How to build customer loyalty in 5 simple steps

Smiling woman with mobile phone, happy and loyal customer

Businesses around the world are facing yet more challenges as the cost of living continues to rise. Shifting customer expectations are on the move once again and this time, they’re on the lookout for value.  

Customers want to be assured that the brands they’re interacting with are the best value for money. At the same time, marketers are having to do more with less as budgets are cut and savings are made.  

So, what can markers do to maximize profitability during these tough times?  

The answer is simple: build a loyal customer base.  

What are the benefits of customer loyalty?

Having a loyal customer base is essential – it’s the difference between success and failure. During the highs and lows that come with working in a marketing team, loyal customers are what keep you going. They’re there, time and again, ready and willing to invest time and money in your business.  

The benefits of customer loyalty are many and varied, but here are the major reasons why you need to focus on building brand advocates: 

  1. Loyal customers boost profits. 
  2. Customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition. 
  3. Loyal customers shop regularly. 
  4. Repeat customers spend more than new customers.  
  5. Loyal customers have a higher rate of conversion.  

5 steps to customer loyalty

Customer loyalty isn’t something that just happens. You have to put the work in.  

Here are our five top tips for building customer loyalty: 

1. Give them a reason to sign up

Our latest report on customer loyalty found that the majority of new customers are driven to sign up for email marketing by incentives. 

  • 35% of respondents subscribe to claim a discount/offer.  
  • 33% subscribe to hear about future promotions. 
  • 30% sign up to become part of a loyalty/rewards program. 

They want to feel as though there is a fair exchange happening. As though they are receiving a superior experience because they have chosen to give you their data, time, and money.  

Every step of the customer journey is an opportunity to build customer loyalty. You can demonstrate your commitment to creating an exceptional experience by offering new subscribers exclusive benefits. Think access to VIP sales, first purchase discounts, invites to member-only events, and more.  

Signing up for your marketing should feel like new customers have just joined the most lucrative club in town.  

2. Create a loyalty program

Loyalty programs are more than just a post-purchase point tracker. Our research found that loyalty programs are now the third biggest driver of newsletter subscriptions.  

Today’s consumers want to be rewarded for their repeat business. Knowing that they’ll be able to earn points and get rewards and discounts from the very beginning of your relationship will go a long way towards earning a new customer’s trust and loyalty.  

You need a loyalty program that works for you and your customers; not every one has to be the same. Understanding what drives and motivates your customers to make repeat purchases will help you create the ultimate loyalty program for your business. Your customers may be driven to buy more through the accumulation of points, or to engage with your brand to earn badges in a gamified loyalty program.  

The only way you’ll know what works is to look at the data. Ask your customers the question, and dive deep into the habits of your most loyal segments. If you’re new to the world of loyalty programs, there may be a period of trial and error, but you’ll undoubtedly reap the benefits in the long run.  

3. Build trust through your values

We’re living in a time of unprecedented social consciousness. Consumers’ behavior is being influenced by social movements and causes like never before.  

Customers want to know that they’re getting a quality product, that’s good value, and that it’s from a company that acts responsibly. That trust is the make-or-break difference for brands. Customers today won’t do business with a brand they don’t trust.  

To build trust quickly, you need to openly and honestly communicate your brand’s values. What’s important to you?  

In a recent survey into customer trust, it was discovered that 74% of customers considered a brand’s impact on society when deciding whether to trust them. Conscious consumers are all too aware of brands greenwashing, pinkwashing, rainbowwashing, brownwashing – all types of social colorwashing 

Brands can’t make unsubstantiated claims, they need to back up their claims of support with actions that customers can see. This helps build trust quickly.  

Once you’ve won a customer’s trust, building a long-lasting relationship will be significantly easier.  

4. Create a consistent cross-channel journey

While email continues to be the preferred channel for customer communication, social media and SMS is on the rise. There has never been a better time to start building a cohesive cross-channel experience, especially as target audiences mature.  

Social media is the one for Gen Z, even more than email, with 43% preferring to hear from brands on social channels. In fact, your email subscribers are more likely to interact with you on social media than via your website. Over half of those surveyed in our report (57%) stated that they interact with their favorite brands on social media every day. 

It’s therefore vital that you keep branding and messaging consistent. If trust is the basis of customer loyalty, then looking and sounding the part is going to ensure you’re trusted on every channel. It’s like meeting someone face-to-face. They’re never going to recognize you if you change the way you look every time.  

5. Build a referral rewards program

Our research revealed that customer referrals are rooted in value and backed up by experience.   

Customer referrals (or brand advocacy) are what we’re all working towards. They’re essential for growing your business at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. Also, because they’ve been referred to your brand by someone they trust, research has found that they’re 18% more loyal, have a 16% LTV (lifetime value), and spend at least 13% more than customers acquired using ads or paid online methods. 

While reviews and feedback help build an online community of brand advocates, referral programs take it a step further making it an altogether more personal experience. When a customer is referred by someone they know and trust, they have a reliable source telling them that your brand is trustworthy and provides exceptional customer service.  

Building a referral program that offers unique benefits to the referee will help you leverage the benefits of word-of-mouth in your favor. 

Gaining trust for ultimate customer loyalty

Building trust and loyalty among customers is something that takes time, effort, and resources, but the benefits are innumerable. These are just five simple steps pulled from the 10 top takeaways from our report on customer loyalty.  

For more exclusive insights into how to use your marketing to build trust and loyalty, check out the report.


Jenna Paton, Content Marketing Manager
Jenna expertly writes thought-leadership content about cross-channel marketing and customer engagement and manages the creation and execution of Dotdigital's content marketing strategy.

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