by Grant Coleman
Endless queues, stock shortages and unmasked frustration: this is a sight which has been all but erased by online shopping. Gone are the days when customers would have to worry about closing hours. Now, customers are only a click away from ordering a product at their own convenience.
More shopping than ever is now conducted online, with figures from the British Retail Consortium indicating that almost a quarter of all non-food purchases now take place online. This poses a significant challenge not only to high street brands, who must overcome the daunting prospect of translating brand loyalty online, but also for online-only brands, as the marketplace for ecommerce becomes ever more crowded. Whether a household name or an emerging e-tailer, brands are finding it increasingly tough to cultivate brand loyalty online.
A large part of this is down to the poor quality of their online marketing efforts, according to our recent study which revealed that only 6% of consumers believe that the offers they receive are fully relevant to them, demonstrating just how far brands are from delivering on the promise of digital marketing – a personalised experience for each individual consumer. Many brands are beginning to turn to artificial intelligence (AI) to better target consumers, but are still finding their feet in figuring out how to make the most of the technology.
So how can brands get better at earning their customer’s loyalty? There are three key considerations to success:
Making things personal
The equation is simple: personally relevant, value-added, individualised interactions lead to better customer experiences and retention. Still, many brands are only now starting to find their feet in the modern world of marketing. But the reality is that consumers are demanding relevant communications from their favourite brands, so it’s essential that brands catch up quickly or risk losing customer loyalty – and fast. Our research revealed that 61% of consumers want offers or recommendations from brands they regularly use to be tailored to them and their interests. But delivering this at scale can seem like a significant hurdle to overcome. This is when technology can come to the rescue. When looking at improving customer loyalty, marketers should not be afraid of implementing AI where appropriate, in order to deliver a better customer experience.
Consumers are also open to these techniques. When it comes to the ways in which customer experience is delivered, whether that is through email personalisation, digital advertising or targeted suggestions, consumers are not concerned about being marketed to by AI, as long as the content is personalised. The same study also reveals that 60% of customers would like to receive offers tailored to their interests from their favourite brands. In fact, 84% of customers are now aware that AI is becoming a staple in their shopping experience, and almost half (47%) are happy with brands using AI, provided it improves the offers and recommendations they receive.
Reconnecting with your audience
It is not just technology that is changing the marketing landscape: consumers and their shopping habits are also evolving rapidly, constantly adapting to the quickly-shifting world of retail. Shopping preferences change as surely as a brand’s customer base does, and the main challenge for marketers is using data to dig deeper into what their current and potential shoppers are most interested in. In order to establish trust and loyalty with their customers, brands must learn what exactly it is that their audience expects of them.
The answer partly lies in having impeccable data governance which regulations, such as GDPR, supports. However, the fear and reservation over data is palpable. 22% of consumers wouldn’t be willing to share any personal information at all with an online retailer, and more than a quarter (26%) wouldn’t be willing to share anything with a high street retailer. Businesses need to work hard to build trust with existing customers, ensuring the data they have is being used to delight. GDPR, for instance, enables brands to build trust, thereby offering consumers reassurance around how their data is being collected, stored and used.
It’s up to brands to demonstrate and, where needed, properly communicate with consumers how AI can help to deliver a seamless and secure experience through the responsible use of their data. Consistently delivering on this experience will build trust and ultimately convince consumers of its benefits and build longer term loyalty as a result.
Content is king
Picking the right channels for delivering a personalised experience is important; however, equally vital is the actual content being delivered to audiences. Brands must learn to tell their stories across a variety of channels, in order to ensure that customers are actively engaging.
The return on relationships generated by establishing this engagement is invaluable. By handing over much of the heavy lifting to AI, marketers can concentrate on developing the creative content which helps differentiate their brand.
What’s important to note is that marketers don’t have to become technologists – but they need to be able to focus on the content to really make a difference. That’s where the magic lies in rekindling customer loyalty – the technology simply enables them to focus on driving this creative content.
A personalised future
The recipe to success is simple: Innovation, personalisation, audience insight and engagement. But in practice it’s not always straightforward to implement. Brands must not only improve the way in which they deliver personalised content on a variety of channels, but they must also become more proactive in engaging customers and gaining their investments in the brand-storytelling process. Taking customers along on a digital journey is vital to earning their trust and loyalty. However, it is this journey which must be tailored for each customer, in line with their unique preferences and interests. By successfully combining technological innovation with a real desire to improve customer-brand interactions, marketers will finally be able to gain the loyalty of their audience.
Grant Coleman is Vice President and Market Director for UK, Nordics and Benelux at Emarsys