The modern shopper is a savvy and discerning consumer with a bargaining tool for landing the best available deal, literally at their fingertips.
And in today’s intensely competitive retail environment, where fickle shoppers are empowered to unearth amazing special offers and flash sales anywhere in the world at any time, retailers are under pressure to rethink their approach to customer loyalty.
Consumers are increasingly suspicious of methods used by businesses to entice them to share personal information and invest their precious time into entering loyalty programs that will oftentimes fail to provide them with worthwhile rewards. And if it’s a competitive price they seek, they can achieve this simply by shopping around. Therefore the path to savings isn’t always coupled with loyalty. What consumers do appear to value above a discount, however, is exceptional service, a seamless transaction and a personalised and memorable (for the right reasons!) experience. And herein lies the opportunity.
Remember Your Own Shopping Experiences
Think back to the last time you bought a computer or phone. If your last purchase was an Apple, chances are you’ll consider them again. You have had a positive experience with them in the past and you have come away from the shopping experience satisfied. Even if their products are more expensive than the competitor, you will consider purchasing from them again.
You are not alone. Brand engagement and customer loyalty researchers, Brand Keys recognised that 87 per cent of Apple’s customers are loyal to the brand. Apple has worked hard to develop a customer service model to make people feel special and at the cutting edge of stylish technology. They have mastered the art of going above and beyond.
What are Businesses Doing Wrong?
Unlike Apple, many businesses are not going above and beyond to satisfy their customers’ needs. Instead, they are focusing on short-term profit drivers and unsurprisingly, gaining only short-term results. Research shows that existing customers spend 67 per cent more than new customers, highlighting that profit is made from repeat customers. It’s obvious then that retailers need to invest time and effort in listening to and nurturing relationships with their existing customers, but how should they go about it?
Here are 5 steps businesses can take to increase customer loyalty in today’s complex retail environment.
Make the customer experience personal
Customers enjoy feeling special and a personalised approach can create this feeling. Research shows that our brains register delight when we hear our own name called, so using a customer’s name in your interactions with them not only humanises the shopping experience, it makes the customer feel valued and recognised as an individual. It’s a simple gesture that can contribute to bringing the customer back to your business time and time again.
Move away from using customer loyalty programs as a tool for collecting data
Customers are increasingly sensitive to revealing their personal information and because of this customer loyalty programs can be perceived as unashamed data grabs.
A CHOICE survey of 280 members found a majority of consumers (61 per cent) experienced discomfort over the collection and use of their personal information through retail loyalty programs. Of those surveyed, 84 per cent had concerns about who businesses were sharing their information with.
In order to avoid this customer assumption, ensure that you are always being transparent with your customers. Tell them where their information is going and how it is being used, with the view to improving their experience.
Ensure your website is refreshing and easy to navigate.
If a business’s online store is confusing to navigate, or it uses fonts that are difficult to read or the information is cluttered, customers will simply leave and visit a competitor’s site. Businesses can avoid these issues by conforming to accepted accessibility standardsso the shopping experience is optimised for all customers.
Brand uniformity is another important aspect of a business’s website. Your brand is what sets you apart from your competitors. A consistent logo and links to social platforms will help achieve this.
Ensure redeemable rewards programs are executed in a timely manner
If you’re using a rewards program to incentivise your customers, make sure those rewards can be redeemed easily and in a timely manner – there’s a widespread view among rewards program members that it takes too long to earn and redeem rewards.
Customers are much more likely to be satisfied with a rewards program when the rewards are earned early and when they can promptly redeem those rewards.
Seventy per cent of consumers believe rewards points and immediate discounts at the checkout are important features of any loyalty program.
If you’re a retailer with a physical and online presence, make sure that your customer can easily earn rewards from wherever it is that they are choose to shop with you.
Move loyalty programs away from transactional moments of materialism to experiences that are remembered and remarked upon
A loyalty program delivering a positive memorable experience through interaction will change behaviour. Members will not only return to the business, they’ll tell their friends and family – two behaviours that are profitable for the business.
Often transactional moments such as a discount code, result in short term customer retention. This does not drive long term profit as customers have no emotional attachment to the business.
Experiences that change our physiology (heart-beat) in an uplifting and positive way are remembered and remarked upon. This is the emotional reaction that sparks customer loyalty. For example; a hotel providing their customers with free transfers to and from the airport is an ‘unexpected delight’ that brings joy to the customer.
Vanessa Ferrao is the Head of E-Commerce in APAC for Cashback World, a cashback platform that is home to the world’s largest community of retailers and shoppers.
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