7 Retail Influencers on Loyalty in 2021

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In 2021 it seems that as soon as one hurdle falls another appears in place – or at least for those in the retail trade, it may feel that way. While many businesses’ met with the once-in-a-life-time challenges of early lockdown with ingenui and creativity, as the long-tail disruptions of COVID loom, ominously over the horizon, folks are understandably beginning to feel the heat…

As many prepare for the busiest season on the retail calendar, the reality of staff shortages and a burgeoning global supply chain crisis are fast moving from hypothetical to all too present tense.

In our most recent customer insights report, we reported that one of the key drivers of long term loyalty in the months ahead will be building an authentic emotional connection with customers – with 68% now saying they are more loyal to their favourite brands, this is no longer an abstract ideal, but an important business strategy.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that the businesses who were able to step up and deliver to customers in their time of need not only paid that good faith back in revenue but in an ongoing and deeply felt sense of loyalty.

While there can be no doubt that challenges lie ahead, it is increasingly clear that understanding your customers now is perhaps the greatest armament in any retailers shield right now.

In an effort to help you keep up to speed, we spoke to seven of the brightest minds in retail and asked them to give feedback on our survey of over 180,000+ genuine retail customers. You can access the report below, or skip ahead to get the skinny right now.

View the full report

‘Mapping Loyalty in Uncertain Times’


“Customers may be more loyal to their favourite brands after the first bout of COVID, but their favourite brands have changed. Most customers scrutinized brands’ actions during the pandemic and surrounding social justice movements. It’s the brands that were able to show that they had values similar to their core customer base through their actions during the pandemic that will continue to resonate in 2021.”

Jasmine Glasheen, Principal Writer & CEO, Jasmine Glasheen & Associates


“Amid COVID, loyalty marketing is evolving beyond incentivizing shoppers to spend by racking up points they cash in for free items or discounts.

Rewards programs are becoming more experiential, as retailers and brands are becoming less literal-minded about the notion of loyalty, to forge deeper bonds with shoppers that aim to go beyond the transactional.

We see retailers from Sephora to Walmart courting consumers’ loyalty in new ways, from deepening emotional bonds with shoppers to heightening conveniences for them.

Walmart is doing it with its new Walmart+ subscription loyalty program, which is built around services, like home delivery and a scan and go feature via its mobile app, so shoppers can skip the checkout line.

And as consumers vote with their wallets for brands that reflect their values and belief systems, retailers are increasingly tying those values to their loyalty programs.

For example, last year amid the killing of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement and the spotlight on racial injustice, Sephora allowed its Beauty Insider members to use their rewards points to donate to the National Black Justice Coalition, enabling its core consumer to put its money where its hearts and minds were via purchases at the retailer.”

Barbara Thau, Senior Featured Editor, CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce


“Consumers have so many choices these days; anything you want them to embrace better be good – it’s the classic ‘What’s in it for me?’

We have all been asked at checkout if we belong to the store’s loyalty program and we can’t remember if we do or not. If it had value, we would remember, but too many loyalty programs take too long to accumulate rewards and consumers lose interest.

If a loyalty program isn’t simple to understand, and points aren’t easy to accumulate and redeem, why bother? DSW gets it: Points for everything, free shipping, birthday perks and more. There’s value their shoppers can immediately see. And when it comes to loyalty programs, immediately is key.”

Kizer & Bender – Consumer Anthropologists and Retail Consultants, Kizer & Bender


“As the pandemic has accelerated digital adoption throughout the customer journey, a wealth of new data points must be integrated to further personalize and build loyalty.”

Carl Boutet – Chief Strategist & Executive Advisor, Studio RX 


“Loyalty is earned, and how brands supported consumers during the pandemic will certainly play a role in their interest to continue to support them or not. The reality is, customers gained new perspectives on how to shop, what they needed and ways in which they preferred to engage with retailers throughout COVID and even beyond as the world slowly opened up. Likewise, however, retailers repositioned their own efforts to connect and support consumers during the pandemic and as a result, loyalty should be evaluated, as well. More so than ever, trust is a heightened priority among consumers and brands and as a result, loyalty programs and how merchants reward customer loyalty should be a top priority as well.”

“Loyalty is earned, and how brands supported consumers during the pandemic will certainly play a role in their interest to continue to support them or not. The reality is, customers gained new perspectives on how to shop, what they needed and ways in which they preferred to engage with retailers throughout COVID and even beyond as the world slowly opened up. Likewise, however, retailers repositioned their own efforts to connect and support consumers during the pandemic and as a result, loyalty should be evaluated, as well. More so than ever, trust is a heightened priority among consumers and brands and as a result, loyalty programs and how merchants reward customer loyalty should be a top priority as well.”

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle – Founder, Retail Minded 


“There are three standout points from this survey that should cause retailers and brands to rethink their approach to loyalty. First, 60% of in-store shoppers feel an emotional connection to their favourite brands. This reinforces why brick & mortar stores matter – the ability to experience the product in some way establishes a bond that simply making a convenient purchase online cannot replicate.

Second, a brand’s values matter more than ever – 77% of shoppers said they consider a brand’s values before making a purchase. Consumers care about social issues, and they want their favourite brands to care, too.

Third, when 44% of shoppers say a single “bad brand experience” would cause them to stop buying from
a brand, retailers need to step up their customer experience and support. Consumers learned during the pandemic it’s not so hard to switch brands even with their favourite products. The willingness to switch no longer carries a pain point for nearly half of shoppers. That’s something for retailers to understand!”

Ricardo Belmar – Retail Transformation Thought Leader & Founder, Retail Razor Advisory   


Make sure to follow our wonderful contributors on social if you haven’t already – a world of wisdom awaits.

For anyone who just hasn’t quite had enough above, you can download your own version of Mapping Loyalty in Uncertain Times right now by just filling in the form below.

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