Every retailer strives to maximize customer retention and loyalty. While advertising is often seen as the linchpin in efforts to keep customers coming back, no savvy retailer should overlook the value of a solid communication plan. Here are five key tactics that can help your organization build a winning strategy to win and retain customer loyalty.
One: It All Begins With Your Employees
A successful business begins with your employees. They often represent the first and last interactions customers have with your organization!
We often say that the road to customer loyalty is paved with employee loyalty: 70% of engaged employees say they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs, versus only 17% of non-engaged employees.1 Plus, companies with strong employee engagement levels have a 6% higher profit margin.2
Review these quick reminders to make sure you’re doing all you can to leverage your company’s most valuable assets.
Show You Care
Appreciation is the key. No matter what position, employees need to know they are valued as an integral part of the company.
● Recognize achievements and praise successes with an official employee recognition program. (Already have one? Consider whether it’s time to refresh goals, incentives or reporting.)
Go Above And Beyond
Here are some additional steps you can take to boost overall employee engagement:
● Provide easy access to the tools and resources employees need to do their jobs.
● Empower employees to make decisions and take control of projects.
● Set clear expectations and give performance feedback regularly.
● Encourage employee input regarding organizational changes and challenges.
● Support ongoing professional development.
The payoff for your efforts will be happy and effective employees who are loyal to the company and dedicated to creating customer loyalty, too!
Two: Don’t Overlook The Importance Of Millennials
Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. and the fastest growing group of consumers. Known to research extensively before making purchases and to choose thrift shops over traditional retail stores, the so-called selfie generation has forever changed how marketing gets done.
The good news is that Millennials — a group with $1.68 trillion in purchasing power3 — value loyalty programs: 68% of 20- to 34-year-olds say they would change where they shop if it meant getting more loyalty program rewards.4
The bad news? It’s difficult to attract this powerful consumer. Ensure your loyalty program captures their attention by:
- Offering tailored, exclusive content. This generation wants marketing served to them based on their unique interests — they expect you to know them from their online footprint.
- Using a responsive design. If it can’t be read, accessed or redeemed on a smartphone, millennials aren’t going to engage. Period.
- Making rewards entertaining. Think outside the box to make your rewards more fun. For instance, gamification is a popular trend — like when Starbucks loyalty members earn stars (not merely points) towards free cups of coffee.
Don’t just focus on Millennials though, make sure you have the right message and approach for each segment of your client base.
Three: Embrace Email AND Direct Mail
Paper and postage rates are at all-time highs. Consequently, your company may have shifted spend from direct mail to email as a cost-cutting measure. But email may not always be the right strategic choice. Consider these pros and cons:
Email: The Good
- Lower cost: No printing or shipping expenses; ability to use (and test) such factors as personalization, dynamic content and versioning with minimal cost.
- Speed: Reach your audience with a quick turnaround execution.
- Traceability: Easily track response data and conduct testing.
- An engaged audience: Email recipients have opted into the communication, typically resulting in higher open rates, increased click-through and better return on investment.
Email: The Bad
- Limited flexibility: Messages are two-dimensional; attachments may trigger spam filters.
- Technical snags: Links may break, or images may not open properly, decreasing visual and informational impact.
- Spam stigma: Run the risk of being ignored amidst a flood of unwanted emails.
Direct Mail: The Good
- Creative potential: Ability to use nearly any shape, size or visual element; can include multiple components.
- Visibility: Greater visual impact of a tangible, three-dimensional piece commands more attention than an email subject line.
- Flexibility: Today’s digital printing capabilities make personalization and versioning more cost-effective than ever.
- Effectiveness: Direct mail with digital ads yield a 28% higher conversion rate.
Direct Mail: The Bad
- Expense: Lettershop, paper and postage costs add up quickly.
- Slowness: Production and delivery processes take longer.
- Difficulty tracking results: While you can track response through mechanisms like dedicated URLs, phone numbers and reply-card coding, you cannot define how many people noticed the piece or opened the envelope.
Both email and direct mail have their advantages. Evaluate each campaign individually to determine which channel makes the most sense for specific goals.
Four: Mobile Matters
More than 60% of Americans believe that mobile payments will eventually replace cash and credit cards.6 Nearly half of the U.S. population now owns smartphones.7 And one in four consumers say they prefer to access loyalty programs via mobile.8 It’s time to ensure your mobile strategy is up to speed. Here are three common issues to avoid when communicating with your customers via mobile.
