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Buying loyalty: A free coffee isn’t going to cut it.

The American consumer is jaded, and not without good reason. After years of recession, financial scandals, security breaches and general insecurity, consumers are emerging more skeptical than ever before, but also more empowered and unwilling to be taken for granted or swindled. Using social media, consumer reviews, price comparisons and other online resources, they are finding the lowest prices and best deals on everything from cosmetics and groceries to hotels and credit cards.

Price awareness and transparency are creating a new competitive landscape in which brands have to get creative and find new ways to engage and retain consumers — because while blowout sales and limited-time offers encourage one-time purchases, they are not building brand loyalty, and most savvy consumers are more than happy to jump ship when the next good bargain comes along. True brand loyalty is built on a feeling and experience, not on a sale. Promotions like free shipping, 24-hour sales, free samples or 0% APR on balance transfers have become so commonplace that they no longer feel special, and instead, are now expected by consumers as part of almost any purchase experience.

Over the past year, Fusion Hill has conducted research in a variety of categories — in everything from luxury cosmetics and consumer-packaged foods to exclusive financial services — to get to the bottom of the question everyone wants answered: “What breeds loyalty in today’s competitive consumer culture?” Through hundreds of consumer ethnographies, shop-alongs and focus groups, we started to see common consumer terminology and desires come to the surface across diverse categories, demographics and more.

So what does build loyalty? The most important factor is setting your brand, products and services apart from the competition. Luckily for marketers, there are hundreds of ways to set your brand apart and re-engage consumers. Check out the list of actual consumer quotes below and ideas for translating their desires into actionable loyalty-building strategies. And remember, it’s not an exact science but more about finding the right mix of strategies that satisfy your target consumer’s needs better than the competition.


What they say:

“A [loyalty] program should make me feel special for being a part of it … I like surprises and impulsive, spontaneous opportunities.” — Beauty Consumer, 40

What you can do:

Offer programs and services that build in surprising rewards and perks that inspire and delight consumers.


What they say:

“At my age I can tell if [salespeople] really care about the customer or they just want the sales.” — High-end Beauty Consumer, 58

What you can do:

Do not forget the importance of good customer service. In a time of big business and impersonal online transactions, consumers are nostalgic for “the good old days” of genuine, personal service.


What they say:

“They’re the experts. I don’t want to have a financial degree, so I want them to keep me apprised of what’s going on, what’s new and things that I should be doing, without being intrusive.” — Business Banking Consumer, 35

What you can do:

Today’s consumer loves to learn but doesn’t want to spend a lot of time doing it. Be a partner in their learning by offering relevant, curated information in whatever form they prefer, whether that be one-on-one sessions with experts or a short but engaging video tutorial.

| Creative, Research

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