Discover the 5 Types of B2B Customer Loyalty

To design a successful B2B incentive program, it is important to understand the various types of loyalty.

A strategy based on customer behaviours is vital to a successful B2B marketing initiative, especially B2B loyalty programs. This is because behaviours shape how customers purchase products, engage and commit their dollars to a brand. In other words, behaviour defines their type of loyalty.

While price is a considerable aspect influencing loyalty (a strong incentive), there are other benefits and intrinsic values that customers look for in a brand.  In B2B settings, relationships and personal connections are highly regarded and often critical in building loyalty. 

Also, in today’s ever-changing market landscape, ethical operations and brand purpose are of value, and the way staff conduct themselves when talking to customers are strong motivators of loyalty.

What are the types of B2B customer loyalty, and why are they so important?

B2B Customer loyalty service attendant behind a desk.
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First, for Australian and New Zealand markets, let’s define the difference between incentives and loyalty in a B2B context to answer the question. 

Incentives and loyalty are closely interrelated. For example, an incentive program encourages transactions and behaviours that are important to a supplier or vendor relationship with partner clients and customers through rewards.

These behaviours result in loyalty created through recognition, built upon rewards —influencing the relationship, not just transactions and making personal and emotional connections with a brand.

The key here is to target behaviours with an incentive to build loyalty through relationships and recognition.

Implementing a B2B loyalty program does not guarantee customer loyalty. Without understanding a customer’s type of loyalty and designing a program accordingly, a program won’t achieve its objectives.

There are various ways to view ‘loyalty’, and we have identified five of the most common ways customers commit their business to a B2B  brand. These types of loyalty result from different value propositions a brand presents to customers via an incentive program.   

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Types of B2B Loyalty

1. Price induced loyalty

There is no doubt that business buyers and customers are looking for the price. Resellers need to keep their costs down and maintain or grow their margins. So, for some, product price tags are a top reason for staying loyal to a vendor or supplier. However, other forms of price induced loyalty are trade discounts, promotions, and special offers as they hold a monetary value.

When running an incentive, consider if you want to induce price loyalty and whether it is the best move for your brand. Reducing your price is not always the best decision when you look to incentivise via a sale, sign-on discount or rebate structure with your business customers.

Consider that customers may join your incentive or respond to an offer only to get their hands on the discount. Often only for the one time or the short term.  A new account customer might enrol in an incentive program to get the benefits during their initial purchase and not purchase again; others may stick around and buy more than once. If you have led with price, you could see a switch when your customer sees a competitor’s offer. It’s hard to add value to a loyalty program if you have the cheapest price in town.

Consider how an incentive that results in price induced loyalty impacts your long-standing business relations. These businesses are with you not only for the competitive deals you agreed to or saw when they start buying from you but also for a whole other set of reasons.  Their loyalty is different.

Need help setting the ideal loyalty program for your business?

2. Relationship Loyalty

Two Business man making a deal through relationship loyalty. B2B customer loyalty at work.

The customer loyalty type that B2C would love to compare notes on with B2B is relationship loyalty. All loyalty aims to create consistent, constant purchases based on the relationship between a business and its customers. In B2B, relationships are undoubtedly a leading indicator of loyalty. Most B2B companies are in a position to make relationships personal, meet face to face, and share experiences with those customers.

Fostering a good relationship with customers is paramount since selling to a business will yield much more profit than selling to consumers, where transactions are typically impersonal. 

Therefore, with B2B loyalty programs that target business customers, it is imperative to have a design pillar to retain and recognise your most valuable clients to ensure their loyalty.

In the trade industry, strong relationships between customers and store or account managers are built over time and can evolve to mate-like status. This bond allows for brand loyalty, like building a community with similar business interactions, personalities, and demographics. In addition, the strength of relationships can remove certain purchase barriers in areas such as negotiations, contracts, and agreements.

Even when approached with the best price and terms, B2B customer loyalty built on a relationship is one of the hardest to shift. There are not only commercial influences but personal connections and mateship involved too

Relationship customer loyalty is mutually beneficial, as each party knows what the other is looking for. As a result, brands can align with the customer’s business goals and transform their customer loyalty from transactional to relationship-based.

In this sense, relationship and customer loyalty is a dynamic partnership designed to promote long term and mutual success.

3. Transactional Loyalty

A customer at a hardware checkout is customers Loyalty.

