Surveying the new landscape of customer loyalty in the wake of the pandemic

Four ways to help companies build strong bonds with their customers—and partners

Fast Company

In recent years, much has been written about the shifting relationships between consumers and companies. Consumers these days expect more from the companies they patronize, from elevated customer experiences to more personalized attention. Meanwhile, companies’ business-to-business relationships have undergone a similar transformation, as B2B customers are expecting more from the companies they work with. To navigate this new environment, many firms have turned to partners to help them better serve both their business and retail customers.

During the recent Fast Company Innovation Festival, Loop Media presented a thought leadership panel discussion to unpack the rapidly changing nature of consumer loyalty, both from consumers and corporate customers. The discussion also addressed how businesses can better leverage their own B2B ecosystems for support to better serve all stakeholders. Here are four key takeaways from their conversation.

1. Be ready to pivot.
When COVID-19 began, many businesses suddenly had to keep customers engaged and loyal. Loop Media, which provides on-site, on-screen streaming content to businesses, saw an opportunity to help. As consumers began returning to stores and restaurants, Loop supported the businesses in its U.S. network clients by providing a free, end-to-end solution for both premium entertainment content and custom signage to ensure in-venue patrons stayed engaged and entertained while they shopped or ate dinner. For instance, a surf shop might tap into one of Loop’s action sports channels that shows rapid-fire clips of surfers tackling big waves or snowboarders cruising in deep powder. A restaurant might choose to show a trivia channel or a pop music channel with Top 40 music and videos. “We help create and curate an ideal atmosphere in your environment to help draw in customers and keep them there as long as possible,” said Loop Media CEO Jon Niermann.

2. Build strong, long-term partnerships.
To make the switch to a free, ad-supported service, Loop partnered with SpringServe to pair ads with its video content. Although both businesses had started small, their partnership has been highly beneficial to both. In turn, their collective growth has helped deliver a more robust product that companies are using to build stronger connections with their customers. “We were really happy to partner with Loop and support their business during tough times,” said Chris Signore, vice president and head of sales at SpringServe.

Of course, not all B2B partnerships are as mutually beneficial. Niermann noted that many companies might look at a business partnership as a way to extract a quick win before moving on to the next deal. But that kind of short-sighted approach can cost companies in the long run. “The key word I like to use is reciprocity: It’s about what you can do for each other,” Niermann said. “You can’t look at it through the lens of how you can score this deal or extract more out of this partnership. It genuinely needs to come from a desire to help each other.”

3. Lend a helping hand.
In this new environment, businesses learned firsthand that customer experience is key, complacency isn’t a winning strategy, and word-of-mouth remains a powerful driver. “I think about the butterfly effect a lot,” Signore said. “If a customer says nice things about us to a potential customer, I’m going to get another customer. So, I try not to be too salesy when I’m talking to companies we’re trying to grow with or new people who are exploring our services.”

Niermann added that a well-run customer-loyalty program is an important factor. The recently launched Loop Rewards program offers benefits such as cash or credits to stores and restaurants based on how often Loop screens are streaming content inside them. The program helps boost ad revenue for Loop but also incentivizes Loop’s customers because the rewards can help defray the costs of running their business. “When you build that relationship, you get the value of your customer seeing you do something that’s really helping them,” Niermann said. “And that’s the important key part for us.”

4. Work hard to earn trust—and loyalty.
If customers aren’t responding to a business, part of the problem might be a lack of trust. In those cases, corporate leaders need to investigate what’s gone wrong—and then go back to the drawing board to fix the issue. The first step in that process, Niermann noted, is for businesses to pay attention to customer feedback. “You can’t be obstinate,” he said. “[Businesses] need to be open minded . . . and be willing to adjust and try to answer their concerns.”

Original Article