/ Shopping

What keeps you loyal?

This question might not be as straightforward as it appears. Customer loyalty is big business – but do the likes of Tesco and Amazon always deserve our devotion?

Which brands are you most loyal to? It isn’t always as straightforward as it first appears.

On paper, I probably look like I’m loyal to Amazon. As a working mum with two small children, Amazon Prime’s next-day deliveries have saved my bacon on many occasions. I also regularly watch Prime video, read Kindle books and use my new Fire tablet.

But I don’t feel at all loyal to Amazon. In fact, when I think about it, I would much rather spend my money elsewhere. Clearly loyalty is not as simple as it first seems.

Shopper loyalty

We recently quizzed shoppers on the retailers, providers and services they felt most loyal to, and the results were eye-opening. Supermarket giant Tesco came out top, followed by Amazon and Nationwide.

But it isn’t as simple as that – Tesco was also named as the brand that other shoppers felt least loyal towards. It seems that the more a customer engages with a brand, the more likely they are to have strong feelings towards it one way or another.

The power of brand loyalty is illustrated by the way customers talk about their relationship with brands – often in similar terms to the way they think about relationships with family and friends.

One Nationwide customer said:

‘I emerged from a divorce with virtually nothing. Nationwide “took me in”, they helped me build everything back up again. They’re straight, honest and reliable… I would never think of switching from them.’

While a Tesco customer said:

‘I feel part of the Tesco family, the products are good, any few complaints we have had are easily dealt with to our advantage.’

Harnessed properly, loyalty can bring huge benefits to both consumers and the brands themselves. But left unchecked, it risks customers being exposed to bad customer service, poor quality and rip-off pricing.

Cost of loyalty

Does loyalty pay? Well, it depends. Many of you will be aware that people who stay with the same energy, telecoms or insurance provider rarely get the best deal. Our research found that customers who stick with these providers risk losing out on hundreds of pounds of savings every year.

Harnessed properly, loyalty can bring benefits to both customers and the brands themselves. But left unchecked, it risks a bad service and rip-off pricing.

So how can you make sure your loyalty works to your advantage? Think carefully when you feel a strong emotional connection to a brand. Take a step back. Do you actually rate it for quality, customer service or (like me with Amazon) convenience?

Are you loyal to a particular retailer or provider? What is that keeps you loyal?

Comments

What has happened to the fuzzy pink face on 404 – page not found? I rather liked it.

We now have a robot as the link doesn’t work for recently quizzed shoppers

Sorry, Alfa – my mistake there 🙁

I don’t think I am loyal to any brand in particular, maybe First Direct, but if I they changed in such a way that I didn’t like, they would lose me pronto.

It is more a case of using or buying a brand as long as it delivers to your satisfaction rather than loyalty.

I have loyalty cards for many brands ranging from supermarkets, stores, on-line stores, hotels and airlines. If they are offered free, I get one. I don’t go out of my way to use them, so don’t make the most of them, but sometimes get something in return.

Loyalty is a many faceted concept. It implies continued use of the same organisation , with or without any emotional need. It also implies the repetitive use of an organisation because they have supplied our requirements efficiently and do what we want them to. One is also loyal because the personnel are kind and considerate and it is a pleasure to deal with them. Loyalty is also there when, like my bank, they have, for x years given me a working current account and there is no reason to change and thus no change is made. In this last case, however, there is no loyalty in return. Loyalty can also equate with convenience. If a major supermarket is the only one in proximity, then that is where one goes. To earn loyalty where there is competition, requires the store to provide more than the opposition. However, again, in my case, habit leads me to one store without rationalising the choice. I then get angry with them when I have to shop elsewhere, but still go back.
If loyalty is simply an emotional attachment because one feels that the organisation actually cares about you, as a person, then it is only the small outfits that really count and loyalty equates with personal contact. For me, loyalty is also about committing to an organisation, club or society. Once committed, I would expect to participate fully in the activities and give back some of the pleasure of being a member. Thus I feel loyal and that’s different from any type of loyalty to a commercial concern.

I think “loyalty” is mis-used in this context. I see it as meaning sticking by something or. more usually, someone through thick and thin, particularly family and close friends. In commercial relationships I’d see it as more like “considered inertia”.

