Consumer loyalty is key to success in any business organization. This is because it is easy to maintain the already existing consumers than to look for new ones. Consumer loyalty can be defined as a biased behavior or attitude that is directed towards a certain brand or service and is expressed through a decision-making process in preference to that brand or service. This concept has been defined as an extreme attitude that is directed towards a certain product and which influences the behavior of the buyer. (Copeland 1923)This has been described by most practitioners as the most reliable definition of consumer loyalty. Consumer loyalty is a multi-faceted phenomenon with both the attitude component and the behavioral component. Integration of the two facets is responsible for bringing about consumer loyalty. In simple terms, loyalty by consumers is demonstrated by their repeated preference of a certain brand in the market despite the existence of other competitive brands. The repetitive behavior that is demonstrated by consumers in the expression of their loyalty to the brand is a result of the influence surrounding the brand. Many factors revolve around the product that brings about loyalty in the consumers. Most of the factors are associated with satisfaction in the consumer. Consumer satisfaction is part of the consumer loyalty strategy. This is because, without consumer satisfaction, consumer loyalty cannot be achieved. Consumer loyalty can easily be explained by the continued and consistent purchase of certain brands by the same consumer or the act of the consumer visiting the same website every time. (Assael 2004)
The loyalty of consumers is determined by their behavior over time in response to the products. The way the consumers have behaved in the past and how they are behaving currently is the best indicator of how they are likely to behave tomorrow.
In a highly competitive business environment, consumer loyalty can be a very important tool that can be used to outdo the competitors. This is because with the loyal consumers making purchases, the business revenue collection is maintained all through unlike when there is a search for consumers which leads to low sales are low revenue collection. ( Kardes, Frank 2001)
Businesses at various levels develop strategies that aim at retaining consumers and therefore keeping them loyal to the business. In business arenas where there are butterfly consumers, achieving 100% loyalty is not possible. This is because of the existing wide variety selections and choices of brands that allow consumers to move from one place to another.
Behavioral loyalty is measured using parameters called brand performance measures. These include purchase frequency, market share, and penetration These measures can be utilized as inputs during the development of theoretical models that can describe patterns in consumer or buyers behavior. The measures can therefore be described as the predictors of loyalty in consumers.
Antecedents to consumer loyalty
There is a very important aspect of a product or service that is utilized by most business organizations to capture and retain consumers. The people in charge of quality control have to ensure that quality is maintained or improved to satisfy the consumers. A slight twist in quality is likely to affect the loyalty of consumers.
This is also another factor that influences consumer loyalty. The price of a particular brand can be such that when compared to competitors, it is more consumer-friendly hence the relationship between the consumer and the brand is enhanced by the price. Strategies for consumer loyalty The trend nowadays towards consumer loyalty is that most consumers are falling in love with brands. What marketers are concentrating on is to impact the emotions of consumers. This often ends up making consumers fall in love with specific brands. This is what brings about consumer loyalty as the consumers who fall in love tend to demonstrate repeated purchases of the same brand. (Assael 2004)
This is quite evident in the foods and beverage industry where consumers of beer can show their biased character towards certain brands. Every time they go out to drink, they order for their favorite brands and if they are out of stock, they would rather not take others. The reason why consumer behavior is similar to falling in love is that when a man falls in love with a woman he can after the incident meet other women who are even prettier and better but his mind will not be changed. This is the same case with certain brands. A consumer who purchased an iPod mp3 player might never opt for other superior brands even if they come at more affordable offers. This can be attributed to the fact that once a consumer loves a certain brand, it blocks him from exploring other brands. Studies have been undertaken on wine loyalty to investigate if consumers are loyal to specific attributes of the product or to specific brands(Jarvis et al 2003)It was revealed that loyalty is not demonstrated in categories of products but the level varies from one category to another. The attributes of the products tend to influence consumer loyalty as it was observed that attributes of brands influence behavioral loyalty more than the specific brands. Marketers are normally very close to the particular brand that they wish to achieve higher sales while not focusing on the value of the brand to the consumer. To the consumer loyalty to particular brands has its meaning. First of all, a consumer can only express his/her loyalty to a brand if the prevailing attributes of the brand are satisfying his or her needs. With a slight twist in t6he attributes of the brand, consumers are likely to demonstrate betrayal by seeking better alternatives. This, therefore, means that consumer satisfaction is a key component of consumer loyalty. It has been argued that without consumer satisfaction marketers are not likely to achieve the anticipated loyalty levels in the consumers. This shows that in understanding consumer loyalty, marketers of various brands need crucial strategies that are geared towards increasing the consumer satisfaction index. Consumer satisfaction index is a behavioral concept that is influenced by features of the product that is being marketed in a competitive environment.
Consumer loyalty as a concept in marketing varies by sector. There are certain sectors that easily and automatically achieve consumer loyalty while others consumer loyalty is short-lived. This is evidenced by an example of a consumer who has car insurance. This consumer does not spend a lot of time thinking about the insurance agent because it is automatic that there has to be loyalty once the car is insured. Another example is a car tracking company. Once a consumer registers his/her car with the company there is loyalty because of the nature of the relationship that exists between the two parties. Consumer loyalty can be short with consumable products such as food pieces of stuff. This is because it is very easy to improve the quality of food and meet the desires and expectations of the clients. This is therefore used to capture consumer loyalty within a very short time. However, with this sector, consumer loyalty can be lost within a minute the moment the consumer discovers that the food is no longer sweet as it used to be. ( Kardes, Frank 2001)
In the UK five years ago people did not have the habit of switching credit cards. It was so easy for the company which was offering these products to win the loyalty of consumers for a very long time. This is because the company had completely dominated the industry with no threat of a serious competitor. However, things changed with the arrival of new entrants into the arena with companies such as Advanta and MBNA. The existing consumer loyalty was taken away as people sought better alternative credit cards that could suit their needs and desires. This can be explained in the sense that consumers are very cautious and they only recognize a deal after seeing it. That is why consumers in the UK flocked to the new companies for credit card services. Consumers in the UK discovered the fact that it was quite easy to switch between credit cards. Once the offer was over with one credit card it was so easy to move to another credit. This, therefore, made consumer loyalty a very irrelevant concept in such a business environment.
