Many businesses today are struggling to acquire and retain customers and brand loyalty is becoming increasingly difficult to secure. This is true among almost all brands across the entire spectrum, but it is especially true in the hairdressing and beauty salon industry, where customer loyalty is fleeting and competition is tough.

Loyalty360 was recently able to secure an exclusive interview with TONI&GUY, a leading purveyor within the hairdressing industry, to get a glimpse into some of the challenges and opportunities that marketers are managing. With more than 30 years of experience, Debbie Webster, President of TONI&GUY, offered a wide range of unique perspectives and insights.

How do you define customer loyalty, and how do you anticipate it changing going forward?

Webster: We define loyalty as a client who returns often and recommends us to friends and family members. The majority of new business comes from client referrals, so it's important to take care of your best customers and to find ways to reward their loyalty. Loyal clients are good for our business because they are brand ambassadors. They save us marketing dollars and their endorsement is so much more powerful than any advertising campaign. 

We are in a very competitive business where client loyalty is hard to come by. The average consumer is easily attracted away by instant gratification and additional promotions by competitors. The definition has changed in the age of instant information overload. With mobile devices, clients are constantly bombarded by deals and we have to work harder to make our clients want to remain loyal. I anticipate this will only continue to increase. We have to be on our game and always one step ahead of the competition.

How can brands create a culture by which engaging experiences serve as the baseline for creating loyal customers?

Webster: Keeping your clients engaged is the key to loyalty and it stops them from being tempted away by a competitor. We strive to bring our brand experience to life through our social channels and we encourage our clients to constantly stay in touch and engaged through our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, website and blogs. The more they engage, the more that our brand is at the forefront of their mind when thinking about their hair.

Can you describe your perceptions on the state of marketing today?

Webster: We are bombarded with so many marketing messages today it's hard to keep your head above water as to what strategy you should use. Digital marketing changes daily and we have to find new ways to keep new customers from being tempted away by competitors.

One of the biggest challenges today, I believe, is bridging the gap between traditional and online marketing. How do you engage your client and bring them into your digital strategy with content that is relevant to them? And therein also lies the biggest opportunity for marketers as well. In the next three to five years, it will be in creating a balance between traditional marketing methods and digital marketing. We still find that, in our business, we need that good mix of old and new. Our staff is generally between 18-28 years old, but our clients are 35-50. We have to reach our audience where they are, and not be too focused on digital or we won't reach them at all.

Can you give a high level overview of your philosophy and how this perspective drives effective customer engagement?

Webster: Our customer philosophy is to make our clients feel good and look good. We strive to provide value and be affordable for all price points. The goal is to make our service accessible and affordable to everyone from teens to CEOs. Our marketing is focused on the client experience, drawing them into our brand, and letting them see how the TONI&GUY lifestyle is one that will fit into theirs.

What is your take on customer engagement? What are some of the key practices that can best drive customer engagement today?

Webster: Engagement is key in all marketing today. Keeping the client engaged keeps them loyal and also keeps them reposting and marketing for you. Consumers are much savvier to marketing now. And they have a stronger belief in the word of mouth of other consumers, rather than that of just your brand voice. Keeping your clients as your bloggers, content providers and overall brand advocates is key in creating a story that is believable to new clients. Engagement also allows you to find new clients who are out browsing and are drawn in by your content and can eventually become new brand evangelists for you.

With the advent of social, mobile and other emerging technologies, how do brands improve customer experiences in this challenging and very dynamic marketing environment?

Webster: Constant and relevant content is the key to a great customer experience. We strive to create content that our clients will want to engage with, that is fun. But we don’t want to overload them with too much. We want to keep them wanting more.

About the Author: Mark Johnson

Mark is CEO & CMO of Loyalty360. He has significant experience in selling, designing and administering prepaid, loyalty/CRM programs, as well as data-driven marketing communication programs.

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