How to create your own loyalty strategy

loyalty strategy

Written By | LS Retail

4 steps to creating your own loyalty strategy

Emotionally loyal customers are, arguably, the most important customer group for retailers. These are the shoppers who care about your message and vision, who are interested in connecting to like-minded people, and who will stick with you long-term, supporting your brands through good and hard times.

According to research by the Harvard Business Review, highly emotional customers buy their favorite brand 82% of cases. To make a comparison, people whose shopping behavior is not driven by emotions tend to switch brand allegiance in 62% of cases. These shoppers choose products based not on past experiences, but on what currently fulfills their needs.

Nevertheless, emotional loyalty comes at a price. These are customers who want to feel appreciated, and expect to be recognized by their favorite brands. And since all customers are not the same, you must implement differentiated loyalty strategies that take into account your customers’ different personality types, and make them all feel acknowledged and important.

Finding the right triggers

The goal of a successful loyalty strategy is to build a tight bond between motivational motivators (the feelings that push your customers to buy) and actual purchase behavior. Different types of retailers will have different motivators. These, in turn, can trigger different consumer personality types.

For instance, a furniture store may accelerate purchasing behavior with an app that customers can use to visualize furniture into a room. This type of incentive can work well in the home decor sector, but it would not be an effective strategy for a grocery store. At the same time, this incentive may work well for some types of customers, and not be as effective, or appropriate for others. What defines a successful loyalty strategy strongly depends on the category you operate in, the brands you sell, your customer engagement, and even where each customer is in the customer journey. 

Follow the journey

The customer journey is the name given to the sum of each customer’s experiences and interactions with a brand or retailer, starting from discovery and finishing with the decision to purchase. Different customers can have different journeys, and varied needs. For example, a wealthy couple looking for new furniture may prefer getting personal assistance in-store instead of using a standardized app. On the other hand, a young couple who thoroughly researched sofa options before entering the store may not be looking for advice. Instead, they might be interested in ways to save time and money while completing the purchase of an item they already selected. For them, quick service and a small discount would be preferable over personalized service.

On top of all this, you must also consider that as the journey progresses, and customers get more knowledgeable about the various options in the market and how they fit their requirements, the customer’s needs change. 

Four must-dos

So how can you satisfy customers in different moments of their journey, and make them feel special every step of the way? Although it looks very complicated, there are a few characteristics and demands consumers share. Here are four must-dos that will help you tie emotionally involved customers to your business, wherever they are in their journey.

  1. Create unique shopping experiences. Unify your efforts across channels. Deliver an in-store adventure with the help of your sales associates, stay in touch with personalized content via email, and keep the communication channels open on social media. The goal is to maintain constant interaction with customers, identify their needs, and give them targeted information and advice. Technology like a clienteling Point of Sale device can help you storefront staff deliver individual recommendations and personalized information on every product, easily.
  2. Design individualized loyalty programs. Emotionally loyal customers expect targeted content and offers, and forward-thinking retailers are already using customer data to deliver this. For example, Zalando’s fashion stylist can create personalized outfits using each customer’s shopping history. A unique selection of clothes is sent to the customer’s home alongside the stylist’s name, a hand-written signature, and a picture. This level of curation and attention to detail has really succeeded in making customers feel acknowledged and important. In return, they repay Zalando with their trust – and continued business.
  3. Build a community with friend referrals. Show your emotionally loyal customers that you value them, and grow your community at the same time. For example, you could grant customers a small discount or a special gift if they send friends your way. This is an easy win-win, as you can expand your customer base while making your current customers feel important. Need more reasons? Research by Nielsen shows that referred consumers are more likely to turn into emotionally loyal customers of your brand.
  4. Make use of your community. User-generated content (think product ratings, reviews, or customer posts) can be really effective. According to Nielsen data, 84% of consumers say they trust peer recommendations above branded advertising. And Sprout Social reports that 3 out of 4 consumers rely on social media for their purchasing decisions. Provide customers with a platform to speak: it will make them feel listened to, and pay you extra dividends.

When planning your loyalty strategy, remember that 95% of customers’ decisions are triggered subconsciously by emotions. To elicit the right emotions, consider the four points above, and don’t forget to add moments that will bring surprise and delight. 

