Brands must do more to promote longer-term customer retention and loyalty if they're going to stay ahead of their competitors, according to Ian Horsham, Divisional Director for Promotions & Incentives for the Grass Roots Group, who here provides several ideas on how that can best be achieved. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

It was recently reported that some of Britain's most successful superbrands are falling out of favour with consumers. This is another reminder to all brands on how important it is to focus on customer retention and loyalty, particularly in today's saturated market.

As long-standing brands are replaced by newer and more innovative counterparts, even the most popular need to monitor what their customers really want and deliver this, and more, to ensure loyal brand advocates stick around for the long term and aren't tempted away by rivals.

In today's competitive environment, brands that have been forefront of our minds simply because of who they are can no longer rely on their name to keep hold of loyal customers. As price and service wars become the norm, brands need to focus on how to keep existing customers happy throughout the relationship rather than when they have already decided to jump ship.

Here, then, are Grass Roots Group's top tips for brands on the best way to keep existing customers loyal and new customers coming through the door:

  1. Ensure programmes are carefully targeted
    Both new and existing customer bases should be taken into account when considering a reward scheme. Some programmes take a basic 'compensation' approach to loyalty, which may be with good intentions and motivated by a pure desire to say thank you. However, every promotion or programme has the potential to alienate the most loyal customer if their needs and values aren't targeted and carefully considered.

    The loyalty scheme in place should firstly satisfy the customers that regularly flock to your doors, before reaching out to entice a whole new wave of potential consumers that may or may not stick around. By carefully targeting a scheme at the planning stages brands can ensure that they won't be left firefighting as a result of creating a programme which may not meet the original objective.

  2. Keep the programme fresh
    By being a loyal customer it means that the same loyalty programme is in constant use, so it is not surprising that customers tend to quickly get used to them. To prevent disengagement and boredom, it is important that a reward scheme does not become too familiar.

    Customers can also, over time, begin to view loyalty rewards as an entitlement rather than a gift. This can be avoided by regularly refreshing or enhancing a programme, bringing in topical hooks or new product launches, to ensure there is always something new and personalised to please and engage the customer.

  3. Add the element of surprise
    Providing a reward that a customer isn't expecting can be a very powerful tool, especially with prices rising. The element of surprise is key - giving customers an additional incentive, such as enhanced service or a free gift, to stay with a provider. From this, the perceived value and memorability of the company can be amplified.

"Now, more than ever, the old adage 'the customer is king' holds true. With so many options and offers available for today's consumer, it is often the small things that can make the difference between holding onto your customer base and them switching allegiance," concluded Horsham. "Putting simple steps in place to reward loyalty for frequent shoppers and subscribers, as well as giving them the same or comparable opportunities as new users will ensure they have no reason to go elsewhere."