I stay with the AA despite them trying on an inflated premium each year which I negotiate easily to a much lower figure; I know from experience they are helpful when it matters and can afford to stay with them even though Green Flag might be cheaper. I use Amazon for no other reason than convenience and price; self interest. We do most of our food shopping at M&S – we like their range and quality, friendly staff and, on the rare occasion we have had a problem, it has been resolved without fuss to our satisfaction. Our bank has proved over many years to be reliable, a friendly and helpful branch.

But I am not “loyal” to them; were they to transgress in a major way and if I found an unsatisfactory respose I would weigh up my options and decide whether to change. Not out of spite, but self interest again.

To organisations of any size we are no more than an anonymous customer; they have no reason to give me special treatment, just treat our relationship on a commercial basis.

I’m a little confused by the intro. It says people are most loyal to Tesco, but least loyal to the brand. Does that mean they like the store, but not own-name products? Or is this just confusion about what “loyalty” means?

I really like “considered inertia” Malcolm. One for the file of phrases.

Jim Davidson says:
14 December 2017

Jimda65,
Why I’m loyal to my bank is that I don’t want to jump from one bank to another, This is the only reason I have. I’v always had a busy life but now I’v retired, I’m looking for an easy life, I don’t want to be looking over my back all the time.

I tend to continue to use companies that have not caused me problems or have been helpful if something has gone wrong. NatWest Bank may not do well in ratings but they have provided impeccable service to me. Apple computers have behaved impeccably for me both at home and at work and when I did have a major problem with a laptop it was sorted out free of charge over two years after the one year guarantee had expired. My VW cars have cost little in repairs with one exception, when there was a major engine problem. I was given a new engine free of charge, again two years after the guarantee had expired, though I did have to pay for fitting. My present VW is five and a half years old and has not needed any repairs. My trust in the company has largely disappeared thanks to the the emissions cheating and the time the company took to make amends. I’ve used Tesco for years, mainly because of convenience, but now that Morrisons is my nearest supermarket I only use Tesco If I go into town – the Tesco car park provides free parking for three hours.

Rather than haggling with insurance companies that push up premiums I go elsewhere. I then call the outgoing company to explain why I no longer need their service and to ask them not to send marketing information in future.

The only companies that I actually want to support are small businesses such as printing companies that I use in connection with charity work.

Err Natwest won’t touch them even if you paid me too. Turned me down for a £5k loan when I was 21. Still when I started earning £5k a month I had a wee smile on my face at their expense.

Loyalty to a major company generally implies no reciprocation in my experience. I have had an account with John Lewis for nigh on fifty years and we do buy a lot from them, but that is usually on the basis of price, convenience, and better design than other outlets within range. But there is little genuine loyalty in return. I know that I can have a John Lewis loyalty card and get a cup of tea and a bun but we don’t need that so don’t bother. There is no feeling of preferred customer status, or beneficial customer rewards, unlike at an independent department store in Norwich which recognises long-standing customers as ‘Friends’ and has special customer evenings several times a year with 20% discounts, special offers in different categories from time to time, and pre-sale buying opportunities; unfortunately their product range is limited but they do what they are good at, offer high quality and very good service at reasonable prices, and treat customers with much more respect than other stores.

I make an exception in the case of my building society where I have a current account. I have been with the Nationwide and its predecessors for over fifty years as a mortgagor, saver/investor, and as a retail banking customer. There are exclusive loyalty savings accounts with superior terms and conditions and with better interest rates according to length of membership. I see my relationship with Nationwide as genuine mutuality.

Even though it is our nearest big supermarket and we go there frequently we could never feel loyal to Tesco because I think their pricing and their product-stocking policies are far too calculating of their own advantage. Lines are summarily de-listed so familiar products, or alternatives to their own-label goods, are no longer available, and they have allowed the quality of their ordinary lines to fall in favour of their premium lines which are no better than other retailers’ mid-range items. If you shop in Tesco and want Bourbon biscuits it’s their own and no others. For limited brand choice M&S is preferable because their own-brand merchandise is generally superior. It is noticeable that under Tesco’s brand-match scheme the savings are now infinitesimal – spend £65 and find you have saved just one penny against the same items at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons; this is not good enough from a company with the enormous buying power and market control of Tesco. Our preferred supermarket overall for the weekly shop is Sainsbury’s for product range, quality and value but their Nectar reward system is extremely calculating to ensure it is virtually impossible to benefit from it.

Many retailers, including John Lewis, are no longer offering other brands, or products from other manufacturers, unless they are at a significantly higher price than their own-label goods. In particular, in their own stores, JL’s own lines are only competing against high-price lines and designer brands. Of course, alternatives might be available at other shops in the area but that involves a trek and occasional disappointment. Generally we try to get everything we need under one roof or within a close distance.