Not having a mobile strategy. Many companies around still don’t have a plan when it comes to mobile marketing. It’s not just having a web site. Mobile is no longer an added perk — it’s a necessity. But before you get mobile on point, be careful not to commit issue #2…
Putting the cart before the horse. According to Joel Morrow, CEO of Denver-based marketing agency Mobile Fusion, many companies chase the latest shiny object — an app, or a geofence — without understanding how it can help them achieve their business goals. They don’t have a roadmap. First define your goals and make sure you have the technology to communicate effectively with your customers via phone. Cover the basics, then go after the latest tools and gizmos.
Not following protocol. Mobile marketing laws differ from email and telemarketing in that a consumer must expressly opt in, as opposed to simply having the ability to opt out. Companies must be vigilant in ensuring their vendor is following the rules, or they may face severe legal penalties and a damaged reputation.
Doing mobile marketing the right way can mean the difference between fostering loyalty and losing customers to competitors!
Five: Don’t Underestimate Status Updates
And that’s a problem. When consumers don’t know where they stack up, they stop paying attention — and more importantly, they’re not motivated to change their shopping behavior.
Status updates are key to driving additional visits or larger purchases since they let members know how close they are to reaching their next reward or that next membership tier. After all, while retention is an important goal of any loyalty program, the additional revenue from these purchases supports the perks you’re offering. At the very least, make sure you’re updating your members every month.
Amp up with these best practices:
● Adding personalization
● Using dynamic messaging
● Sending emails based on customer behavior, either through triggered programs based on a purchase or predictive modeling that identifies when a member is likely to make a purchase.
Good dialogue is essential to keep your customer relationships strong. Today, a multi-pronged, multi-channel approach that recognizes distinctive audiences — and individuals — is more important than ever. In addition, be sure to incorporate opportunities for customer input and two-way discussion. These are key points for developing your loyalty program communication plan, and you’ll be well positioned to reap the rewards of long-term retention.
Sandra Gudat is president and CEO of Customer Communications Group, Inc. (CCG), an industry-leading customer relationship marketing (CRM) and loyalty marketing firm. Gudat’s extensive background in consulting, data analysis, advertising, retail and business management helps CCG’s retail and financial services clients increase customer acquisition, activation, engagement, retention and ROI.
“Social Knows: Employee Engagement Statistics (August 2011 Edition),” Elizabeth Lupfer, The Social Workplace, Aug. 8, 2011, http://www.thesocialworkplace.com/2011/08/08/social-knows-employee-engagement-statistics-august-2011-edition/, accessed July 31, 2018
“What is Employee Engagement,” Kevin Kruse, Forbes, June 22, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/, accessed July 31, 2018
“Why Millennials Should Matter to Agents,” by Melissa Hillebrand, propertycasualty360.com, posted Nov. 1, 2014, http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2014/11/01/why-millennials-should-matter-to-agents, accessed July 31, 2018
“Millennials a Top Target for Loyalty Programs,” eMarketer, posted June 23, 2014, http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Millennials-Top-Target-Loyalty-Programs/1010935, accessed July 31, 2018
“30 Direct Mail Statistics for 2017,” Compu-Mail, posted July 14th, 2017, https://compu-mail.com/blog/2017/07/14/30-direct-mail-statistics-for-2017/ , accessed August 20th, 2018.
“Mobile payments to replace cards and cash, but not immediately: report,” Chantal Tode, Mobile Commerce Daily, Dec. 12, 2012, http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/mobile-payments-to-replace-card-payments-but-not-immediately-report, accessed Dec. 12, 2012
“Mobile Advertising History – From 2.5 Pound ‘Brick’ to Multi-Billion Dollar Industry,” Ryan Morel, Mobile Advertising Hub, http://mobileadvertisinghub.com/mobile-advertising-history-from-2-5-pound-brick-to-multi-billion-dollar-industry/, accessed Dec. 12, 2012
“Loyalty programs must go mobile,” Michael Hemsey, Mobile Marketer, Oct. 5, 2012,http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/opinion/columns/13923.html, accessed Dec. 12, 2012
“Colloquy Study Shows Nearly One-Third of Consumers Can’t Identify Tier Status in Favorite Loyalty Rewards Program,” April 27, 2014, COLLOQUY, www.colloquy.org/article_view.asp?xd=11235 , accessed Oct. 15, 2014