By creating an emotional connection, you can really impact shopping behavior. The dopamine rush, and relative good feelings, that you trigger will make your customers eager to repeat the experience as often as possible. To better achieve this effect, you should always offer direct rewards – that is, let gifts follow actions straight away. Meaning, offer customers an extra gift as they are purchasing a certain item, rather than sending them the gift a few weeks later.

Learning from the leaders

Some brands are masters at using emotions to tie customers to their business. Take, for instance, these four brands which operate in different sectors, but are all as successful in creating emotional loyalty: Disney, TOMS Shoes, Dove, and Coca Cola.

  • Across its whole empire of entertainment (think films, amusement parks, clothing lines, and more), Disney has successfully aligned the customer experience with its brand values and culture. For a big community of fans, the world of Disney embodies all that’s best about childhood – imagination, happiness, friendship, and living happily ever after. When customers shop Disney products, watch Disney films, visit the parks, these emotions are awakened, making customers eager to get more.
  • For every pair of shoes sold, TOMS Shoes gives another pair to charity. With this business model, TOMS has managed to attract a large following of very loyal fans, who have become (and stayed) emotionally tied to the brand due to TOMS strong storytelling, constant commitment across channels, and visible social impact. 
  • Dove has managed to build deep trust with a varied community by using everyday women in their marketing campaigns. This breaking the schemes has helped consumers better relate to the products, and helped create a group of fiercely loyal shoppers, who feel represented by the brand.
  • Coca Cola doesn’t just sell drinks: primarily, it sells happiness, joy, and the feeling of being together with friends. By successfully attaching the brand identity to these very positive emotions, Coca Cola has managed to establish its products as the must-have drinks for moments of celebration, such as holidays, birthdays, and special occasions.

Emotionally invested customers pay off

According to Harvard Business Review, emotional customers are more valuable than even some of your most satisfied customers. Emotional customers:

  • buy more products and retail services
  • visit your stores more often
  • are less price-sensitive
  • follow your advice
  • spread the word, and refer your brand to others

As you enact your loyalty strategy, try to keep the right balance between actions aimed at attracting new customers and making them emotionally loyal on the one hand, and retention strategies to keep current customers happy on the other hand. Finding the right equilibrium between building a new brand of fans and maintaining current ones is key to keep your brand thriving through easy and tough times.

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Define customer experience with unified commerce

customer experience

Blog Written By | LS Retail

Create tomorrow’s customer experience with unified commerce technology

In New York, mattress brand Casper is giving its customers a fun and practical way to try its products. Book in for a nap at The Dreamery, and you’ll get access to a personal sleep pod complete with a clean sheeted bed (outfitted with a Casper mattress, of course), pajamas, sleep goodies, including a sleep mask, fash wash and a toothbrush, and coffee for when you wake up.

Each nap slot costs $25 and lasts 45 minutes, just long enough to recharge. The price tag may seem expensive for something you can do at home for free, but Casper hopes that its concept will help people prioritize sleep in the same way they would do a workout. And you get to try out their mattresses before committing to a purchase. Conveniently, Casper has a store located next door.

It sounds like a gimmick, but it’s not. It’s an example of how retailers today are finding new ways to engage with their customers and grow brand awareness. 

The rise of experiential retail

The way customers shop is changing. That’s because shopping is no longer the same thing as buying. It is a social activity, “an activity of sensation, discovery, camaraderie – while buying remains the act of simply acquiring something,” as recently defined by Forbes.

Retailers like Casper recognize this, and they are developing new formats and technologies to tap into consumers’ desire for experiences. In its survey Pivot to Person-First Personalization, Forrester reported that more than two-thirds of businesses see delivering tailored customer experiences as a top priority. That’s because “CX (customer experience) leaders grown revenue faster than CX laggards,” Forrester’s report The CX Transformation Imperative observed.

Why a joined-up online and offline strategy is key

The ones doing it best are able to offer their customers an entirely joined-up experience, one which seamlessly merges all their physical and digital channels, something also known as unified commerce. 