I tend to stick with companies that haven’t upset me too much. Even if there are cheaper alternatives. Although having said that once my current delivery saver runs its course I may switch to a new supermarket. I was surprised the one I left 2 years ago hasn’t tried to win me back. Otherwise I would have gone back sooner.

In the article in the January 2018 Which?Magazine, Ellie says “. . . make sure you are getting real benefits from your brand relationships – or take your custom elsewhere”. I commented earlier on my ‘brand relationship’ with John Lewis and how I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t do much to establish and recognise loyalty in a meaningful way. The problem is that we have already demonstrated to the JL Partnership that we are unlikely to take our custom elsewhere so they have little incentive to enhance our connection to them. As for taking our custom elsewhere . . . Where to? There are no other stores in the entire county that come anywhere close to their standard and have almost everything we want except food and clothing under one roof. And they know it.

Reference was made in the January Magazine article to how people feel so little loyalty to Boots. This is quite a turn-round because Boots used to be one of the most liked and trusted shops on the high street, noted for good quality but economical products, a conscientious attitude towards their customers, and responsible and reliable retailing. They were the first port of call for anything medicinal and for a wide range of household requirements. They have let this reputation slip away from them and the supermarkets have quickly filled the vacuum by selling all the toiletries, cosmetics, and personal products that any household needs, and by establishing pharmacies within their larger stores they have also cut out the prescription and self-medication trade that Boots used as the cornerstone of their business. Asda has even muscled in on the optician service and taken a good slice of the action. What do people go to Boots for these days? Complex medicaments, perfumes and make-up, mother & baby lines, sandwiches and unhealthy snacks & drinks, and a veritable jumble sale of novelties and fancy goods. Boots has for some time been noted for ‘distress purchases’ – things you don’t want but have to have. They didn’t sell things to their customers, they just bought them as a necessity and used the ‘loyalty’ card to get them slightly cheaper.

There is an amusing little comment in the January Magazine article on Lloyds Bank: “. . . a recent campaign showed its symbolic black horse taking centre stage as the backdrop to a sequence of life-changing events”. That’s quite a dramatic turn to pull off successfully. What a clever little one-trick pony!

Patrick Taylor says:
15 December 2017

Seems almost a gift to having a Conversation on loyalty which though mentioning brand or provider could be extended to charities were people generally have stronger feelings. Loss of trust is of course the collapse of loyalty to a vision, perhaps idealised, of the company/ person/ product/ charity previously admired.

I agree with many here that loyalty to a company is a bit of an ask. I do have a loyalty to items made in Britain and to well-designed , reliable products.

So under that heading I now never buy Cadbury products as the work has been off-shored and the profits go via Switzerland. So fo me knowing the genuine owner of a business is actually quite important. Supporting British workers is to me a no-brainer in the health of the nation where under-employed youth and adults will be a drain on the economy.

Loyalty to bodies like the BBC become stretched as the quality of the reportage seems to go down the pan with this today being misleadingly simple ” Unilever’s other household names include Persil, Domestos and Hellman’s mayonnaise. It operates across more than 60 countries.”

If it had mentioned it ,with a turnover of £100bn a year, one of the largest fmcg conglomerates in the world that might have put the sale of it’s spreads business for £6bn into more context for the average reader.

However the BBC has an almosy unimpeachable reputation and can get away with this sloppiness for a while but not every famous name can expect to skate along being slipshod or deliberately opaque without matters coming home to roost.

Recovering a hard-earned reputation I think is virtually impossible unless the organisation is very obviously sorry and takes major remedial steps with new leadership. Japanese companies seem to do this better than western organisations where “it is not my fault” seems so contrary to taking the big bonuses when things go right.

Patrick – I agree with you on the sloppy journalistic standards prevalent today. But if you read the financial pages of the newspapers, whenever they mention a conglomerate they always name a few of their brands as a guide to less knowledgeable readers of the scope of their operations. It has become an unnecessary journalistic gimmick and I am sorry that the BBC has not expurgated it. I must admit that I had not realised until today that Bertolli olive oil and spreads were one of Unilever’s brands. As an Anglo-Dutch company I have 50% loyalty to Unilever.