Referred to as functional or cognitive loyalty, this type of loyalty is where a customer weighs up the value of a product or service and makes a calculated decision about whether to engage with the seller and make a purchase. This type of loyalty is common in B2B  and defines a transactional relationship between buyer and seller.

The customer sees value in the purchase, realises the transaction, and there’s no further commitment —it’s functional. Through incentives or tactical promotions, brands can change customer behaviour and the consumer’s tendency to repurchase the product or service.

This is plausible, as brands want consistent business from their customers. However, this is not always necessarily a good indicator of B2B customer loyalty. Instead, it is a good indication of the number of transactions.  Brands need to ascertain if repeat business results from a lack of alternatives or the amount of effort required to change suppliers.

A good example of transactional loyalty is when a business customer becomes a member or opens an account with a business to access better deals, exclusive offers, access first to new products or other benefits when they reach a certain purchase threshold. 

This type of incentive and loyalty drives allegiance but is not built on passion or emotion for the brand. And as soon as there is another tangible offer making it a better transaction, customers will switch. It is, therefore, more important to win customers hearts or minds.

4. Emotional Loyalty

Emotional loyalty is a psychological preference and affective attachment. Emotional loyalty exists when connections beyond transactions and relationships form.  Whilst positive perceptions and attitudes towards a brand occur within transactions and relationships (and can drive behaviours such as repeat purchases), this is not where emotional customer loyalty happens.

Instead, we are talking about devotion, which comes from customers’ positive associations with a particular product or brand and the feeling of commitment based on emotional preference. 

Customers who exhibit emotional loyalty are devoted to a product or service, demonstrated by repeat purchases despite competitors’ efforts to lure them away. Thus, they emotionally have a brand preference.  A good example in B2C are fans of brands such as Apple or Harley Davidson.

The question is, how to create devotion and loyalty for B2B brands? How to bring business customers closer to the brand emotionally? It involves understanding what business customers feel to create a personalised interaction with them, right from the first contact (whether personal or via advertising) up to closing a deal and aftersales interactions. 

Incentives can achieve devotion (i.e. an “Elite” trip for top customers) where fans are created via the program. Being part of an “Elite” creates a halo effect and drives that emotional connection with the brand.

It is about giving customers a positive experience from end to end, which will make them feel, if not special, that the process of doing business with the brand is seamless, positive, and, most importantly, customer-centric.

Other aspects that come into play that build emotional loyalty are the company’s purpose, its values and ethical attitudes; the way the company and the staff conduct themselves and whether the company is doing the right thing by customers.

Ready to recognise and grow your customer loyalty?

5. True Customer loyalty

True loyalty is the B2B loyalty to strive for.  It is a true commitment to a brand. It isn’t easy to establish, and it happens over time. But in this type of loyalty, customers will hardly switch brands.

True loyalty is built from parts of the previous four loyalty types —reciprocal relationships, where a strong two-way exchange of value supports itself.  When a brand achieves this level of customer commitment, competitive offers, convenience, and the promise of ‘something better’ doesn’t matter because customers trust your business. The brand commands their loyalty.

Trust comes from delivering experiences a customer values and feels good about at all levels. It creates a sense of belonging that leads customers to believe you have their best interest in mind and shifts the focus from transaction to devotion.

Understanding these five types of B2B loyalty and how a business customer engages helps brands decide what kind of relationship they want to have with them. For example, knowing a customer’s allegiance to a brand is based purely on price makes relationships feel mercenary, but it also may be a strategy to win customers.

The benefit of the relationship may be due to convenience or lack of a better option, making customers stick to a brand. It may work well in some contexts, such as new markets, location or scarcity, but the relationship is transactional, not emotional.

B2B incentive programs drive loyalty. However, brands must consider what type of loyalty they have and want their incentive to create.  What are the behaviours a brand wants its customers to change? Should their incentives focus on customer commitment to transactions or to take offers and drive incremental sales? A B2B incentive program must encourage and foster personal and relevant relationships, which result in long term gains and true loyalty.

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Learn How the Top B2B Loyalty Programs Do It

Since 1996 212F have worked with B2B businesses in providing reward programs Australia and New Zealand-wide. We have worked with top brands in most industries where sales relationship exist from trade, automotive, food distribution, IT and agriculture, with a strong design focus to provide loyalty, incentive, and reward programs to solve business pain points and drive improvements to their customer engagement and strategy.


Loyalty programs don’t just provide benefits to your channel partners – they also provide benefits to your brand. We’ve listed 4 of the key loyalty program benefits your business could achieve.