Importance of consumer loyalty to marketers
Consumer loyalty as a concept in marketing is a very important aspect that is utilized by successful marketers to take specific brands far away. This is in terms of increasing the market share of the brand and increasing the purchasing frequency among other indicators of consumer loyalty. By concentrating on the key behavioral and attitudinal dimensions of consumer loyalty marketing of products can achieve a lot for business organizations. The major role of any marketing strategy is to impact the behavior of the consumers. This includes consumer loyalty as a biased behavior that is demonstrated by consumers towards the products or brands that are being marketed.
With this in mind, it is important to note that consumer loyalty is still the role of all marketers. This is so because once loyalty has been achieved in a specific number of consumers it becomes easy for marketers to achieving their goals in whatever strategy they adopt. Every marketer knows that it is difficult at times to have consumer-like products especially with brands that are just entering the market. It is also equally important for marketers to understand that consumer loyalty does not come just easily as some might take it. In various markets, there are similar technologies and platforms under which marketing is undertaken and all marketers are interested in increasing sales and eventual market share for their products. It is therefore not the best practice by marketers to use pricing as a strategy to lure consumers into liking their brands. This is because as much as they can be able to influence consumers to take the risk because of the low prices, this is normally a short-term measure. Consumers are likely to shift their attitudes and behavior to competitors or new arrivals in the market. What smart marketers ought to understand is that consumer loyalty, can be a long journey but it can be a long-lasting solution to their marketing problems. The best practice in marketing calls for marketers to understand that the only path to success in marketing is through the consumer. Whether the productivity of a marketing strategy is measured by market share or profitability, it is a fact that it is the person who purchases the product that should be the focus of the marketer. Forming a strong bond between the marketer and the consumer is a very significant part of successful marketing. To adequately address the aspect of consumer loyalty, marketers have to focus on answering the question about what the consumer needs in his or her life. This may be short-term or long-term depending on the type of product that is being marketed. This should then be followed by adopting a suitable strategy that can convince the consumer that indeed the product being marketed has the capability of delivering whatever is promised in the course of marketing. With promises being delivered by the product the marketer needs not to go back to the consumer for confirmation since the consumer can look and stick to that product.
Once the product is used to articulate the need of the consumer, there is trust and confidence between the consumer and the product. This can even be expressed with the consumer recommending the product to other consumers who can even end up being more loyal than the first consumer to whom the product was first marketed.
While in the effort to attain consumer loyalty, marketers need to make customer care a key component of their marketing strategy. There is no way consumer satisfaction can be achieved without customer care. Trust has to be developed first between the marketer and the consumer and this can only be attained through proper customer care. This would then lead to consumer loyalty. Communication with the consumer is a very essential part of using consumer loyalty. Without proper communication with the consumer, the effectiveness of a marketing strategy is compromised.
Marketers must understand the fact that customers who would like to identify with particular brands and companies are the most important assets for the companies.
This is because such consumers are likely to remain loyal to the products and company.
Consumer loyalty as a concept in marketing needs direct marketing. The consumers need to get directly in contact with the company through the marketing team.
This can be easily achieved by the marketing team trying as much as possible to personalize all the communications with the consumers. There is a high chance of developing a good product –consumer relationship with such personalized communication strategies. It is communication that is supposed to impact the consumer with biased attitudes and behavior that would be expressed in the future with frequent purchases of the marketed product. Consumer feedback is also an essential part of the entire strategy of utilizing consumer loyalty. Marketers get a chance to ask the consumer what influenced him/her into buying their brands against the competitors. This feedback is very important because the marketer can capitalize on the unique attributes of the product instead of focusing on general issues that are equal even in the competitor’s products. Opportunities for feedback are major avenues that can be explored to attain consumer loyalty and achieve marketing goals.
Loyalty schemes for the marketing department have to be sustained and well maintained.
It is the loyalty schemes that are fundamental in attaining high levels of consumer loyalty. These schemes can be in different forms and can take different approaches. For instance, the chain supermarkets can adopt a point scheme for the consumers who come to shop in specific stores. An accumulation of points in one store means that there is a reward in form of discounts or free products. Loyalty schemes in a marketing strategy pay for themselves by increasing the number of purchases that are associated with loyal customers. Recognition of loyal customers is also an aspect that cannot be overlooked by marketers. This can be achieved through entertainment. Entertainment can be in different forms as long as it can bring out the significant role played by the loyal consumers. Such recognitions make the consumers feel proud to be associated with their favorite products and companies. (Assael 2004)
In conclusion, it is vital to underscore the fact that marketers can make use of consumer loyalty to achieve their targets by necessitating the attainment of loyalty and working towards sustaining it in the consumers. All marketers should focus on creating a lasting impact on consumers through loyalty schemes rather than getting into temporary schemes that can prove to be costly to the business in the future.
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