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The New Power of Loyalty

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17 Jan 2022

At this time of year, it is easy to get swept away by the wave of industry predictions. But if the past couple of years are anything to go by, I think people have realised that industry predictions can all too easily be blinds

Simon Hay, CEO

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At this time of year, it is easy to get swept away by the wave of industry predictions. 


But if the past couple of years are anything to go by, I think people have realised that industry predictions can all too easily be blindsided. We have to set a course for our businesses with the best information available to us at the time. 


In my latest interview with Michael Sansolo, retail expert and journalist, we explored the new power of loyalty. We talked about the current state of the industry as we emerge from such an unusual period of time, and how we can continue to connect with what matters most to shoppers. 


By creating loyalty with purpose.


Community 

Businesses acting with purpose is something you will be sure to see in the news again this year. It is a term with a lot of different definitions. 


But purpose driven loyalty is really about two things. One is the age-old constancy of customer service and attention. Shoppers love being recognised, thanked and rewarded for their behaviours. Talking and engaging with them – without pestering them, of course – is more important than ever as omnichannel experiences create more ways to do it.


The second element is helping people to give back. 


After the challenges of the pandemic, people want to give back to schools, they want to help their grandchildren, children, or other people's children. There are things retailers can do very quickly to achieve this and, in the process, develop the experience between the local store and what surrounds it. 


It's a simple and powerful way for retailers to make their environmental and sustainability commitments come alive.


Omniloyalty 

It’s easy for retailers to overthink the role of digital. But for the customer they just see it as an extension of the shopping trip and the retailer experience. 


Ultimately, we need to remember digital is a tool to make shopping easier.


Omniloyalty is ensuring we apply the same techniques to in-store customer service to other channels. It's flipping around the apprehension of digital as a new, shiny thing and making things start with the customer instead. 


For some, that will be all online for others, that will be all in store. For many, it will be a myriad of different interactions and different channels.


Sustainability 

The small actions that retailers are taking every day to incrementally make their businesses more environmentally friendly, while positive, aren’t always noticed by shoppers. 


Research has shown that you have to change 70% of the messaging inside the supermarket for customers to actually notice these kinds of changes. 


However, rather than feel that it is hopeless, it will remain important this year to keep developing big campaigns around sustainability and communities to avoid being left behind.


Exciting launches that draw attention to all the little changes can add up to one big, positive reflection of effort. 


Crucially, businesses need to ensure that they are really participating with the circular economy, helping to remove waste from local communities or elsewhere to be used in new ways. That makes the sustainability message and sustainability action real, without risk of green washing claims. 


Now is the time to focus on loyalty 

During the pandemic, we witnessed extraordinary sales growth in the grocery sector because there was nowhere else to shop. It was one of the few retail outlets that was allowed to trade as normal. 


While businesses focused on ensuring there was stock on shelves and staying afloat, loyalty took a back seat. Then, once the world began to come alive again, behaviours had been given a reset. Shoppers were buying products elsewhere and retailers are concerned about winning people back.  


Loyalty really should be an always-on, always-engaging program. That for me is not the same as an always on loyalty scheme. 


The counterintuitive way of thinking about this is to go after loyalty incredibly hard whilst you have the maximum concentration of customers in the store. That's the time to build the relationship. That's the time to prove that you're genuine. And that's the time to set up things for the future.


Connecting with shoppers is always exciting. The path for loyalty is in richer, deeper, emotional engagement with people. In our experience, you can run these types of campaigns for 8, 10, or 12 weeks, but we've seen the impacts last for months beyond that. 


Rather than spreading your marketing budget very evenly across a wide number of shoppers in a wide period of time, you can do something much more focused, much more concentrated and create real movement. 


That is what wins the heads of shoppers, wins their trips, but also wins their hearts. 


Even with so much change to our everyday lives, the world of retail loyalty is more familiar than you might think. This industry’s core truths remain extremely valuable, the key is to ensure we are delivering them in the most modern and efficient ways possible. 


They’ve been valuable in the past. They’re valuable today, and they’ll be valuable into the future.
 

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