Not long ago, customers were satisfied with a shopping experience that simply gave them the item they wanted (provided they could find it), at the price they expected (provided there had been no recent price increases), and, perhaps, a friendly smile at the register (provided the store wasn’t too busy).
 
Times have changed in a big way, however, and consumers now demand communication and pricing that has been tailored to their personalized preferences and history with the brand, along with a loyalty program that makes them feel valued for continued patronage.
 
Why the dramatic shift? When did customers realize that even more important than them pledging loyalty to a brand was the idea that the brand was willing to pledge loyalty to them? Much of that answer, according to a survey out of PowerReviews, can be traced directly back to e-tail giant Amazon.
 
The research found that a staggering 71 percent of those surveyed made at least one purchase from Amazon per month, with trust being noted as a key factor in choosing the brand over other retailers. That trust, built on the consistency of Amazon’s delivery speed and reliability, allows shoppers to rely on the brand’s incredible variety of products. A customer, for example, trusts Amazon to deliver groceries on time, as well as to safely ship a new flat screen TV. This trust has catapulted Amazon to the top of mind for millions of consumers, especially members of Amazon Prime.
 
Long seen as an example of what a well-designed loyalty program can bring to a brand, Amazon Prime serves as a blueprint for the loyalty programs of companies around the world. Moreso than perhaps any other aspect of Amazon, Amazon Prime has redefined what customers look for across all brands; 84 percent of survey responders said that free shipping, a trademark of Prime, was a compelling incentive in a program, while 62 percent were in strong favor of free returns.
 
In drawing conclusions from the report, brands can find several useful tips in the rise of Amazon. In terms of differentiation, for example, a third of surveyed customers simply want access to free products in return for loyalty. As brands look for any edge in the crowded customer loyalty industry, the world’s largest online retailer is a great place to start.

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