Innovative concepts such as Alibaba’s ‘New Retail’ approach demonstrate the power of unified commerce. For example, the Chinese e-commerce company’s ‘FashionAI’ store uses artificial intelligence to track consumer activity. As they enter, customers scan their smartphones to link their shopping experience with their online Alibaba account. Smart mirrors display product information on nearby screens when they touch or pick up a garment, and offer mix-and-match recommendations. back home, the Virtual Wardrobe feature in the Alibaba app allows customers to buy anything online which they tried on in-store. 

“The boundary between offline and online commerce disappears as we focus on fulfilling the personalized needs of each customer,” Alibaba’s executive chairman Jack Ma wrote in a letter to shareholders.

Amazon is also exploring the power of blending the best of the online and offline worlds. Its Amazon Go convenience stores, currently being tested in the US, tap into consumers’ desire for speed and ease. Shoppers pick up snacks, groceries, and toiletries, and simply walk out with them. Behind the scenes, a bank of cameras and sensors track their activity as they browse and pick up items, and when they leave, their total bill is calculated and charged to their Amazon account.

And in Nike’s concept store in Los Angeles, the sports brand uses data from the surrounding user community to tailor in-store omnichannel experiences to their needs. Customers use the Nike app to reserve products for pick up at smart lockers, scan product barcodes to learn more about specific items and earn rewards. They can text store associates to organize product returns. Inside, there is a sneaker bar, customers can attend style consultations and try out products on treadmills. Stock rotates every two weeks to keep things fresh.

Making unified commerce a reality

To make unified commerce a reality in your organization, you need to be able to run your entire retail operation from a single platform that connects all the dots within your business. 

It’s a step on from omnichannel because it does away with any internal siloes. While an omnichannel focus on creating a consistent customer experience across all sales channels, behind the scenes each channel is likely operating as a standalone system. Unified commerce, on the other hand, is enabled by one centralized, real-time platform for all customer engagement points. It offers a single version of the truth, all the time. here is what a unified commerce platform should help you to achieve:

A complete view of the entire customer experience

Track shoppers across all of your channels, and have the ability to know who they are and what they want. Let them engage with you at any point, and pick up from where they left off, regardless of channel. Give them an entirely seamless, personalized shopping experience, and close the sale at the very moment the shopper decides to purchase.

Anticipate purchases and reward loyal shoppers

By having a complete view of the customer shopping journey, you should be able to anticipate what your customers want to buy and what they may want next and give them meaningful product suggestions which encourage them to make a purchase while boosting average order value. Use customer insights to develop your marketing strategies, and send targeted promotions that reward customers for their loyalty. By tracking shopping behaviors, you can also ensure you have the right stock available.

Reliable, consistent data

Gain a single source of truth by centralizing all your data in a single platform. Using one system also means no data duplication required, nor manual processes. You will empower your workers by decreasing their routine, manual tasks, while also providing them with completely accurate and up-to-date information to work with. With a unified commerce platform, you can have confidence that your customer service and operations teams can operate effectively because you know that they have the customer insights they need, that your financial data is reliable, and that your sales and stock information are completely up to date.

Create and deploy new services and experiences, quickly

A unified commerce architecture gives you the flexibility to share data and functionality across all of your customer experience areas. Build new services, channels, apps, and experiences directly on the platform with speed and ease, knowing that they fully integrate with your existing presence. Avoid high costs and lengthy development cycles as there is no need for complex integrations.

How can we help

Many retailers want to make unified commerce a reality in their own organizations, but they don’t know where to start. Thankfully LS Retail has the solution you need.

LS Retail’s unified commerce platform LS Central provides all of the functionality you need to operate your entire retail business from one place, with no need for additional systems or costly customizations.

allonline365 and LS Central will help you break down the siloes across your business and gain a complete view of your operation and your customers, giving you the ability to track sales, stock, and productivity in real-time across all of your sales channels.

