Loyalty has become fickle. Marketers will willingly confess that a crowded market space coupled with increasingly informed customers have made it difficult to achieve brand loyalty. The newer generations, especially, will switch to a competitor for practically anything—from the promise of a lowered price tag, improved service, speed or convenience. As brand loyalty is the lifeblood for a business, it is paramount that it is achieved without cutting into the bottom-line. Although it seems farfetched, businesses can create brand loyalty for free by creating user habit loops and driving users investments into their platforms. This habit loop will keep them coming back and their investment of time, data, or even money will keep them on your platform.
The key to free customer retention is to leverage the classic habit loop coupled with an additional step of gaining user investment.
As the study of the customer habit loop is already core to many businesses, user investment is the key to keeping customers on your platform and with your brand. The goal should be to create great experiential habit loop plus a way to sustain it—in other words, focus on finding ways to get users to invest in your platform within the Cue-Craving-Response-Reward Habit Framework.. The example of a Facebook user makes it easy to understand this process:
- Cue: This is the trigger for a habit. Right when you log on to your computer and open the browser your brain starts its first trigger.
- Craving: This is the motivational force behind every habit most of us recognize it as a “craving”. Your brain has a desire and motivation that gives you a reason to act. This could come in the form of relief, entertainment or some sort of itch. This craving drives you to respond. In case of a platform like Facebook, you might have the craving to see what is new.
- Response: The response is the actual routine you perform. The key for a technology to become successful lies in making this routine simple and seamless. For instance, Facebook, enables users to complete the routine in a matter of seconds. Once you are logged in, you are exposed to the news feed and the notification button.
- Reward: The red notification we see is the payoff. The emotion that we feel when we see 15 new notifications: belonging, excitement and popularity. This keeps us coming back for more and opening Facebook with clockwork consistency.
- User Investment: What keeps us hooked to the Facebook platform and holds us back from moving to any other social media platform? User investment. We stay with Facebook because of the investment we have made in our Facebook profile. This investment consists of pictures, videos, likes, funny posts, achievements and life updates. This investment keeps us loyal to the platform and nourishes an addictive habit loop. We can never leave this platform or we will lose all that we invested in.
When a user is made to “invest” in a product or service by way of personal data it generates an emotional satisfaction that makes retention bullet proof.
We can create this in any industry. Take the example of a treadmill at the gym. There is no loyalty attached by the user to a Nordic, Precor, Life Fitness, Bowflex, or any other treadmill brand. There is nothing to bind a user to their products.
The habit loop is set on a treadmill, but how can we create user investment to bind users to a specific treadmill brand?
In the case of the treadmill, this can be done by building user health profiles. Health and fitness related data can be recorded each time a user enters the treadmill habit loop. With data in place, we have the ability to leverage the emotional investment into creating a lifetime of great personalized experiences.
There are novel ways to increase the utility of user data. For example, a provider of treadmills could aggregate a user’s fitness-related data from different sources. Now the company can retain the user by providing the most comprehensive data with the best views.
This needs to go one step further. Data from peers and groups could be used to provide comparative and competitive perspectives of a user’s progress. User networks could be designed to throw challenges at others, unlock rewards and share rich stories using data, images and videos with other users, enabling users to announce who they are, how good they are and how far they can go.
Here, user data is not what keeps customers loyal to a platform. It is the digital profiles, stories, digital clout, and communities that enable them to strut like a hero.
When a user invests data and emotions into a product and is able to tell his or her stories with ease and at will, you build unassailable product loyalty. Game, set, match.