes the entire transaction positive and memorable. The same goes true for addressing concerns. Both interactions are major factors in your brand’s ability to succeed at building long-term customer loyalty. Smart organizations realize that can make or break a business, yet some still miss big when it comes to how to create those relationships and brand loyalty. A recent study from McKinsey indicated that while it costs five times as much to attract a customer than to keep an existing one, most companies only allocate 18% of their overall marketing focus on retention.

In today’s hyper-crowded eCommerce world, that simply won’t do. Brands that aren’t using modern data-driven technology to inform and empower their retention and loyalty will find it hard to compete.

How to Bridge the Loyalty Gap?

So, what is the reason for this disconnect? The reason for this could relate to a misunderstanding of how companies understand the concept of “brand loyalty”. Customers shouldn’t be seen as a source of revenue but rather a network of mutually beneficial relationships. 

Brands that have the best image and retention rates have done the research and collected the data to create an identity to which customers can relate. To do this right, your organization needs to invest in data, specifically, psychographic, and behavioral data, on your customer base, as well as understanding what are the preeminent psychological motivators for today’s modern consumer.

According to a recent study, there are 6 psychological triggers that influence customers to buy what you’re selling. Let’s look at those triggers and how they can be used to promote purchases and brand loyalty for your business.

Psychological Triggers: Reciprocity

To explain the concept of reciprocity, let’s imagine a Saturday afternoon at Costco (pre-pandemic, of course.)

Have you ever found yourself with a mystery spinach dip in your cart that you never intended to buy, simply because you felt a nagging obligation to buy it after you tried a free sample? If so, you have experienced the principle of reciprocity in action.

Of course, online retailers can’t personally visit the house of each person who interacts with them to shove a sample in their hand. So how can you make reciprocity work for you?

Incentives can be a very compelling method of using reciprocity to trigger connection. Tactics like providing a free gift with purchase or giving extra content to those who sign up for an offer or a membership are all great ways to give consumers that extra added push to look deeper at your brand and your product line and begin a relationship with both.

Psychological Triggers: Commitment & Consistency

If you’ve ever decided to quit smoking or lose some weight, you know how stating your goal out loud to others can help keep you “accountable” to achieving your goal. That’s because the principle of commitment and consistency says that people will go to great lengths to appear consistent in their words and actions – even sometimes to the extent of doing things that are basically irrational.

As a retailer, if you can get customers to make a small commitment to your brand (like signing up for your email newsletter), they are more likely to eventually purchase from you. And if you can get products in their hand, even if there is no official commitment to buy them, your chances increase even more.

The online eyeglass boutique Warby Parker uses this psychological trigger to great impact. Warby Parker knows that with a product that sits right in the middle of your face all day, look and fit are important. They also know that if they can get a set of frames in your hands, they are probably about 50% of the way to making a sale. So they make it as frictionless as possible – order the samples, get the box, order the frames you want, and send the box back for free. They say there’s no commitment, and technically, there isn’t. But they also know customers feel a commitment the minute they open the box.

Psychological Triggers: Liking

The concept of liking says that we are more likely to say yes to a request if we feel a connection to the person making it. That’s why the sausage sample lady at Costco is always giving you a nice smile. It’s also why brands hire celebrities to endorse their products – so that people will transfer their love of Kim Kardashian to the clothing she endorses.

There are lots of ways to make this principle work for your brand. Articulating your brand principles and causes your brand is committed to are solid ways to get your customers attention and get them to like who you are as an organization. Modern consumers have an elevated conscious when it comes to corporate responsibility and holding brands accountable for how they govern their space in the world of commerce, so being forthright about causes you’re committed to and how that filters throughout your business can really create a synergistic bond between you and your customers, creating a strong, loyal relationship.

Psychological Triggers: Authority

There have been numerous psychological studies over the past 100 years that demonstrate how humans are conditioned to respond to authority in their lives. Think of the infamous Milgram experiments, in which volunteers were convinced to continue delivering what they thought were incredibly painful electric shocks to unseen subjects, even when they could hear (faked) screams of pain. The presence of a man in a lab coat telling them to continue was enough to earn the compliance of nearly all the volunteers.

While this is an extreme example of the role authority plays in our lives, it does showcase how strongly humans respond to those they see as “experts.” Therefore, it serves to follow that if brands can find ways to position themselves as experts in their field or demonstrate a deeper knowledge on a subject, customers will feel compelled to patronize that brand.

To utilize this trigger, develop ways to highlight content from a resident subject matter expert in your organization. Providing content like “tips of the week” or a monthly selection of products that have been curated by an expert (even one you source from the outside) are all excellent ways to compel people to connect, respect and purchase. Influencer marketing has become a massive force in modern strategy that demonstrates this trigger in action. If a modern style icon tells your daughter which the coolest jeans are to buy, she’s very likely to want to purchase them.

The authority trigger also keeps patrons coming back for more, which is the cornerstone of loyalty. If your customers know they can count on you as a source for expert guidance and knowledge, they will feel inclined to continue to seek out your input and expertise, which forges a solid fidelity to your brand.

Psychological Triggers: Social Proof

The principle of social proof is connected to the principle of liking: because we are social creatures, we tend to like things just because other people do as well, whether we know them or not. Anything that shows the popularity of your site, and your products can trigger a response.

Have you gotten good press? Mention it! Received loving emails from customers? Quote them! Using your social media channels to promote your brand is only a small piece of the puzzle. Use them to showcase great comments and reviews from your customers. Highlight success stories on your website by building case studies of how your products or services helped your customers achieve great successors or solved pain points.

Another tactic is to provide a “Best Sellers” or “Most Popular” page. Showcasing products that other customers have purchased and raved about is a big incentive for new customers that might just be browsing to take a chance, which is the first step to building a long-term, loyal relationship.

Psychological Triggers: Scarcity

The final principle is the principle of scarcity, which states that people are highly motivated by the thought that they might lose out on something. Call it the Eternal Teenager Principle or simple FOMO, but we all know that if someone tells us we can’t have something, it makes us want it that much more.

Smart marketers trigger this effect by using all kinds of tactics to suggest that products (or low prices) might soon be gone, promoting items as selling fast. Think of how compelling it can be to see the “Only 4 left!” message on an Amazon search. You might have only been contemplating that purchase, but one you see that there is a very limited quantity left, you’re likely to decide it’s best to purchase the item now before you can’t later down the road.

While it might seem like a “trick” of sorts, what you’re really doing is giving potential customers vital information they need to know to make a smart purchase. Think of the times you’ve admired a product in a store but decided for one reason or another to wait to purchase it, only to find it sold out in your size when you return. Had you known it was going to sell out so quickly, you probably would’ve purchased it the first time. Letting your customers know that an item they liked or put in their favorites list is selling out quickly is viewed as a positive. It let’s your customers know you care about what’s important to them, and it also demonstrates you’re not just some anonymous business, but instead are a brand that offers personalized service to your customer base.

At FiO, our retail marketing expertise allows us to provide end-to-end solutions that enable our clients to provide best-in-class retail experiences for their customers, backed by our capabilities in data-driven strategy and AI-empowered technology. Sign up today for a FREE trial of our Insight Marketing Platform and discover how you can utilize these capabilities to unleash the power of your data and begin mastering the future of the personalized customer journey.