Patrick Taylor says:
16 December 2017

: )

Regarding the media this from an excellent article on efficient working of markets and how phishers and phools are a logical outcome :

” The 2016 U.S. presidential election demonstrated phishing on a grand scale. Fake news for profit, fake news as foreign intervention, fake people with fake social media profiles posting fake stories, A/B tested to see which ones would be reshared by the largest number of phools. And traditional media, long the gatekeepers of trust, piled right on, because for them, the efficient market told them to abandon that role and instead find the headlines and stories that would garner the most attention and thereby the most advertising revenue. Social media platforms were completely unprepared to respond to the way in which not only their users but also their algorithms were being phished.

Most dismaying of all, we have begun to realize that the social media platforms themselves rely on a gigantic phish of their users. “The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them,…was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president, said in a recent interview with Axios. “And that means that we need to give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.…It’s a social-validation feedback loop…exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

medium.com/wordsthatmatter/phishing-for-phools-ad31b127cfa6

I have shares in Unilever, but no “loyalty”. If any of their products are what I need, I’ll enhance their profits, but its a free-for-all in my book.

When we accomplish Brexit, I hope we will be able to, once again, proudly brand food and products “Made/Produced in Britain” (or “the UK of GB and NI”). I’d buy British, given the choice, as long as rascals didn’t rip me off with over-priced poor quality goods by trading on my loyalty.

I buy British food when I can and I hope it is labelled honestly.

Patrick Taylor says:
16 December 2017

It is good when you eat to feel that you are supporting your locale rather than adding to pollution by eating air-freighted beans from Kenya say, or buying flowers from China. OK out of season you may have to eat brussels, carrots, swedes etc etc but then at least you may help diminish the tragedy to come. And of course keep money in the economy.

Hopefully local food is fresher too. I don’t mind that local foods are seasonal because it’s a welcome change when they reappear in the shops.

There s no substitute for English runner beans, celery and leeks and we are prepared to wait until they become available.

Abraham Schvarcz says:
22 January 2018

I noticed that when I wasn’t signed in to my Hertz Gold account I received cheaper prices than when I was signed in! Imagine that? When I logged in the price went up!!! I have left them now.

Amazon has certainly gone a long way to losing my loyalty in recent days.
Putting aside their tax-dodging for the moment, they used to be so, so convenient. And cheap (ish). But I am wondering if as they now dominate the market, they are starting to put prices up, squeeze their loyal customers and put more burden on us.
I have spent over 3 hours this week trying to arrange for them to collect a wrongly delivered parcel – instead of the drill I had ordered, they delivered a very heavy box of bottled water. And they expected little old me to cart this 23 kg, half-metre square package to the Post Office to have it returned to them! When I protested – after ferreting out their now cunningly hidden information about how to contact an actual human – they sent me a link to a collection service. But the catch is that I have to pay the charge for this (over £15) and then try to reclaim it from Amazon afterwards. The latest snag is that they have not disclosed the full recipient contact details (address and phone number) which are required by the parcel collection service, and which I have now had to go back and ask them for.
Amazon returns used to be way easier than this, just a matter of printing off their label; especially when the fault was entirely of their own making as in this case.
I will now be avoiding ordering any more from Amazon despite their apparent convenience!

According to this page, you should be able to order a returns label: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_gt_w_rr_rii?nodeId=201953310 I would expect that a courier will collect the goods. You should not be out of pocket because Amazon or their agent made a mistake, and I’m surprised that they did not say that you could keep the water.

DerekP says:
2 March 2019

Here in Gloucester, we enjoy a mains water supply, so I have no need for bulk quantities of bottled water. We also have many rainy days, which provide additional free water.

That was the old Amazon returns system. With my problem delivery, yes you print a label, but you then have to yourself take the goods to enther a Hermes parcel place (miles away) or a post office. Not happy! I am pursuing them, as above, to get a courier to collect but this is no longer a standard option and is still encountering the snags I described.

Agree about keeping the water and coca-cola etc, but I have no use for this vast quantity and don’t want it cluttering the house. It would actually cost Amazon much less to let me keep the water … but I would rather they collect it and thus pay for (and learn from?) their mistake.

That’s absurd. Not every one drives or has access to a car, and 23kg is a bit much to carry around on the way to the Post Office. I suggest having a word with Citizens Advice and I expect that they will agree that Amazon is being unreasonable. If Amazon (or their courier) has made a mistake they should go out of their way to be helpful.

I’ve rarely had to return anything to a company but frequently did at work, and had no problem with arranging free collection.