Following is Part 2 of the two-part report, titled: Customer Loyalty In 2013 And Beyond. In this article, customer loyalty experts and retail thought leaders discuss how to effectively integrate loyalty programs across all channels. Click here to download a PDF version of the full report.
Omnichannel retailing is evolving at a rapid pace. In order to better connect with savvy consumers, best-in-class retailers are revising their loyalty programs and initiatives to create differentiated and customized experiences.
Although deals, coupons and incentives continue to drive loyalty initiatives, retailers must be sure to focus strategies on providing great customer experiences across all channels.
Stride Rite, for one, has exceeded one million members in the customer loyalty program as a result of new cross-channel capabilities and personalized features.
The Stride Rite Rewards Program reached this milestone within six months due to the ability for participants to receive instant access to rewards, account information and products across all channels.
“We have taken a lot of steps to provide an integrated, channel agnostic experience,” said Kiran Smith, VP of Marketing for Stride Rite. “Recently, we mobile-enabled Striderite.com and are in the process of mobile-enabling our Rewards account management tool.”
Stride Rite loyalty program members — characterized as “Millennial Moms,” according to Smith — receive a number of benefits, including: a $10 reward for every $75 spent; free shipping on online purchases worth more than $35; invitations for members-only offers; and a welcome kit with more than 100 coupons from partner companies. Members also receive reminders every three months to check their children’s shoe sizes and make sure they haven’t changed, which provides shoppers with an added level of service and convenience.
“Our Millennial Moms grew up with technology, and expect companies to embrace it when trying to connect with them,” Smith said. “As a result, they’re comfortable sharing their contact information in order to receive communications and benefits customized to them.”
To keep pace with consumers’ desire for more relevant offers and messages, Stride Rite is “continuing to look for opportunities to customize the brand experience and provide customers with information that is relevant to their child’s specific age,” Smith explained. “In today’s digital age, we are able to continue the personal one-to-one relationship with consumers. So store-specific communications often are from the store manager, rewards communications include member-specific balance information, and we target marketing communications messages based on age and gender.”
Analyzing The Role Of The Associate
More retailers are embracing mobile and social media to create compelling loyalty programs and engagement strategies. However, in-store associates still play an important role in driving program registrations. By interacting with consumers at the point of sale and throughout the shopping experience, associates can share more details on loyalty initiatives, as well as the variety of perks consumers can receive once they register.
“Retailers should train front-line employees to understand the importance of a loyalty program,” said Esprit Smith, Marketing Consultant for the Retail & Consumer Practice at Lenati. “Since store associates typically are the first point of contact with the customer, they need to thoroughly understand the benefits for the customer as well as for the brand and organization.”
Because many consumers still prefer to visit brick-and-mortar stores and interact with store associates before making purchase decisions, employees also play a key role in driving long-term loyalty for brands and products, according to Shep Hyken, Author and Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.
“A good customer service representative, sales person or employee can help make or break loyalty, Hyken said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. In fact, consumers are “willing to pay for value. They don’t mind spending more money with a retailer as long as they have a great experience and wonderful service online and in stores.” For example, retailers such as Nordstrom and Zappos have received accolades for the high quality of help and assistance offered by store employees and associates.
The key way for retailers to retain a loyal customer base is “finding and training the right associates so they are able to help a shopper who is more educated and savvier than ever before,” added John Copulsky, Principal Deloitte. “While technology raises the stakes in how to stay competitive, retailers must never underestimate the influence of an employee.”
StriVectin Turns Employees Into Loyal Brand Advocates StriVectin is a skincare brand sold in approximately 2,500 retail stores nationwide, including Dillard’s, Macy’s, Sephora and Ulta.
To ensure employees across all locations are educated and empowered to have one-to-one conversations with consumers, StriVectin offers its employees a series of online training programs as well as free product samples. Together, these initiatives help drive brand engagement and loyalty among consumers and store associates, according to Laurel Anne Harward, Director of Education at StriVectin.
Using the 3point5.com platform from eXperticity, StriVectin has developed a series of quizzes, videos, product sheets and other educational resources. These assets were created to provide associates with a more detailed view of the brand and its product line, which spans from SPF creams to anti-aging formulas.
“The beauty of the 3point5 platform is that associates have the ability to learn more about our products so that they truly know what they’re saying when they’re speaking with consumers,” Harward said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We’re also able to streamline the brand messaging so everyone uses the same terms and themes when educating consumers about our products.”
Starting at a high-level view, StriVectin educates associates on the company and the core brand value proposition, Harward explained. Then, associates are tested on the variety of product lines, their benefits and ingredients. Once associates complete training courses and tests, StriVectin rewards them with a free, full-size product for them to try, and also offers discounts on all products.
“Every four or five months, associates qualify for a free product if they complete the training,” Harward noted. “This strategy helps us maintain loyalty and really make them feel excited about a product.”
With this incentive program, associates can use StriVectin products as a part of their daily skin routines, Haward explained. “Over time, they’ll start to see their complexion improve, which is so powerful. The first question many consumers have when shopping for skincare products is: Does it work? Now, store associates are providing free testimonials for our brand because they had the opportunity to experience products first-hand.”
Winning True Loyalty
Over the last several decades, retailers have developed loyalty programs based on discounts, rewards and other incentives, in order to drive incremental sales. However, because today’s consumers have many more choices, retailers must focus on garnering “true loyalty,” according to Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee.
“When retailers achieve true loyalty, they know consumers will turn to them first and foremost,” Freed said. “As a result, retailers will be less likely to lose these loyal customers to competitors due to product price or other factors.”
In order to win and retain true loyalty, retailers should develop loyalty programs that provide great experiences across every communication and commerce touch point.
“Loyalty is driven by a retailer’s effort to get customers to keep coming back,” Shep added. “Every time retailers provide a great experience, they’re encouraging shoppers to come back every time, which will evolve into a life-long relationship.”
Click here to download a PDF version of the report, titled: Customer Loyalty In 2013 And Beyond.