Contact allonline365 on  info@allonline365.com or  +27 (21) 205 3650 to speak to one of our LS Central consultants and learn how LS Central can help amplify your business’s success.

www.allonline365.com

How outdated tech is ruining your retailers

retailers

Blog Written By | Giada Pezzini, LS Retail

Is outdated technology destroying your retail business? 9 red flags to look out for

Your retail management system is at the heart of your business efficiency. It keeps your operations smooth, makes sure all parts of your business are always connected and in communication, and by consequence ensures that you can always deliver services and experiences that meet and go beyond your customers’ expectations. Despite the central role of the retail management technology, many retailers are still stuck with legacy software, hardware and network systems that can’t sync information properly, are hard and costly to maintain and limit their abilities to deliver the services consumers demand. Although many retailers are afraid of the investment required by a new system, the outdated tech may be already costing them more than a complete technology overhaul. Are you, like many retailers, losing competitiveness because of your outdated software systems? LS Retail has compiled a list of the top red flags you should look out for. If two or more points hit home, it’s time to get moving; you are in dire need of a technological upgrade.

Red Flag #1: You can’t accept product returns across channels

Today’s consumers shop across channels when browsing and shopping, and they expect to be able to return purchases the way they like, too. According to research from Shopify, 67% of shoppers check the return policy before buying from a retailer. What are they looking for? Two of the top demands are simple and easy processes (a third of online shoppers say they will shop less if returns are too complex), and the ability to return items bought online to brick-and-mortar store locations, says a recent study by Forrester Research. “There are a lot of people who don’t even bother returning [products] because it’s such a pain, and when they don’t bother returning, they just don’t shop with you again,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester. Ask yourself: Does my current technology enable me to offer cross-channel product returns and exchanges? Or will I risk ending up with dead stock, and some accounting headaches at the end of the month?

Red Flag #2: You don’t let customers click and collect

Click and collect – buying online and picking up the purchases in-store – is in high demand. According to data and analytics company GlobalData, the click and collect market is forecasted to increase 55,6% by 2022, outpacing even the growth of online shopping. On the top of being popular, click and collect also holds benefits for retailers, as it has been shown to lead to larger shopping baskets as customers add unplanned items when they go pick up their purchases. Ask yourself: Am I missing out on in-store foot traffic and larger baskets by keeping my eCommerce and physical locations disconnected?

Red Flag #3: You don’t offer inventory visibility

The IBM Institute for Business Value reports that 66% of consumers want to know that the item they are looking for is available before they head to the shop. No way for them to know what products are in? Then they may not even make the trip. Still, only one-third of retailers give customers access to accurate product availability across store locations. 45% offer no access to inventory at all, according to data by Sapio Research. It’s not just consumers that lack the needed visibility. The IBM Institute for Business Value notes that 46% of shoppers expect store associates to be able to fix out of stocks instantly, for example ordering a replacement item on the spot. At the same time, less than 15% of retailers already give their staff effective inventory visibility across channels, according to BRP’s latest Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey. Ask yourself: Do I force shoppers to make the trip in person to find out if a product is available in my stores? And in the case of out of stocks, can my sales associates help, for example, looking up inventory availability in other locations?

Red Flag #4: You regularly oversell items

In many retail chains, each store’s location runs on a different system, and information is saved on a separate database. If all these systems do not communicate with each other in real-time, there is a very high chance you might sell an item on your online shop – only to realize, too late, that the product is actually out of stock. You’ll then be forced to tell the customer you don’t have the item they bought – losing the sale, and perhaps, the customer altogether. Ask yourself: Is there unreliable information on my website which is caused by out-of-sync systems?

Red Flag #5: You waste a lot of time on manual tasks

You’d be surprised at how much time companies still waste on doing manual tasks that could be digitized. EKN reports that 64% of retail professionals are still forced to spend time completing physical paperwork during store visits! It doesn’t end there, though, as all these physical documents must then be analyzed and transcribed – manually – wasting more time and risking more mistakes. Crocodile International, one of LS Retail’s customers, mentioned how their accounting staff used to spend hours at the end of each month to manually verify inventory figures against sales orders. This was necessary because they were using legacy systems that didn’t communicate with each other, and the delayed transaction postings meant that they could never know exactly how much stock was available at a given time. Ask yourself: Does entering and double-checking data manually eat up a lot of my man-hours?

