Are you looking to drive long-term loyalty and growth, capitalise on untapped resources, and make brand advocacy easy? In this post, we'll share top tips on brand advocacy, including how to evaluate brand advocacy providers, understand the influence of advocacy in the customer purchasing process, avoid heavy discounting and differentiation, and advocacy trends impacting eCommerce. Thanks to our blubolt partner and brand advocacy experts, Duel, for answering these questions. Let’s get started!

1. Please give us the low-down on Duel. Who are you and what do you do?!

Duel exists to help purpose-driven brands build movements and grow through the advocacy of passionate customers and fans. Our brand partners can use Duel to build membership clubs, rewards programmes, employee programmes, VIP programmes and any club or programme built around passionate communities. The technology makes it easy for brands to incentivise any task they can think of, whether it’s referrals, or creating specific content or sharing brand stories.

Brand advocacy: turning the art of word-of-mouth and organic growth into a science.

Driving long-term loyalty and growth.

For many brands, digital advertising and performance marketing have been mainstays. But those channels are saturated with competition now, and simply don’t work as well as they used to. The better alternative is to grow organically with more long-term, relationship-based methods. These methods allow advocates to collaborate and grow the brand exponentially.

Capitalising on un-tapped resources.

Thankfully, the majority of brands are already sitting on a vastly untapped resource of passionate advocates that are ready and willing to help brands grow through word-of-mouth. We help brands tap into these communities of advocates and scale that effort through Brand Advocacy, which includes any behaviour that involves an advocate supporting or recommending a brand they love. Brand advocates can be customers, superfans, ambassadors, evangelists, and so on, as long as they authentically love the brand, not just because they are getting paid for promotion.

Making brand advocacy easy.

Most brands find it challenging to leverage Brand Advocacy because finding, managing, and rewarding advocates are difficult to track and grow in a scalable way. Our platform makes it easy for a team to handle all their Brand Advocacy operations from a single platform without having to juggle multiple plugins and strategies.

2. How influential is advocacy in the customer purchasing process?

It is crucial to the customer purchasing process because word-of-mouth is etched into the DNA of brand advocacy. Consumers are extremely sceptical of micro-influencers because they can’t tell if products are being promoted sincerely, or simply for a paycheck. They want authentic recommendations from people that are proven to be passionate about the brand and trustworthy.

Fun with Frugi.

Frugi’s “Frugi Fun” programme is a terrific example—they are a sustainable childrenswear brand (and blubolt client) that leads with their purpose and values, and as a result, they’ve cultivated an amazing community of passionate superfans that love them. That community initially existed as a lively Facebook group, but Frugi built an advocacy programme (case study available here) that encouraged them to do more with the brand like submitting creative content or sharing stories about their lives.

Brand advocacy in motion: Duel's Frugi Fun programme.

A real gem: Monica Vinader.

Luxury jewellery retailer Monica Vinader is another great example—their MV Insiders programme has 1,200 passionate fans that are reaching millions of people every month. Each Insider is a micro-influencer that loves Monica Vinader’s products, and their actions impact every stage of the customer journey. Their UGC helps drive conversion rates, while referrals can bring in new customers, or maybe remind existing customers of new opportunities or products that are in the pipeline.

3. How does Duel’s platform differ from other brand advocacy providers?

Brands often have to use multiple platforms to drive advocacy. For example, one for UGC, one for referrals, one for social posting, one to track ambassadors or advocate relationships, one for loyalty and so on.

A one-stop-shop.

Duel absorbs all of these functions into a unified, advocate-first platform. This makes it much more powerful than the sum of its parts. For example, our UGC feature brings in ten times the amount of user generated content compared to popular dedicated UGC platforms—and it does so while adding features like ranking and automated SKU tagging.

This means brands can focus on growing and establishing themselves instead of getting caught up with the complexity of juggling and integrating multiple platforms.

Built to scale-up.

Our platform is also designed for brands that want to scale their communities, instead of choosing a small handful of high-profile influencers or ambassadors. So brands that have larger communities of authentic fans will find us well suited to their needs.

4. Advocacy programmes can be associated with heavy discounting. How can retailers avoid this?

Advocacy programmes are actually about unlocking exclusive access to rewards and opportunities for passionate customers to strengthen the brand relationship. Discounting can play a part, but there is more focus on providing meaningful interactions and experiential rewards to convey value.

Personalised gifts or donations.

Modern consumers, Gen Z and Millennials especially, are much more willing to recommend products and services based on purpose, trust and values that come from a deep brand relationship. Instead of discounts, brands can incentivise consumers by mixing in a combination of transactional incentives with experiential ones. These can tap into customer identity—this could be anything from a personalised gift or a donation to a charitable cause. We’ve seen this strategy actually drive more revenue than discounting does for our brand partners.

Rewarding over discounting.

The problem with discounting is the dilution of the brand and the perceived value of products. If brands do opt to use discounts, they should be reframed as a luxury reward for dedicated advocates instead of a necessity for the business. Customers still get their discount but feel like they’ve earned it by building their relationship with the brand.

Defining and delivering on your brand’s purpose.

I also recommend that brands focus on clarifying and delivering their purpose and story. Customers are also struggling right now and looking for the same empathy that they may be able to deliver to brands. Now is a good time to call up passionate customers, speak to them and see how they can be helped.

5. What advice would you give to retailers evaluating different incentive programmes?

Consider your actual advocacy strategy design and methodology first before looking at specific programmes and platforms. The path to success looks different for every brand and there are so many different factors and implementations to consider. There is no point in having a powerful advocacy platform if it is mismatched with your methods and strategy.

Figuring this out is difficult since advocacy is so new—it’s the reason why we’ve built a consultancy alongside our platform. We have a team of global experts from brands like lululemon that consult brands on designing their strategies, even if they are not paying customers.

We’ve helped everyone from large brands like Topshop to smaller startups to make sure they’re getting the most out of their advocacy efforts so we always encourage brands to get in touch with us if they’d like help.

Managing brand advocacy in a one-stop-shop.

6. What trends did you see developing, and how will they impact eCommerce this year?

Micro-influencers losing trust.

The nature of what earns a customer’s trust is changing. Micro-influencers are getting less trustworthy since consumers don’t know their real intentions. It’s tough to know if an influencer is only promoting a product because they are being paid or because they genuinely believe in the brand. The widening trust gap is really important. There are more micro-influencers than ever, making it even harder to know which ones to trust.

A shift to social commerce.

We are also going to see a massive shift to social commerce, especially with Instagram launching a suite of features to allow their users to buy products directly through the platform. Consumers are going to look to their social platforms to make direct purchases. As a result, it's going to be crucial for brands to understand how to leverage that.

Growth of brand networks.

Brand networks are going to be big as well. We’re going to see the need for brands to collaborate with other brands through a network, more so than before. There’s going to be a lot more emphasis put on collaboration between brands and their partners, suppliers, employees and many other groups that are all connected.

In essence, everything is changing because customers are changing. They are redefining what it means to be loyal to a brand. They are also much more selective about choosing brands that are led by purpose first.

Brand networks: a great way to share the love.

Final thoughts.

As you now know, there’s so much opportunity for brands to harness their follower’s enthusiasm to create a positive buzz and drive long-term growth. So armed with these top brand advocacy tips, you’ve got everything you need to take action! Still want more advice? The team at Duel would be happy to hear from you; simply contact them here.

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