As with other areas of marketing, customer retention marketing increasingly requires a more sophisticated, data-driven and yet, all-encompassing approach in order to retain customers and drive loyalty and advocacy. And naturally, content is a significant part of the mix to communicate value.
As we explored in our blog about whether rewards really create loyalty, implementing a customer retention or loyalty scheme is no guarantee of success – the biggest challenges being competition and the overwhelming digital landscape we now find ourselves in as consumers.
So how to create a customer retention scheme that’s of value?
Primarily, effective and engaging content is a necessity in order to help brands stand out in the noisy landscape - and consumers want this. See below for more details, but recent research from Culture Hive, revealed that 21% of consumers want better communications.
All well and good, but this requires an understand of the audience and what's of value to them. This should, of course, be the start of any marketing approach - and be at the heart of both any loyalty and content strategy. Analysing existing data has to be at the forefront of any approach. And that’s not to say brands or businesses with little to no-data or experience in this area should be prevented from engaging in this approach.
There are, of course, multiple ways to evaluate what’s of importance to your audience – using both qualitative and quantitative approaches, internal and external data and response to any communications.
While brands have historically used financial and business modelling in order to undertake a customer retention scheme – see the various types of loyalty schemes here – in the increasingly fragmented landscape we find ourselves in, we must look at more than the numbers to get the full-picture.
From running surveys and polls with tools like Wufoo and Survey Monkey, to using software like Google Analytics, Google Keywords, AnswerThePublic, Buzzsumo and social media listening tools, we can begin to understand what’s of value to the audience through their behaviour, engagement and response to marketing.
How to communicate about loyalty?
Across all industries, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to customer retention marketing – and that a multi-tiered communication approach, while tailored to your audience needs and interests, is now necessary. Content is a must.
The evolving fragmented media landscape means that it’s increasingly difficult to apply a typical marketing funnel - McKinsey's new consumer decision journey implies that it's now more of a 'loop' where the loyalty part of the marketing mix is more significant. Brands are therefore advised to strengthen the connection with their clients, moving away from traditional ‘loyalty’ approaches to habit-forming behaviours.
Loyalty schemes share similarities with membership schemes, both relying on an exchange of money to take part.
Recent research from Culture Hive, revealed what consumers were looking for:
- 21% - Better communications
- 20% - Value through exclusive, member only offers
- 17% - Easy integration of digital tools
- 16% - Personalisation
These approaches should be absorbed into our marketing campaigns and tactics.
Most appropriate channels for loyalty and customer retention
Retaining customer attention is tough. A mix of the following approaches is advised therefore, delivering on both business objectives and implementation through loyalty software or apps together with an efficient communications plan.
This is what is needed:
- Personalised communications through segmented and targeted email based on data insight
At every touchpoint, we should be analysing how our consumer is behaving in order to respond accordingly with the right message and CTA. Gathering consumer data is becoming more and more significant now that big tech platforms like Apple and Google and browsers like Firefox are seeking to block third-party cookies.
Find out why email marketing is valuable.
- Third party partnership or sponsorship models to increase revenue and value for consumers
Of course, not all loyalty schemes are directly related to a commercial transaction, offers or rewards – luxury, for example, may need to be more sophisticated than that. However, sign-ups can be incentivised by tactical brand collaborations with third parties that appeal to the same target audience, offering discounts, value-add content and other opportunities.
Find out more about brand partnerships.
- Fun and enjoyable onboarding for any technologies or real world experiences
It goes without saying that if you’re encouraging your consumer to sign up or use any new digital applications that the experience has to be easy. Better if it’s gamified.
The 2021 Gartner Consumer Values and Lifestyle Survey revealed almost 60% of Gen Z and Millennials play video and other electronic games at least once a week.
Consumers are now used to and enjoy challenges, badges, social interaction, surveys, treasure hunts, prize wheels and QR codes, all of which can allow a brand to tap into new sources of data.
For example, The North Face has a multi-layered customer retention scheme that offers the opportunity to win points but also encourages consumers to visit specific points in national parks, syncing the experience with their mobile app.
- Real and digital world meet-ups and experiences that allow consumers to bond with the brand and each other
As revealed in our recent Brand Communities report: if anyone has an appetite for being part of a brand community, it’s the 16- to 24-year-old age group.
While this demographic would like early access to price promotions, special offers or sales (31%), also key for them are experiences and content that helps them understand the brand; 27% cited exclusive content and 22% exclusive experiences.
- Digital communities
Using online tools from forums to apps allow a business to create a space for consumers to hang out in a branded space. Any approach should include championing the most engaged fans and allowing engaged members to share their experiences to subsequently drive word of mouth.
While social media is a natural destination for brands seeking to build loyalty, engaging consumers aware of the brand and wanting more but we can see from our new EV Report, people are now looking for more information than they can access on social media for subjects they’re interested in. Online communities are especially significant for younger audinces..
Founder and CEO of online community app, Disciple, Benji Vaughn says:
“Brands often underestimate the importance and potential value of communities. It’s the one place where they can harness, amplify and even directly profit from their customers’ passion for the product and what it represents.
“Once a brand has clearly defined the purpose of the community who it should serve, it’s easy to assign success metrics. There are also standard metrics you can measure such as member retention, the number of connections per member and engagement per post.”
- Print and digital content offerings like magazines, online magazines, microsites and apps to connect the real and digital worlds
Also - and again from our EV Report - we can see that after the most obvious channels to build loyalty (website and email), 32.9% of those polled would seek print or digital magazines as a preferred means of communication post-purchase.
But at the heart of all of these approaches is the need to clearly articulate brand purpose, mission, vision and values to generate the cut-through necessary to attract and engage the consumer. And in particular, values matter particularly around social impact: 56%of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that ensure what they do has a positive impact on society, while 38% will buy more from organisations that benefit society, even if their products or services are more expensive, according to the EY Future Consumer Index.
With an increase in competition, we are seeing brands needing a more sophisticated approach to building loyalty and increasingly this means a combination of data insight, automation, personalisation, online tools together with real and digital world experiences.
Tactics and channels too are evolving. While email and social media have been the core disciplines of the digital age, we see these channels needing more than an organic approach now.
The loyalty landscape is changing and the importance of understanding the consumer and delivering effective communications about what the brand offers and represents could not be more important.
McKinsey New Consumer Decision Model
The North Face's Loyalty Scheme
EY Future Consumer Index
Take advantage of our FREE content consultation here to talk to us about any loyalty or customer retention issues you're struggling with.