How Can Marketers Ensure Brand Loyalty In The Digital Age?

Why brands need to get creative with their strategy to secure loyal consumer engagement in 2016


With numerous price comparison sites tempting consumers out of their usual buying habits and online purchases resulting in a decline of face-to-face customer service, a growth in eCommerce is often blamed for eroding brand loyalty.

One company successfully tackling this issue is Pret a Manger.

In 2015, off the back of 16% annual growth, Pret launched their loyalty- strategy. Across their 350 outlets, baristas began giving away freebies to unsuspecting customers.

At first, these customers considered themselves lucky recipients of a random act of kindness from a generous employee. After all, Pret’s USP is their ethical business culture.

Sure enough, people went crazy for the idea on social media, with many assuming that the freebies were given to those the baristas found most attractive. Inevitably, this left those who had never received an elusive ‘free lunch’ bitter – but, of course, they always returned in the hope that next time, they would be the lucky one.

By the end of last year, it is estimated that 28% of Pret’s customers had received their ‘something free’.

But why, in this age of big data and analytics, did Pret’s marketing team decide to pursue a loyalty scheme that leaves no data trail? However, the fact that this is a strange anomaly is, of course, where the magic lies.

This alternative loyalty scheme was taken one step further this New Year when, just in time for ‘Blue Monday’, Clive Schlee, Pret’s CEO announced the ‘Make Someone Smile’ initiative. Between January 18th and February 28th Pret baristas will hand out 120,000 coffee sleeves, emblazoned with their ‘Make Someone Smile’ brand, meaning the recipient is entitled to a free hot drink.

However, Pret are encouraging customers to give away their coffee sleeves themselves, therefore passing on the gesture of goodwill (and conveniently increasing the reach of the loyalty-inducing scheme).

In a world where QR codes are everywhere you turn, this begs the question, was the secret to Pret’s loyalty scheme in the beautiful simplicity of the campaign?

Inevitably, this has also thrown up the dilemma of whether the magic of the freebie was lost as soon as Pret revealed it was a company-wide policy.

Either way, if you are interested in developing your brands loyalty, but don’t want to rely on giving out 120,000 free coffees, then these are the crucial rules to stick to:

Offer a consistently good service

Whilst this may seem obvious, it is all too easily forgotten, after all humans are creatures of habit and usually only look somewhere else if 1) they have had a bad experience or 2) they have been offered the same thing for cheaper.

Differentiate yourself from your competitors

If you make yourself stand out then your loyal customers will return because you stand out as that is what they like.

Listen to your customers

Again, like offering a good service, this is easily cast aside – particularly when your team are driving an innovative new strategy. However, tunnel vision can be dangerous and it is essential to always listen to your customer base – after all, if you provide what they like they are more likely to return.

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