It should come as no surprise that there is a gradual shift occurring in terms of consumer attitudes to the value of their data exchange with brands and businesses. As the digital economy grows and expands, people are generally becoming less sensitive about sharing their data.
Many consumers have learned that sharing their information can benefit them through rewards and offers and retail brands should feel empowered to request customer data, or use information generated by a shopper’s interaction with a website or brand, to inform their marketing communications if their customers have actively opted-in to marketing.
Research undertaken earlier this year among UK shoppers showed that 56% would be willing to share data in exchange for discounts or rewards relevant to their needs, highlighting an opportunity to engage and build valued relationships – but this needs to be acted on. The benefits of harnessing insights from a customer’s interaction with brands and using that to strengthen the relationship was a significant one: 60% of UK shoppers felt that their favourite retailers only provide an average or poor experience.
But 81% or people questioned said that they would be more likely to buy from a retailer again if they were recognised as a previous customer and sent information about products or services they may be interested in based on prior purchases. The message here is loud and clear: there is a demand for brands to communicate more meaningfully with their customer base.
For brands looking to act on these learnings to stay ahead of the pack, here are the top tips from our research that will help retailers build stronger relationships with their customer base, and introduce effective incentivisation methods which build brand loyalty.
1. Be clear about how personal data will be used
Requesting and extracting valuable customer insights to learn their likes and define their needs is vital when it comes to improving their relationship with your brand. But the context and framing of this request is important, as is providing clarity on how information will be used. Some 60% of the consumers we surveyed said they would be more willing to share their personal information with a brand they trusted, and half of them said they would if they knew they would receive discounts or rewards in exchange.
Ensuring your customers understand why you are requesting the information, and what they can expect in return, is incredibly important. Terms of data usage must be explained and upheld when customers register on a website to receive regular brand communications and retailers should also highlight the benefits of using survey, social media interaction or preferences data.
2. Use data in a timely manner, and use it well at regular touchpoints
Care should be taken to avoid drop-outs during the registration process with your brand, and to ensure that any data shared is swiftly and effectively deployed into a nurturing strategy. Once information has been collected, it must be used quickly to reduce the risk of losing that customer forever. Some 84% of people survey said they would not remember registering with your brand if they were not contacted more than once or twice, emphasising how critical it is for information to be used promptly and at regular intervals. Like any relationship, the early stages are critical to making a long and lasting impression.
Whether it’s a ‘surprise and delight’ tailored offer in an email after a new customer signs up to a newsletter or a helpful post-purchase email containing further data-driven recommendations, engagement at every touchpoint should reflect the current context of that relationship and anticipate customer needs.
3. Follow and match your customers’ communication preferences
Well-established marketing channels such as email are still adding value for shoppers but currently only 10% of consumers believe their favourite retailers are ‘excellent’ at understanding and anticipating their needs. The modern marketer must manage and gain insight from all touchpoints, at all times. Continual refinements to the strategy are needed to reflect how customers move and adopt new behaviours. Emerging channels are becoming key and influential contact points, including in-app, SMS, and social media –and this is especially true for younger audiences.
Understanding the complications of today’s device-driven customer, and being able to identify how to appropriately engage a customer across this mix, is key to creating relevance. Orchestrating channel preferences and messages together enables you to improve and layer that customer experience by building upon each contact point, generating a seamless interaction that lays the foundations of an impactful nurturing programme through deeper customer connections.
4. Reward and measure
Vouchers and discounts remain one of the leading triggers to purchase for cash-conscious customers. Some 74% of those surveyed use vouchers when shopping, actively engaging and access them through a number of routes. Regular reviews of redemption behaviour should be undertaken to ensure you continue to optimise the impact of offers, whilst concurrent control groups will provide a true test of the purchase uplift value that your campaigns have driven.
Retailers can seize significant commercial advantage, along with the opportunity to cement longer-term customer relationships. But this issue hinges on understanding your customers in detail, making sure you’re not just encouraging promiscuous shoppers who only shop with incentives and ensuring every communication with high potential adds value and relevance to their experience.
5. Keep on top of your data
Context and value for customers can be delivered through personal recognition; brands can add a tacit VIP element to communications by acknowledging previous purchases. We found that 81% of people questioned said they would welcome tactics that make their decision to buy easier, as well as suggestions and inspiration for future purchases based on previous items – as long as these recommendations were accurate and appropriate.
The essential part in achieving this success lies in collecting and updating your customer data and integrating it across your channel mix. At scale, this means using technology systems that facilitate and centralise automated analysis across all touchpoints. Taking this a step further, building an effective attribution model that can factor messaging that is ‘always on’ will give a true view of the value and engagement that a channel drives for an individual customer. Balancing data sensitivity and trust through meaningful and contextual customer interactions is pivotal to ensuring shoppers will continue to view the benefits of the data exchange.
As retailers become ever more digitally-sophisticated, building a process for effectively capturing all customer interactions with the brand, and acting on the important insights they generate, continues to rise further up the retail marketing agenda and become a major contributor to success. Most customers are willing to return to stores (or websites) for repeat purchases if their needs are met well and if they are recognised.
It is clear from our research that retailers have an enormous opportunity to use customer data to directly enhance the customer experience and encourage repeat, valued custom as a result. The exchange of value for information is clearly sought-after by shoppers in an age where customers can pick from a growing number of alternative options. ‘Average’ experiences in this landscape simply will not cut it with demanding shoppers.