You know the story – a brand practically gives away their razor, and the consumer is locked into buying the brand’s blades. They don’t switch brands, in part, because the brand has made buying process a bit easier by removing the hassle of deciding which razor to buy.

Razors, in a sense, had a built-in loyalty loop. The need for new blades created an ongoing relationship with the brand.

Today, through social and digital, this ongoing relationship is now possible for every brand. No brand experience has to end at purchase – in fact, if a brand isn’t making an effort to continue the relationship post-sale in today’s market, they’re behind.

Products and services are now the blades

The aim of this relationship for every brand, of course, is to keep consumers coming back to their products. In some categories, digital and connected devices will make this loyalty loop even stickier.

Consider Dollar Shave Club, most known for its famed YouTube ad, which removed even more of the hassle of buying blades. For a monthly recurring fee, the Club mails subscribers fresh blades each month. Not only do subscribers get to skip deciding which blades to buy, they don’t even have to go to the store to buy them.

As everything in our lives becomes connected to the internet, more and more brands will be able to follow this frictionless, repeating blade and razor model. It already happens with your TV. Your DVR knows which shows you’ve selected to watch, and records them automatically. Think how this might apply outside of media.

Your connected fridge knows when you’re low on certain snack brands you’ve selected to keep on hand, so it orders you more. Your connected car knows when it needs an oil change, and which service station you have an existing relationship with, so it schedules an appointment and notifies you. Your connected home knows when your A/C filters need replacing, your iPhone knows when it’s time for a new manicure… the list goes on.

So what’s the razor? What’s the thing that locks consumers in, that makes them come back to a brand each time, or better yet, connect with a brand as their preferred auto-repeat provider?

Brand experience is the razor

In a word, experience. The consumer’s overall experience with a brand. A winning first impression will make a brand a preferred provider. Continuously delightful experiences will keep consumers choosing the brand again and again – or for those lucky categories that achieve the auto-repeat model above, keep consumers subscribed. A few important pieces in ongoing delightful experiences include:

Excellent products and services that continuously improve. Providing good value products that do what they claim is a given in an ongoing brand-consumer relationship. This also means constantly improving products to better meet consumer needs, as quickly as possible, by learning from consumers in real time what they like, what they wish a brand would do differently, and how their needs are changing over time.

Responsive ongoing service, everywhere consumers are. As mentioned above, the brand experience doesn’t end (or begin, for that matter) with the sale any longer. Post-sale service, both individual and collective, keeps a brand on the consumer’s preferred list. Charming call center staff may once have been enough, but now a brand must be present in every channel, ready to address every consumer’s questions and feedback. Luckily, digital channels make the call center model more scalable – as consumers ask questions or leave feedback on your brand site and social streams, their words live on where they can help other consumers. And analyzing this data uncovers the larger trends brands must address to deliver better experiences overall.

Personalized relationships that increase relevance over time. Combining that feedback data with an individual consumer’s purchase data, demographic data, social and interest graphs, etc. helps the brand learn more about the consumer over time, and better tailor their brand experience to their individual needs. Think highly-targeted marketing efforts with products a consumer is especially likely to enjoy, based on the data. Think marketing copy and creative designed specifically to match what the consumer most loves about a brand based on their sentiment data, and what they care about most based on their interest graph.

It’s time for every brand to start planning for and fostering an ongoing relationship with consumers that goes far beyond the physical products they sell. Great brands are the razors that keep consumers hooked; individual products are just the blades.