Photo by Daniel Cheung

Partnerships: The secret weapon to building customer loyalty?

By Claudia Dumond

Building customer loyalty is an objective most businesses are striving to achieve.

I constantly get asked questions from brands about how they can drive customer growth; How can we get customers to come back again and again? How can we steal share of wallet from competitors? How can we get customers to buy more? How can we get customers to recommend us to their friends? And so on…

Focus on the proposition.

With 77% of consumers reporting that they are retracting loyalty at a faster pace than three years ago* and 61% of consumers looking for brands that tailor experiences to them** it’s clear that brands need to focus less on a loyalty programme, and more on the loyalty proposition. A compelling proposition should put the customer first and deliver against all four aspects of what I call the ‘Customer Loyalty Quadrant’:

Product — Without the right product, it doesn’t matter what else you do to drive loyalty, customers just won’t want to buy it.

Value — Of course customers want value, price led, offer led or even added value, but it must resonate with your customers expectation.

Interaction — Make the interaction easy and seamless, mostly enabled by tech, and customers will choose your brand over another.

Engagement — Be interesting and relevant in the lives of customers, from awareness right through to advocacy, not just at POS.

Partnerships can enhance the customer loyalty proposition.

We already know that good partnerships are a great tool to drive customer acquisition but they can also play a big role in building customer loyalty across the whole decision-making journey. When looking at the ‘Customer Loyalty Quadrant’ through a partnership lens, we are seeing brands developing truly compelling propositions which resonate with their customers’ values and needs, keeping them coming back for more and in turn realising customer growth.

NBA and Headspace

Headspace, founded in 2009, has since developed some really interesting partnerships to apply their product to real life customer experiences. These include airlines (to address fear of flying) and retail to fitness (to improve motivation) and now sports teams. In March this year they announced their partnership with the NBA. As part of the partnership, all players of the NBA receive free subscriptions to the Headspace app, the NBA and Headspace will co-develop mental training content and Headspace will conduct events across the NBA, ranging from league employee wellness programs to mindfulness sessions with NBA team staff. A great example of understanding customer needs and enhancing a proposition accordingly.

Starbucks and Spotify

Value doesn’t have to be an offer or a stamp, in fact, it can be much more lifestyle led. The partnership between Starbucks and Spotify shows how you can offer “value added” benefits to customers to ensure your brand stays front of mind, even after you leave the store with your coffee. Benefits include access to a Starbucks playlist through the Starbucks app and integration with the Starbucks loyalty programme. In addition, Starbucks employees also get a free Starbucks Premium subscription — a clever way to engage employees and turn them into advocates.

Lyft Round up & Donate

Lyft in the US gives customers the ability to donate to a charitable cause off the back of your taxi ride. All a customer has to do is opt in via a ‘Donate’ button and choose their cause from a lift including Phoenix Children’s Hospital and USO. Lyft will then automatically round up each fare and donate on your behalf. This is a great example of how charities are starting to understand and address the barriers to donating and are leveraging tech partnerships to make it easy for customers to donate on a daily basis. Director of Influencer Marketing Bette Ann Schlossberg says, “While Round Up & Donate adds just a few dollars per month, the Lyft community has donated over $7M across all of the charities.”

adidas and Parley

In Blue Planet II our eyes were opened to the devastating impact of plastic on our oceans habitat. It’s estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste make the journey from land to ocean each year. And adidas has started to turn the tide, since 2015 in fact, adidas has partnered with Parley for the Oceans. Their partnership with Parley is working towards transforming plastic into high performance sportswear. This mission led partnership gives adidas a whole new space in which to engage with its customers, it works well to generate positive PR and reinforce common values that consumers hold — making them feel good about choosing adidas as the sportswear brand to be wearing.

Strive for long term, strategic partnerships which bring mutually beneficial business value.

If done right, partnerships can play both into the emotional and rational levers to drive customer loyalty and deliver true business growth. Ultimately, the best partnerships are well planned, long term, strategic partnerships where data is leveraged to mutually deliver against business objectives.

You can talk about who you are as a brand all day long but having those partnerships to authenticate that message is really critical for every brand.”

Swave Szymczyk, adidas

Get in touch.

Iris delivers a multitude of fully integrated specialisms within creative, consulting and content to some of the most progressive clients around the world. For more information about how we can support you in developing a partnership strategy or simply to help you get the most out of an existing partnership please get in touch. Claudia.dumond@iris-worldwide.com

*Seeing beyond the loyalty illusion. Accenture

**Think with Google. Google/Greenberg, US, Rising Expectations in Consumer Brand Experiences, (n of 1500 consumers 18–64), March 2018.

***https://www.marketingweek.com/2018/05/29/brandz-partnerships-accelerate-growth/