R/GA Singapore’s Brady Ambler says Singapore is facing a loyalty crisis as APAC’s second most disloyal customers, and marketers should throw away the old loyalty playbook and rethink, not overthink, loyalty to build positive relationships that support people.

We’re facing a loyalty crisis in Singapore. A new cross-category study surveying over 2,000 respondents reveals that when considering recent purchases, 77% of people aren’t confident they would buy the same product or service again. This makes Singaporeans 28 times less likely to repurchase compared to global data.

It is well-known that retaining an existing customer is cheaper than attracting a new one. And incremental improvements in retention can lead to an outsized impact on profitability.

It is also true that a great post-purchase experience acts as a competitive moat. Once customers go from buying a product to investing in a brand relationship, it becomes hard to leave.

The trick is providing added-value beyond the product. Hence the genius of Nike+, Amazon Prime and Today at Apple. Each offers relevant functional benefits that complement the product experience and lead to a strong emotional bond. Reciprocity works its magic.

The trouble is most marketers design their loyalty program simply around rewarding customers for making a purchase. They don’t think about how to enhance the experience after the fact.

Most marketers see 93% of Singaporeans telling them incentives are important for brands to offer. But they don’t recognise that 55% also think earning points is more hassle than the rewards are worth. Or that only 15% join loyalty programs. Clearly not enough relevant added-value on offer here.

Brands who take retention seriously have to throw away the old loyalty playbook. Luckily, new data points to three opportunity areas with innovation potential beyond the earn-burn model.

Opportunity 1: Maximisation x proactive care

In Singapore, 67% want their brand experience to be more than just a seamless delivery of goods. What do they expect?

When it comes to post-purchase services, the most important thing is customer support and assistance. This outranks:

  • same-day delivery
  • easy-to-use app
  • live-delivery tracking
  • personalisation experiences
  • product customisation
  • loyalty incentives

The majority of people (79%) want brands to simply go out of their way to help. People want help getting the most out of their purchase, discovering what else they should buy, taking on tedious tasks, and enhancing their lifestyle.

Sadly, for far too many, customer support is only available when there’s a problem. Brands need to move from reactive to proactive assistance.

The loyalty opportunity is to be more generous and forthcoming with customer care.

This becomes particularly interesting when you consider that 87% of people want a concierge-type experience to get the support, insights and recommendations they crave.

Opportunity 2: Growth culture x edutainment

Across industries, customers express a desire in learning how to use products better.

Yet across industries, there’s also a significant gap (31%) between the number of customers who want to learn and the number of customers who take any action to do so. This could tell us customers are lazy and insincere or that brands are lazy and unimaginative.

The reality is probably the latter. Especially considering how many people actively turn to the likes of YouTube, Masterclass and Spotify Podcasts for knowledge. And how many traditional marketers who take an owner’s manual approach to teaching: dry; technical; tiresome.

The loyalty opportunity is to inject more play, design and dynamism into education. Something nearly all customers in Singapore are craving:

  • 88% want interactive experiences to learn about products and categories
  • 80% want to learn through game-based activities
  • 77% want live (real-time) educational services including coaching, content and community

Opportunity 3: Membership x community engagement

Most people today (66%) make purchase decisions based on the brand experience the product allows them to access. And nearly half of people become more interested in seeing other customers’ experiences with the brand once they become a customer.

In other words, the community surrounding a brand plays a key role in shaping the post-purchase experience.

Belonging is one of the most basic and powerful human needs. We all have an innate desire to be a part of something bigger. Brands have always given us a means to signal chosen affinities.

But customers today seek more than basic membership – they want chances to participate.

Almost all people (78%) are interested in live or digital brand community or programming. This takes us far beyond product. The loyalty opportunity is to provide added-value by creating shared experiences for customers.

By doing so, brands not only nurture better relationships with existing customers, they also create additional reasons for prospective customers to buy.

Towards a more human future of loyalty

Improving retention is an obvious growth driver most businesses underinvest in. Decades-old assumptions about how to keep customers are wrong. Not only do loyalty programs not drive loyalty, they don’t even drive signups. Meanwhile the COVID-19 explosion in e-commerce has made switching costs lower than ever. Now is the time for us to be bold and reimagine loyalty.

Three broad opportunity areas are ripe with innovation potential. Offering a clear starting point are:

  • The intersections of maximisation and proactive care
  • Growth culture and edutainment
  • Membership and community engagement

Each opportunity is a chance for brands to actually help people by providing added-value beyond the product.

In the end, while we must rethink, we must not overthink loyalty. It’s about building positive relationships that support people. How can you do that better than the next brand?