Loyalty vs Affinity: Re-aligning your Digital Marketing Focus

24th Mar 2021

Building customer loyalty has always been a major focus point for businesses – ideally we want people to come back often to shop for our products, use our services, absorb our information and so forth.

But is that really all there is to it? What if ‘loyalty’ is actually often a slightly skewed illusion? What if a repeat customer is simply a little bit reluctant to do some legwork to research alternatives? What if there aren’t any better alternatives?

And, more scarily, what if customers do suddenly find an alternative that offers them an incentive to shift their loyalty? Price, convenience, better service, wider offering… the list of competitive advantages is a long one!

And the highly-competitive online drive to find, engage and convert customers is becoming increasingly challenging for business owners, let alone the challenge of keeping those customers for multiple engagements and purchases over time.

So what can you, as an online business owner, do to differentiate your offering? You can of course be cognizant of price, convenience etc. but are those really the reasons customers shop with you, rather than another supplier?

We think that what you should actually be looking to build in your customer base is something more intrinsic – something called ‘affinity’.

What is Affinity in this context?

In simple terms, affinity is the ability to create an emotional bond between a customer and a supplier that goes beyond the simple, measurable factors like price.

It’s a value system, a set of behaviours or principles expressed by the supplier that resonate at an emotional level with customers, elevating them from just ‘someone who buys our products or services’ to ‘someone who chooses us over any other, no matter the price or other factors’.

A quick example…

A really good example of brand affinity is Apple – whilst in reality their products are no more technologically advanced than leading competitor brands such as Samsung, and are normally more expensive, Apple customers will tell you that they are ‘Apple for life’ and that they feel Apple connects with them in an intuitive way.

Actually, what Apple got right before anyone else is the tactile nature of their products – the little swooshes, haptics, vibrations and sounds that make the product feel ‘alive’ in our hands. And whilst other brands followed, Apple were first to do so – a major factor in capturing that first critical evangelist group…

How to build Affinity in your Digital Marketing strategy

The challenge here is that you really need to understand two vital things: who your customers are, and what they like.

Your audience data and where you want to position yourself within their lives will underpin your entire communications strategy.

Ask yourself things like:

  • Where are they – geographically and digitally?
  • What do they typically spend a lot of time doing?
  • Where are they consuming information?
  • How much time do they spend online?
  • What other sites do they visit and what do they do there?
  • What, how and why do they buy things?
  • What language do they use?
  • What causes do they support?
  • Once you have answers to these and other questions you’ll have a far better understanding of what language and imagery you need to use, where and when you should communicate, how to position your products or services to make them indispensable to your customers.

But more importantly, you need to ensure that your principles are aligned – that’s not to say that you should change your founding principles or expect your customers to change theirs – in fact, that’s exactly what you want to avoid doing.

But find your ‘tribe’ and let them find you – that way the meeting of minds means you’ll feel like you’re all on a journey together, going to the same or similar places, or at least travelling in the same way.

That builds an emotional connection, and means your business becomes a must-have in their lives, regardless of the competition.

Building digital marketing strategies can be really challenging, not just from a research and planning perspective, but also from the creation of content and the daily implementation perspective.

Let us help you not only find your digital ‘tribe’ but help you create marketing strategies that build something beyond just loyalty, that help you build something so much more valuable… affinity.

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Realnet is an established Cambridge digital agency, we have been helping all sorts of organisations with their online presence since 1998. From website design and ecommerce to digital marketing and PPC campaigns.

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