  • Brand loyalty: B2B loyalty programs can do wonders for improving customer lifetime value and customer satisfaction. Customer loyalty programs will encourage loyal customers to make additional purchases with your brand by providing aspirational rewards and travel incentives, simply by continuing to do business with your company. Continued brand loyalty can improve existing clients’ satisfaction by rewarding them for their continued patronage of your business, encouraging repeat purchases throughout the customer lifetime, therefore improving your customer retention.
  • Improve sales performance: By improving your brand loyalty in existing clients, your customer base will be energized to make more purchases and consistent business with your brand. The incentives provided in your rewards program, should be on-brand and aspirational for what your customer base. Create desire and customers will crank up your sales opportunities, increasing your share of wallet over competitors. You’d be surprised what this can do to your profit margins!
  • Customer retention: Hand in hand with an improvement in your brand loyalty, your customer relationship will improve, leading to a boost in customer retention. Finding that you’ve retain customers and moving to long term relationships, you’ll need to focus less on customer retention solutions and will find yourselves getting so much more value out of existing customers. It might sound simple, but rewarding customers goes a long way toward solidifying your business relationship with valuable clients!
  • New clients: Word of mouth can be a powerful outcome of a loyalty program. If you succeed in recognising most valuable clients, you’ll find they will share the benefits and rewards with others in your market. The chance to earn rewards for doing business everyday, with you will draw new customers to your business – and who doesn’t want more customers! This source of customer feedback from the new business partners will provide you with valuable customer data. It gives you new way to refine not only your B2B loyalty programs but change your customer experience to ensure these new customers will become consistent business throughout the lifetime of your brand.

If you find that your B2B business is struggling with any of the above, reach out to us today. Our experience as the leading B2B loyalty program and incentive program agency in Australia and New Zealand isn’t just for strategy – we’re also able to assist with client acquisition, reducing customer churn, increasing customer loyalty, motivating your sales team and so much more!


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Create a B2B Loyalty Program that achieves your business goals.

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  • Encouraging customer loyalty varies from industry to industry. Direct cash incentives, while strong initially, will fail in the long term when in direct competition with a business partner who is able to undercut your price. By monitoring sales data and customer insights from your business customers, your B2B loyalty programs will be able to be tailored directly to your customer base. The two recommendations we would make when selecting the valuable rewards for your B2B loyalty programs are between merchandise rewards in a B2B loyalty program, as consistent business will allow repeat customers to earn loyalty points in exchange for a series of tailored merchandise specifically to their choosing, or a travel incentive, which while more bespoke, provides a personalized experience between your brand and existing customers. It is important to monitor customer data, provide sales training, and adapt your strategy – something that we can assist with as we work with you on your B2B loyalty program campaign. Cash rewards aren’t the only horse in town anymore!

  • Many business to business companies are offering B2B loyalty programs as a way to stand out from the market. Reward systems like IBM VIP Rewards, and Celebrity Rewards Mastercard, sell Telarus services for the “Telarus Partner Loyalty Program”, any B2B loyalty program where you can earn loyalty points or even a generic referral program are commonly-known types of B2B loyalty programs that your clients may have heard of.

  • At 212F, we can take care of the strategy behind maximizing the return of your B2B loyalty program. However, as an example, some of the activities you can undertake to ensure the success of your new B2B loyalty program are analyze sales data stored in your new cloud service platform from repeat purchases or repeat business partners, creating personalized user experiences using co marketing campaigns including eDM content via an email marketing software provider such as Salesforce or Mailchimp, ensure consistent data collection (this should really be more of corporate responsibility, but hey – doesn’t hurt to flag it!) and monitor customer usage of the exclusive services offered in your new reward system. It may seem like a more time consuming process up-front, which is why you can trust us to handle the strategy for your B2B loyalty programs!

  • Ensuring that the customer experience is at the forefront of your B2B loyalty programs is essential to the success of the program itself. Larger businesses such as enterprise customers will likely have this already sorted, but for smaller businesses, ensuring your client companies and partner retailers easy usage of your loyalty program is key. Providing your servers with additional data storage to allow for the extra user capacity – ideally, your loyalty programs will be bringing in two or more parties, so be prepared for the influx. User-friendly customer loyalty software is also important, as if the customer experience on this is bad, no one will want to use your customer loyalty program. With 212F, we take care of the customer loyalty software, ensuring that your B2B loyalty programs launch will be without issue.