Brand loyalty is one thing, but how much is it actually worth? Once customers are brand loyal, will they remain that way for life?

Not according to a compelling new study commissioned by Lithium Technologies. A new Harris Poll of more than 2,000 respondents reveals that 83 percent of U.S. consumers say having a positive customer experience with a brand is more important than the product itself.

In fact, the study notes, consumers are willing to spend one-third of their disposable income–$100 per month on average–with brands they love based on a great customer experience. That translates to around $31 billion up for grabs every month to brands who make their customers happy.

Brands work relentlessly on product design and features, the study says, “but today’s consumer increasingly values how a brand treats them as more important than the product they sell.”

The study found that 43 percent of consumers would actually buy an inferior product from a brand that they had a great experience with, and 73 percent will spend more on a product if it is from a brand they love.
But this works both ways: 71 percent of consumers are unlikely to ever use a brand again after only one bad experience. What’s more, 44 percent would share their negative experience with friends and family, potentially leading to even more customers fleeing.

“Customers’ increasingly high expectations of brands have reached a critical point,” said Rob Tarkoff, president and CEO of Lithium Technologies. “When two-thirds of consumers say they are unwilling to stick with a brand that has treated them badly, even if they love the brand’s products, it’s time to sit up and take notice. Brands need to dig deeper to understand how they can create awesome experiences for their customers across platforms.”

Where does this leave brands?

Brands can no longer dictate terms, the study notes. They must connect with the customer in the channel of their choice, which is increasingly digital. The study reveals 29 percent of consumers prefer to engage with a brand via its website/blog/social channels, compared to 17 percent who prefer in-store engagement, and 16 percent who prefer to connect over email.

“This study shows that as consumers reach out on digital channels, they are highly sensitive to how and when brands respond to them,” said Tarkoff. “It’s a wake-up call for brands to realize that providing great experiences on digital is the surest path to attracting and retaining happy customers.”

The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Lithium from Dec. 28-30, 2016 among 2,032 adults ages 18 and older in the U.S.

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