Only 15% of British consumers believe strongly that it pays to be loyal to their favourite brands, according to a new survey by Epsilon.

However if brands can offer what consumers want – which half of respondents identified as being value and quality in the products or services they are offered – they have a good chance of encouraging customers to remain loyal.

The research, which was conducted among 419 British respondents, also shows that the recession appears to have made UK shoppers more frugal.

More than half (57%) of respondents said that they will shop around to find the best deal and just (15%) are prepared to pay the premium for luxury products and new-to-market products.

Looking at what drives repeat purchases, just over a quarter (28%) of British customers see rewards programmes as an incentive to secure their loyalty.

By contrast, value and quality in the products or services offered by retailers are deemed the most important criteria to earn loyalty from half of consumers.

Preferential customer service, good after sales service, convenience, and new personalised offerings or products also play important roles in shaping loyalty for up to one-third of consumers.

For more information on this topic, check out our blog posts on why loyal customers are key to online growth and how mobile can be used to drive consumer loyalty.

What makes people switch?

But despite the aforementioned focus on price and shopping around for the best deals, when respondents were asked what would make them swap their regular retailer for a competitor brand the most popular answers were related to service rather than pricing.

In clothing, grocery, financial services, and travel, less than a quarter of respondents picked non-competitive pricing as being most important factor for making them leave their favourite company. 

The other important considerations were experience led: difficult return/refund policies, irresponsive to requests/complaints, bad sales/customer service, and incorrect billing.

Fulfilment and returns are an important part of driving loyalty online, as it’s no coincidence that some of the most successful online retailers offer free returns.

High delivery costs are frequently cited as a key cause of basket abandonment so it’s logical that making customers pay to return items is also going to cause them to shop elsewhere in future.

This is a topic we’ve previously covered on the blog, listing 14 best practice tips for how retailers should handle online returns.