Here are our top takeaways from CRMC 2018, one of the most important annual gatherings for retail CRM and loyalty marketers. Every year, this event attracts a plethora of retailers eager to share their respective views on the current state of customer loyalty.
Our goal was to gather bits of vital customer loyalty-related knowledge from a variety of companies represented at CRMC 2018, which was held earlier this month in Chicago.
After compiling various notes from CRMC 2018, here are 12 tactical customer loyalty takeaways to consider:
1. Customers Will Share More Data to Receive More Personalized Experiences
Personalization is a hot buzzword in the loyalty industry.
Now more than ever, customers realize that for companies to tailor relevant messaging and experiences, they need to share more personal data. And they’re more willing to share it than ever before, if they are getting value in return.
Armed with this data, retailers can better craft personalized communications and retain their loyal customers.
2. Personalization Translates to Loyalty
In this era of heightened customer expectations, personalization isn’t just an aspiration anymore for retailers. Now, it has morphed into a necessity to spark customer loyalty and instill brand advocacy.
If customers feel they haven’t received a proper level of personalization, they will quickly look elsewhere.
To achieve optimum personalization, retailers need to have a holistic view of their customers through a seamless process that allows for real-time, relevant, personalized offers.
Most companies realize the requirement of customer data that can be leveraged for real-time personalization. The reality, though, is that some companies execute against this objective significantly better than others.
3. Simplify the Customer Experiences to Reduce Friction
Given soaring consumer expectations, retailers are constantly trying to stay ahead of the game.
One way that retailers can achieve this is through by anticipating consumer needs with predictive analytics.
Predictive analytics help retailers anticipate, analyze, and deliver against customer demands. Solving problems before they come to the fore enhances the customer experience greatly.
Some retailers use segment-specific customer feedback to uncover these nuances and base their employee training around the findings.
Build and execute on a program that can deliver actionable results in a format that is clean and simple and streamlined to deliver the best user experience.
4. Reduce Cognitive Load
In psychology, cognitive load is basically the amount of effort being used in someone’s working memory. When the cognitive load is high (when consumers are distracted with other mental tasks), they have trouble making decisions.
That’s why simplification must always be on the minds of retailers. A complicated or confusing experience will cause retailers to lose customers. The less consumers must think about, the more they can focus on the path that a retailer has laid out for them.
5. Customer Service Teams Connect Brands and Customers
Customer experience is viewed by many in the loyalty industry as the ultimate differentiator.
As a result, your customer service team looms as the connective thread between your brand and your customers. It then follows that the performance of your customer service team is critical to the overall customer experience.
Empowering your customer service team with all the necessary tools and education is the first and most important piece of a successful customer loyalty equation.
This all falls under the umbrella of creating a positive work culture that promotes a customer-centric environment that permeates every employee.
When a brand supplies all the right tools in a culture that exudes customer-centricity, good things will follow.
6. A Smiling, Human Interface Delivers the Best Experience
One of the biggest challenges of personalization is overdoing it.
Despite the rapid progress in technology, a memorable customer experience can boil down to one thing: The human element.
Human interaction can never be underestimated. It can lead to emotional connections and memorable customer experiences that lay the foundation for brand advocacy.
That’s why customer service teams need to be empowered to solve problems quickly when they arise. Customer service teams are the connective tissue between brands and customers.
7. Context Impacts Value Perception
Un-anchor the experience to control the context. For example, the Starbucks in-shop experience allows it to charge $5 for a cup of coffee rather than $0.50.
It is vital for company officials to understand their customers’ perceptions of their respective brands to create effective marketing strategies that can lead to greater differentiation.
A better understanding of your customers’ needs translates to better context through which brand officials can deeply impact value perception.
Loyalty is about solving customer needs. Customers are drawn to value and when they see it, they commit to it. Every loyalty program should assess its purpose and the value it provides.
8. Don’t Market to Consumers, Help Them Make Decisions
Truly listening to your customers is the key here. This leads to a greater understanding of their needs and expectations.
Listening is one of the most important skills to master. You must truly pay attention to what your customers are saying and carefully listen to them. This all leads back to the goal of impactful personalization.
As you listen and gather data, you will begin to understand their needs and can tailor your marketing strategy appropriately.
No one like simply being marketed to. They want to be helped along in the buying decision.
9. Balance Exploitation and Exploration.
People tend to buy what they’ve bought before.
Show them products based on their past purchases to get higher conversion rates (exploitation), but make sure to insert some new products intermittently to generate more variety and to learn more about what they like (exploration).
With countless options available to consumers, brands need to remember that they only have a few opportunities to positively influence choices. Consumers may have a vast amount of expectations today, but these brand qualities maintain a wide appeal: Trust, honesty, and reliability.
10. Map Out Purchase Lifecycle to Identify Points of Friction
DSW does this quite well by adding a shoe donation box to all stores to address the problem of “I have too many shoes in my closet already.” Now when you go to the store you can donate a pair of shoes and buy a new pair.
Southwest has identified every touch point from trip planning to packing to post-flight.
11. Consumers Buy from Brands that Align with Their Values
Given everything else is equal, consumers are more likely to buy an item that gives back. They are drawn to buy from brands that gives back in some way. As mentioned, DSW is a notable example of being connected to a charitable organization.
What’s more, brand officials could consider using prepaid return labels to allow members to donate an item to charity.
12. Put Your Customer at the Center of Everything
Last but not least, use a customer-centered strategy to find ways to increase the emotional attachment to your brand.
Southwest Rapid Rewards highlights the trips you took throughout the year in an artistic map. Other examples were birthday cards, remembering orders, or suggesting items based on your interests or precious purchases.
All in All, It Comes Down to Emotions over Reason Alone
When the customer is at the center of everything you do, a great loyalty program starts to forge emotional connections through both branding and benefits.
Overall, it seems that loyalty programs focus too much on valuation and not enough (or at all) on emotions and social context. The brands that also put effort into the latter are the ones that consumers engage with the most.
That’s real loyalty.