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Loyalty Isn’t an Accident: The Psychology of Brand Loyalty

Photo Credit: LIVSN Designs

How Outdoor Tech Apparel Brands Can Build Strong Connections

Ever wondered why some outdoor tech apparel brands cultivate fierce loyalty?

Let's explore the keys to building robust connections that go beyond repeat customers.

Creating a Culture

What exactly is brand loyalty, and how can you develop it for your outdoor company?

Think of a brand you absolutely love. Maybe you don’t have every single product on the market, but you’re pretty sure that whatever they come out with, you would be willing to buy. That is brand loyalty in action. In fact, you might be such a fan that you’ve signed up for their rewards program and benefit from various purchase rewards and points. This is an even more telling sign of brand loyalty. 

Brand loyalty is earned and valuable and there are reasons consumers tend to choose the same ones consistently over others. However, there is a difference between brand loyalty, and simply having repeat customers. Brand loyal consumers return to a particular brand due to an identifiable factor.  Demystifying customer loyalty may seem like a behemoth task, but ultimately it distills down to behavioral psychology.  

Photo Credit: Hikerkind

Tap Into Emotion

One of the strongest components of brand loyalty and return customers is the (often overlooked), but incredibly powerful trait we all inherently possess: Emotion.

You may have heard that emotions influence our purchasing decisions by 95% and it would be a mistake to not utilize this knowledge when applying it to growing a following for your outdoor brand. Emotions play a critical role in shaping loyalty. When customers connect emotionally with a brand, they're more likely to become loyal customers, and you need to understand them deeply to forge this bond. 

Use tools such as customer personas and journey maps to identify different motivations and needs at various stages. Make it a goal to surprise and delight customers, and in turn trigger the release of dopamine. This positive association will help ensure continued engagement and experiences with the brands platform and services, and ultimately shape their emotional connection. 

The second crucial factor in establishing brand loyalty is a sense of community and connection. We are hardwired to seek out groups and feelings of belonging and meaningful interactions. You can leverage this need through social media with your outdoor brand by nurturing an organic community and encouraging customers to engage with one another.

Brand ambassadors are also a method of putting faces and identities to a brand. Platforms such as instagram make it incredibly easy to connect authentically, no matter what stage your company is in.

Even if you are in the absolute beginning phase of development and don’t have a “polished” physical product yet- show your followers the journey thus far. Tell a story about your motivation; how you arrived at your current state, and capitalize on tools such as hosting Q&A’s, livestreams and taking your audience on behind the scenes tours of your business.

Photo Credit: Truewerk

A Consistency Continuum

As a brand, proving you are consistent and reliable is essential for retaining a loyal audience.

A few ways for outdoor brands to do this are by making sure you have consistent branding across all platforms; this includes everything from brand colors to typography to logos and visuals. This establishes the familiarity principle, which is essentially that we as humans,like things that are familiar to us. Using social proof such as testimonials, reviews and case studies can help provide the nudge of reassurance that customers might need to choose your brand over another. 

In addition, rewarding loyal customers can provide huge dividends, specifically in the form of loyalty programs. If cheesy, department store credit cards immediately come to mind, don’t worry- there are plenty of ways you can tailor these programs to your unique business goals and audience. 

For example, The North Face elevated their customer experience by reshaping their customer loyalty program. It evolved from VIPeak to XPLR Pass, where they extend a 10% discount on first purchases to new members and utilizes a point system where members gain one point for every dollar spent. The XPLR pass is also extremely visible in its promotion- the North Face landing page features a full bleed image and call to action to become an XPLR member, while also being prominently displayed in the website top navigation. 

If you’re thinking that reward systems and points seem frivolous and expensive, remember that investing in the retention and loyalty of existing customers is less costly than marketing to brand new ones. Purpose driven loyalty programs encourage “super fans” to keep spreading the word and bringing them back, while also providing intrigue for brand-neutral customers. 

Photo Credit: Hypebae

Making Your Mark

There is also the conundrum of the customer’s desire to stand out from the crowd, while also maintaining a sense of community, rapport and social approval.

Outdoor brands can achieve these opposing needs by providing the best of both worlds and maintaining a strong brand identity for customers to feel aligned with, within a group they identify as being unique.

Take for example, a brand that has exploded in popularity in the past few years, Goodr Sunglasses. While the notion of affordable, brightly colored sunglasses isn’t exactly a new concept, the way in which Goodr positions themselves using a distinct brand voice, “irreverent and absurd” visuals and unconventional identity in general, has created a cult following. The playful vibe, including a pink flamingo mascot named Carl has amassed a successful social media following that lends itself well to shares and ultimately, loyal fans that can’t get enough. 

Photo Credit: Goodr Website

Wrapping It All Up

Brand loyalty doesn’t happen overnight, but with a comprehensive marketing & social media plan, success can definitely be achieved and measured in a relatively short amount of time.

How do you know if you’re on the right track?

Here are some positive indicators:

  • Having products that sell out quickly

  • Products that require waitlists

  • Consistent backorders

  • Popular presale quantities

These are all signs that customers are willing to buy, even before the market has decided its value. Another tactical approach is tracking repeat customers and tracking lifetime value. The higher each one is, the more likely you are to have that customer repeat their purchase with your brand.   

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