The pandemic-driven emphasis on omnichannel services doesn’t just apply to how consumers shop or how retailers should craft experiences — it also has changed how they should look at their loyalty efforts. Shoppers’ habits and demands have been permanently altered by the empty shelves and skyrocketing prices of the COVID outbreak’s early days, and the first step to generating loyalty is reassuring them that you’ll be there, where and when they need to make a purchase.
“A successful modern loyalty strategy has multiple dimensions,” said Frank Riva, VP of Marketing at 1010data in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “However, the starting point needs to revolve around meeting your customers wherever they want to engage with you. This means having an omnichannel capability that allows you to address individual needs, from all in-store, all online, or somewhere in between, such as BOPIS.”
However, a retailer needs to understand its shoppers’ needs before it can address them. Companies need to look both at why some shoppers left and why some turned to them during the pandemic, then adjust their experience to build on their associated strengths while overcoming any challenges presented during the past year. From there, they can leverage their omnichannel capabilities to build (or rebuild) long-term loyalty with their shoppers.
Enhance Convenience With Incentives to Win Back Old Shoppers and Retain Newcomers
The first step to winning back lost shoppers is understanding whether they just temporarily abandoned the brand during the pandemic; left, but can still be won back; or are unlikely to ever return. While the latter set of customers is likely a lost cause, the first two cohorts will come back after a little bit of work. Omnichannel excellence is key to bringing them home, though it should be enhanced with other loyalty drivers.
“In some cases, it could be that they were just scrambling to find needed products in any way possible, as we witnessed in the beginning stages of COVID, [when] product availability trumped both price and loyalty,” said Riva. “As we’ve progressed through this pandemic, omnichannel fulfillment and product availability are still important. However, retailers can start to put an enhanced focus on improving loyalty. Promotional incentives that align with [shoppers’] preferred products and brands is a natural starting point for re-engagement.”
This same strategy is the starting point for holding onto any new shoppers that came to you during the pandemic. However, for newcomers, data should play an even bigger role in determining their particular wants and needs. They may have come to you for convenience and reliability, but growing that into long-term loyalty will require more advanced personalization.
“The next step is to show that you understand them on a more individual level, which can include promotional incentives on preferred products/brands on a more forward-thinking basis,” said Riva. “For example, if you know they consistently purchase items every week for Taco Tuesday, why not offer them a packaged meal kit that contains all of their desired ingredients together? This saves them time versus picking the individual items, and further, you could also offer a discount on this packaged purchase.”
Bring Digital-Style Personalization into the Brick-and-Mortar Environment
Regardless of whether they’re seeking to bring back old shoppers or hold on to new ones, data plays an important role in bringing these experiences to life — particularly when retailers bring practices from digital interactions into the real world.
Mobile technology can serve as a bridge, according to Riva: “Incentivizing the customer to use their retailer mobile app while in the store, and offering unique promotional offers based upon shopper preferences, or on offers specific to the area of the store they’re walking through, allows you to leverage customer data similar to the online experience but within the confines of a physical store experience,” he noted.
Ultimately, the best path to generating loyalty in a post-COVID world will be different for each retailer. They need to leverage all the data they have, as well as their physical and digital capabilities, to come up with offerings that will help them stand out from the competition and provide shoppers with the best experience possible.
“Creativity is key here,” said Riva. “You’re starting to see some retailers offer priority shipping for loyal customers (e.g. their orders will ship before other shoppers), essentially their own variant of Amazon Prime. The challenge will be to continue being one step ahead of the customer and to better anticipate existing and future needs, which can only be accomplished with very granular visibility into the data and enhanced predictive capabilities.”