The Quest for Loyalty
People’s desires for instant satisfaction and the sheer choice confronting them is making it ever trickier for brands to retain loyalty
As snow swirls past my window, the fresh shoots of spring seem a very long way off. With yet another London Fashion Week put to bed recently, as well as a number of idle conversations about the style arena, the sheer number of brands and designers looking to enter – and stay – in the market place has got me thinking.
We live in an unprecedented era of choice. This in itself is not new – the sheer amount of goods available to the consumer (as well as whether that’s a good thing or not) is hardly a new topic of industry or sociological debate. What has evolved in the technological ability to place a new product in front of as many people as possible to gain interest and ultimately sales.
Yet what then..? Many solo item brands exist now that simply would not have been able to survive prior to the internet; there are brands specialising in socks, pocket squares, belts, scarves, gin – you name it, if you want one specific item you can search on google and be dumbstruck by the brand options in front of you. Many brands I have chatted to over the years have spoken of their desire to become a “go to” brand for their clients but does this open up as many problems as possibilities?
What is a “go to” brand anyway in this day and age…..? Few brands have the capacity to be able to offer everything from underwear to overcoats or bikes – and perhaps even fewer now can count on custom to return ad nauseam on the strength of the name. So does small and niche win in the battle to retain custom; it might do, but that brings strains with it as the brand may struggle to ever reach a sustainable sales momentum allowing financial consolidation and security.
Customer loyalty in itself is becoming ever more fickle, many brands crave a mention or a picture in a widely read or distributed magazine. Often this might result in a surge of sales but often, we have heard, for the pictured item only. The wider brand and all its other offerings does not see much long term upswing in consistent loyalty and thus sustainable sales. Next day, new issue, new picture – someone else in the spotlight. People’s memories are short.
We have seen many brands slowly, slowly expanding their product offering. This is not a bad thing I hasten to add and is a sign of business confidence – and yet in the age of easy information and comparison, there are some who appear to be doing it for the sake of it. I look at many and think, but x, y and z (not to mention a and b) are already fully up and running in that niche, someone is ultimately not going to make the cut and have to withdraw from that field of customer combat. Potentially at the cost of someone’s livelihood. Given the fickle nature of people’s buying habits, is it any wonder brands attempt to engender loyalty through their story, the history behind the brand, what it stands for.
Customer choice though can only be a good thing as it encourages brands to rigorously and continuously analyse their offering. However, given the sheer profusion of brands now available (which I accept is this magazine’s bread and butter) no one brand can expect that much customer loyalty in a lifestyle arena saturated with the next image, the next big thing. As such, despite my best hopes for many brave artisans and entrepreneurs, the next financial crunch – whenever and however that reveals itself – it likely to see a big re consolidation where perhaps only the best quality, most precisely targeted and astutely run will survive.