New research has revealed that the majority of Aussie consumers are in less committed relationships with their favourite brands than ever before, with only three per cent feeling devoted towards their preferred retail brands.
The study, conducted by global loyalty marketing agency ICLP, surveyed 758 consumers in Australia to rate their experiences with friends and romantic partners, as well as brand relationships, on seven core relationship criteria (recognition, rewards, reciprocity, reliability, respect, trust and communication).
By partnering with a global authority on relationship dynamics (professor Ron Rogge from the University of Rochester), ICLP was able to create a model that is based on Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love.
The theory focuses on three key components of a relationship: intimacy (willingness to share information with a retailer), passion (brand enthusiasm) and commitment (loyalty), which, put into a retail context, allows brands to foster increasingly devoted relationships with customers.
The types of relationships analysed range from empty (the least desirable), liking, casual, romantic, companionate, to devoted (the most desirable).
Devotion is unsurprisingly the most favourable state for retail brands, with the survey finding that 88 per cent of customers that fall into this group would recommend a brand they are devoted to. However, only three per cent of customers feel devoted towards their preferred retail brands.
Of the other five relationship groups, levels of advocacy vary significantly, according to the research.
Only eight per cent of customers in a liking relationship would recommend a retailer to others, compared to 23 per cent in a casual relationship, and 37 per cent in a companionate relationship.
Customers in a romantic relationship are also strongly inclined to share their love for certain retailers, with 67 per cent likely to recommend brands.
The study also found that 59 per cent of customers would buy more if retailers used their data to understand their individual needs and requirements better, while 54 per cent would buy more if retailers treated them with more respect.
Furthermore, 49 per cent of customers would buy more if they had more trust in brands, while the same proportion said they would buy more if brands communicated with them better.
ICLP general manager Simon Morgan said brands today are finding it difficult to bond with their customers, and the level of choice means consumers are increasingly distracted.
“Our research shows that what consumers need from a brand to build an emotional connection is very similar to what they require from relationships, with friends and loved ones,” he said.
“I think brands across any sector can look at this research and begin to explore a new model for cultivating brand loyalty. Truly understanding the emotional factors that contribute to a consumer’s devotion to a brand – that’s what we’re working towards.”
Professor Ron Rogge said the study represents ground-breaking work in understanding the key components of brand loyalty.
“Our analyses suggested that the same seven basic types of relationships emerged for both brand and close relationships,” he said.
“In fact, a majority of respondents approached their relationships with favourite brands in a very similar manner to how they approached their close relationships.”
“This is exciting work, as it not only allows us to better understand and track the various types of brand loyalty, but it will also provide retailers with critical insights into targeting the needs and desires of specific classes of consumers in order to promote greater loyalty.”