Building Customer Loyalty: What I Learned While Solving a Billion Dollar Problem

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I recently had the opportunity to consult with a mobile app development company. They were tasked with solving a Billion dollar problem for a major soft drink company. The problem, Out of Stock.

In our attempts to focus our individual expertise on how to solve the problem, an idea was hatched. Yes, it was a software solution, one that would provide a complete solution to the Out of Stock issue while also indirectly solving two other semi-related issues the company mentioned they wanted to resolve.

The overall success of our app concept will be dependent on customers, everyday people who use, and many who love their products. In today’s social world, we’re constantly sharing our lives with other people, whether they want us to or not! But what if a company was willing to reward you, their customer, for helping them solve this problem? Would you?

It was my job as the marketer and business development expert to figure out how to onboard users, and how do we keep them engaged and consistently using the app?

The idea, the whole solution, is worthless if people won’t use it. However, back to our social living, I knew that with a strong marketing campaign and onboarding strategy, this company could get their customers to at least download the app. However, the harder part, is getting them to use the app. To report back to the company through the app that their products are stocked or out of stock.

Think about all the things you do in a day and how often you take your phone out of your pocket or purse and launch an app. It could be Facebook, email, maps, amazon, etc… why not take an extra minute, when buying your favorite drink to report three pieces of data, it’s already part of your routine or something you were going to do anyways.

The fact is, some would do it, a few times anyway.

The real challenge is in getting them to do it continuously. Not necessarily going out of their way to do it, but making sure there is enough of an incentive to get them to take that phone out and spend the extra minute.

In the world of mobile app usage, 75% of app users churn within 90 days. Meaning, they stop using the app. And that was my big challenge.

Through this experience, I was led to research customer loyalty and ways a company can increase consumer loyalty. Which is what will be required to make our mobile app solution a success.

Our initial idea was to focus on the second most effective form of motivation, Recognition and Respect. We’d use a points system to track a user’s progress towards the Ambassador status. Once an Ambassador, the user would be rewarded with special opportunities to lead the expansion of products in their area to other users, and potentially being recognized at the “Ambassador Only Party”.

While certain segments of people, such as millennials, would dig this type of praise over the more commonly used form of motivation, monetary rewards, we decided that in order to build strong loyalty and user commitment quicker, we needed something that offered immediate payoff and that the customer felt like they had some control over.

Our second run at the idea was to bridge partnerships with other companies that we could use to incentives the customers using the app. For example, using gift certificates for fast food restaurants, the company’s own products, or everybody’s favorite coffee stop, the user would be able to select how they want to be rewarded and receive instant “cash” to be redeemed at those locations.

To help confirm our ideas, I took to the streets, asking everybody I encountered a few questions.

  1. Are you a soda drinker? (if no, what do you drink?)
  2. If there was an app that ______ and you got rewarded with ________, would you use it?

If no, to question 2:

  1. What type of reward would motivate you to use the app consistently?
  2. What other ideas do you think would be cool?

With this research we not only validated our ideas, but we were able to clarify some of our earlier assumptions and adjust for some of the unknowns.

The real trick to making Customer Loyalty a success in your business or with your app, is to find out what motivates your customers the most. Ask them, run an email campaign or Facebook promotion to see what people respond to the most.

Maybe the reward is just to provide a website that is more user friendly, launch an app that makes your customer’s life easier, make using your products funner, an overall better experience can be very rewarding, and don’t forget that you could make your products or services good enough to stand on their own as a big enough reward for your customers.

The company we created this app for has over 97 million Facebook fans and many of them are already loyal because they love the products.

Apple is another company that has outstanding customer loyalty because people love their products and great customer support. I would suggest that the overall experience also plays a huge part in the loyalty of their customers.

With strong loyal customers, you get a whole community of Ambassadors that fight for and support your brand through thick and thin. They’ll spread your brand across their social media channels and in their daily conversations. It’s well worth the effort to figure out a way to get your customers engaged and don’t be afraid to reward them for their commitment.

You’ll probably have to think outside the box. In today’s fast paced microwave living, you’ll need to do something that is unique and that gets people excited.

Would love to hear your ideas for creating customer loyalty. What initiatives have you taken to build loyalty around your products or company?

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