Blog Article

Move Over Cash – The Customer is Now King

Author: Paystone

According to Forrester, we now find ourselves in the “Age of the Customer”. In a world where technology provides consumers with instant access to real-time pricing, reviews and product details, shoppers are empowered with unprecedented control of their retail experience. Today’s smart and savvy consumers know more than you do about your products and services, your pricing, and your reputation. Throw increasing competition and decreasing loyalty into the mix, and most brands are greatly intimated by this challenging era. However, the new environment also presents an opportunity for retailers: understand and win over these savvy consumers like never before and they can become loyal assets to your business.

Here are 3 steps you can take to help you become “customer-obsessed” and survive competitively:

Establish ongoing and fulfilling 1-1 relationships

Recent estimates by Colloquy on the number of loyalty program memberships in the States, combined with the latest population estimate from the U.S. Census bureau, suggest that each person over the age of 18 in the US belongs to an average of 11 loyalty programs. Moreover, loyalty program membership has grown by 26.7% in the past two years. But don’t let those numbers fool you. Research by Maritz shows that active membership grew at a slower rate, and that the percentage of active memberships actually declined from 46% to 44% over the same period. Declining active memberships mean that members of loyalty programs are not being successfully engaged. Acquiring new members into your loyalty program is great. But with loyalty programs becoming the new norm for retailers, it is only a first step. What good is it if they sign up for a program but then do not use it?

Engaging your customers, and sustaining that interaction should be your ultimate goal to ensure that they keep coming back to you. Invest in understanding your customer base and what they value. Collecting data and using the analytic functionalities of a loyalty program can help you maximize personalization and provide meaningful interactions with customers through relevant offers and rewards that make them feel understood, appreciated and valued. And don’t forget to keep the offers coming! Relationships take time to establish and ongoing work to maintain.

Focus on digital customer engagement

As of November 2013, 72%of U.S. digital shoppers bought a product digitally after browsing at a store (showrooming) and 78% of U.S. digital shoppers bought a product in store after browsing digitally (webrooming). With both of these trends here to stay, and the use of the Internet as part of the shopping experience at an all-time high, integrating in-store, online and mobile shopping channels is an absolute must. This will improve the shopping experience for your customers and allow them to shop for products in the way that is most convenient for them, no matter which sales channel they choose. Retailers who deliver on their customers’ expectations and consider their preferences by providing them with a seamless shopping experience will win their loyalty and gain a competitive advantage that drives sales.

Moreover, according to a recent survey by Kentico, it seems that customer engagement in 2015 will also heavily involve online research for information search, products and support to help consumers achieve their New Year’s resolutions. The survey revealed that 31% of web users planned to make resolutions for the New Year. Of those who plan to make resolutions, 33% intend to search online for products or services that can help them achieve their New Year’s goals; 38% will look for sites or apps that can help them track their progress in achieving their goals; and 26% will look for blogs and other sites for helpful information. So increase your online reach and presence. Communicate relevant and personalized offers via email and mobile. Engage with your customers via social media. Digitize coupons and loyalty cards. Cater to this sizable demographic of resolution-minded customers by exploiting digital channels and you can gain more brand loyalty.

Improve employee engagement with customers

In a recent report on the future trends of retail, published by Retail Customer Experience, retailers revealed that despite technology remaining their main concern, retailers still consider people as being a critical part of the business. More specifically, their second biggest concern revolved around how to get employees to better engage with customers.
Bricks and mortar retailers are not going away any time soon. And employees are a huge part of the shopping experience they provide; in-store retail is all about those personal interactions. Focus on hiring the right people who are sociable, empathetic, problem solvers and can make the right decisions. Be a role model when it comes to interacting with customers. And most importantly, recognize employees who are delivering exceptional experiences. Employee engagement will go a long way in helping you create and maintain that critical customer loyalty.