Customer loyalty is defined as a repeat purchase and a referral of a company to another customer, (Heskett et al., 1997) and in the long term can provide a positive longstanding financial outcome (Duffy, 2003). Numerous scholars have concluded that customer loyalty has significant benefits for a business, concluding that loyal customers are more cost effective and less perceptive to price (Mittal and Lassar,2001) (Hallowell, 1996). This in turn provides a secure source of revenue and an increase in businesses cost-effectiveness (Baldinger and Rubinson, 1996).

 

Regarding Millennials and loyalty there are conflicting theories on whether or not this cohort is brand loyal.  Several scholars articulate that the vast majority of Millennials are not loyal. Caplan (2005) Greenberg (2011) suggested that Millennials are less brand loyal than that of previous generations, a large contributing factor to this is the constant exposure to price promotions. Caplan (2005) summarised that Millennials pay little attention to brands and look for products that match their personality and lifestyle. However, there are also numerous studies that contradict this perception of brand loyalty. Particular studies outline the commitment of Millennials towards particular brands that convey social and community values as a whole (Beirne and Howe, 2008) (Strategy One, 2010). This suggests that these consumers are loyal to brands that are in line with their persona and values. One particular study that took a multi-national research approach obtained convincing proof that “Millennials have a strong sense of brand awareness and loyalty”. Furthermore, the study established that brands that provided a form of self-expression, allowing them to create a personal image or communicate their principles were more brand loyal (Strategy One, 2010).

 

Further studies suggest, Millennial buyers select and consume products that help define who they are, what is important to them and what their values are, expressing their personality and values through purchases (Ordun, 2015). A further study heightened this concept stating that a brand’s ability to deliver on required emotional values outmaneuvers logical ones. In return, these bonds of loyalty are believed to construct a stronger faithfulness than that of other cohorts (Ordun, 2015).

 

Trust was another important element when reviewing the literature of Millennial brand loyalty. With regards to e-loyalty research found that trust was the most important antecedent of e-loyalty for Millennial customers. Therefore, this cohort stays loyal to a brand they can trust (Bilgihan, 2016). Trust also increases customer intents to consume a service or product from a brand offline (Jarvenpaa et al., 1999). Trustworthiness therefore can be suggested to increase customer intentions in returning to the business (Diamantopoulos and Winklhofer, 2001). It is postulated that consumers who trust a brand are more likely to use websites, either for browsing or purchasing whether it’s for a repeat visit to the site or to make an actual purchase. This implies that the more trust there is between a service provider, the more likely a Millennial will continue the relationship (Kim et al., 2009). This furthers the previous research, which suggests that in order to build brand loyalty the brand itself must connect on a deep and emotional level of personal needs with the Millennial cohort. In doing this it should in theory gain the trust of that individual building long lasting loyal relationships.

 

One particular type of purchasing, with loyalty seeming to be a core factor to the decision-making process, are luxury goods. Although studies have found that luxury sales have decreased somewhat, they seem to hold the most brand loyal consumers. Millennials are willing to save up for luxuries justifying these high cost purchases by saving and reducing spending on other low-priced purchasing (Lodes, 2010). Apple for example is a key example of luxury loyalty among Millennials, with eighty percent buying the iPhone over other brands (Perlis, 2016).

 

Millennials are very tech savvy. Loyalty among this cohort and towards an individual brand tended to be shared among their individual social media network, and a new choice of brand was often considered when peer recommendation were made through the use of these social media sites (Littman, 2008).  To further this research, an additional study established that brand preference was the uppermost personal identifier that Millennials were willing to share online. Eighty percent of these participants agreed that they would come back to a brand they enjoyed with quality, authenticity and honesty being contributing factors of return (Deloitte, 2016). There are conflicting studies in this area of research regarding Millennial brand loyalty, more literature was easily accessible on the concept that Millennials are brand loyal. One way in which loyalty has been elucidated is that it is not that Millennials are supposedly disloyal to a brand, it’s that they are rejecting established brands in favour for ones that are built by their peers and have they’re interests at heart. Therefore, favouring brands that communicate in an authentic way, rather than a monocratic approach. In the past Millennials did not hold a large percentage of the economic purchasing power. However, this cohort are now in their prime, wielding thick wallets with some suggesting that “nearly the entire domestic GDP is up for grabs” (Sharf and Galston, 2015). Companies need to answer the wants and needs of this unique cohort in order to win them over (Bilgihan, 2016).

 

Author:  Emma Muncaster, Digital Marketing Assistant at SSS

 

References

 

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