Red Flag #6: You can’t recognize loyal customers across channels

To engage today’s customers, you must be able to identify them from the beginning of their shopping journey, following them across the multiple channels and touchpoints they use. You must then share this information across your enterprise, and use it to create personalized interactions. This is a hefty goal if, like many retailers, you manage each channel – perhaps each store – as a separate entity. Some companies don’t even have an integrated customer database, and valuable customer information (sales, per client, payments, etc.) is stored in separate systems which neither sync nor communicate with each other. The result? Duplicate information, incomplete and inconsistent records, and no clear view of who the consumer is. And when you don’t know who you are talking to, and what their habits and tastes are, you cannot design meaningful loyalty programs and rewards, deliver personalized recommendations, or offer relevant promotions. In other words, you have no way to create effective engaging experiences consumers demand. Ask yourself: Do I have the tools to communicate with my customers in a personal way, or is the data I would need to do that locked away in silos?

Red Flag #7: You don’t have real-time visibility over your business

A real-time view of your retail operations is necessary for timely, effective decision making. During crucial sales periods and events in particular lack of insight – and the consequent inability to act rapidly – can seriously harm your store performance, potentially causing lasting damage to your bottom line. Unfortunately, when you are running each location as a separate entity, keeping track of each store’s performance and comparing different locations can become a complex, time-consuming task. And once the outputs from all systems have finally been aggregated into a single overview, chances are that the report you get is already outdated, leading to ineffective business decisions. On top of that, when information comes from multiple sources that may be storing or calculating data in different ways, you always run the risk of acting based on inaccurate, incomplete, or meaningless data. Ask yourself: Are my decisions based on current information? Can I trust the quality of the data I use for my decision making?

Red Flag #8: Implementing new offers, promotions, or changing prices is complex and time-consuming

When you are running your business on multiple, patched-together systems, even basic (and high-profit) activities such as running promotions and changing prices can become complex and costly. One of LS Retail customers, a resort with retail stores and restaurants, told them how their old IT setup didn’t allow them to run or monitor offers. The many software solutions they were using could not sync information; this meant that the company couldn’t track the performance of different products. And since they didn’t know what items sold best and which ones were slow movers, they were unable to plan effective offers. Even changing prices can be difficult, when your UT setup hinders you. Auto Milovanovic, a specialty retail company selling spare car parts, used to keep price tables on separate databases and Excel documents. Every time they had to find or set a new price, they ended up wasting a lot of time – and the fact that the process was manual meant that mistakes could, and did, happen. Ask yourself: Can I easily change prices, run new offers, and track the results of these activities in all my locations?

Red Flag #9: You can spend a lot of money maintaining your current software solutions and their integrations

In a recent study by Stripe, almost 70% of UK developers interview said that their businesses are being held back by outdated and custom-built technology systems. It gets worse. The developers said they usually spend over 17 hours a week (that’s almost half of their working time!) on system maintenance, such as debugging, patching old systems and fixing bad code. Based on the feedback, Stripe estimates that outdated, legacy systems have a negative impact on Global GDP amounting to around $300 billion per year. Ask yourself: Are some of my systems so old that they are not even supported anymore? Am I spending so much on system maintenance that I can’t afford to replace the IT?

According to The Unified Commerce Landscape Report by IHL Group and NCR, retail leaders spend on average 69% more on IT than other retailers. What matters most though, is how that money is spent. Retailers must do away with the disconnected, legacy systems that are limiting their visibility and their ability to compete, and upgrade to unified commerce. Unified commerce unites all parts of the business within one common platform, which is used across the enterprise, back and front end. And when all your key information – from customer data to product information, to financials – is stored in a single place, you can easily use it in real-time across the whole company. No multiple sources of data, no contradicting information, no delays: just one truth, which you can rely on. “The IT spending commitment from retail leaders is having a dramatic impact on their ability to balance the top strategic priorities: creating a seamless shopping experience, creating a ‘WOW’ in-store experience, and improving customer loyalty,” said Greg Buzek, President of IHL Group.

allonline365 is an accredited LS Retail partner with a number of our own customers using LS Retails high performing software solutions. If you want to learn more about how a unified commerce platform can benefit your business today and tomorrow, contact allonline365 on  info@allonline365.com or +27 (21) 205 3650.

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