Omnichannel shopping has presented retailers with new opportunities to utilise a multitude of customer touchpoints relating to purchases, offers and product launches, to push their brand to the forefront of consumers’ minds and obtain mass customer engagement data, often within a single day.
This data can be utilised by brands to identify purchasing trends and engagement habits to inform future services and communications, ensuring customers are targeted with content that aligns with their shopping interests, developing trust and often increasing sales.
The sector’s digital shift, however, has also led to increased choice, and ELLO Media’s new research into customer expectations of brand loyalty programmes revealed that consumers aren’t afraid to shop around, with just 20% and 12% believing it pays to be loyal to supermarkets and fashion retailers respectively. So, what can be done to improve these low levels of loyalty?
Understanding consumer expectations
The answer to this starts by examining consumers expectations of the brands that they use. When we asked consumers how they feel about the brands they regularly engage with, 35% of consumers said they only engage with brands they agree with ethically; 38% said they only use brands that treat them with respect; 30% said that they feel like the brands they use are an extension of their personality; and 30% said that they only engage with brands that treat them as more than just a customer, highlighting the need for brands to consider much more than just their products and price points when communicating with consumers.
In its simplest terms this means personalising communications to customers to reflect their wants and needs. Indeed, according to Accenture, three quarters of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognises them by name or recommends options based on their purchase history. However, with the vast majority of providers now including this in their marketing strategy, this level of personalisation alone is no longer enough.
Extending personalisation to loyalty and rewards
With it now costing on average five times as much to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, it is essential that retailers invest time and care in crafting personalised loyalty and engagement offerings that go over and above their core customer communications, align more deeply with increasing consumer demands and continue to encourage them back amidst an extremely saturated market.
Perhaps the most effective way of achieving this is by integrating value-added, experiential rewards that slot seamlessly into the lifestyles of your customers; our new research revealed that being surprised with rewards was identified by consumers as their favoured form of brand engagement (70%). Such rewards could include cinema tickets, restaurant discounts or a variety of other lifestyle experiences and activities which remind customers of your brand while doing the things they love.
Since consumer preferences are so varied and subjective, a one-size-fits-all-approach will no longer suffice when it comes to keeping customers loyal, and in order to achieve these unique and positive experiences, brands must be flexible and offer a breadth of choice.
Effective loyalty schemes deliver customer insights
Through these experiential rewards, behavioural data can often be gathered by providers to identify the wider lifestyle trends and habits of customers that reach far beyond just their purchasing patterns. Acquiring this new data is only half of the task, however; it’s how brands then use it to refine their services and communications to add value that really counts.
As more data is gathered via these touchpoints over time, rewards can become more personalised and focused, ensuring customers are targeted with relevant, value-added content, in the right place, at the right time, encouraging them to make purchases with the reward in mind.
Regularly re-engaging with customers in this way to highlight experiences and offers in line with both their purchasing habits and wider lifestyle preferences, as well as the money they have saved by utilising the rewards, reinforces the added value they have received as a result of sustained interaction and engagement with your brand.
Experience is key
In an increasingly-digital world where consumers have a plethora of choice at their fingertips, experiential rewards present retailers with the opportunity to cut through the crowded, noisy ecommerce space and add value in the wider lifestyles of consumers through strategic decisions based on the capturing of rich, factual and previously unattainable data.
It is key for retailers to recognise that customer loyalty reaches far beyond simply discounting their products, and that integrating rewards into engagement strategies should be viewed as an investment that will deliver mutual, long-term value. This facilitates the delivery of the personalised, emotional brand experiences that customers now demand, engaging them in a way that will not only ensure they return, but also make them reluctant to look elsewhere.
Michael Kalli, managing director of engagement, loyalty and lifetime optimisation specialist ELLO Media