By Justin Biddle, UK Lead at Shopware
Let’s face it, if they could, all brands would want their customers to see them as the only viable option. However, customer retention in today’s crowded ecommerce landscape is difficult and the customer journey is no longer linear. With multiple digital touchpoints and routes to purchase, brands are finding it even harder to stand out from the crowd, let alone maintain a connection and an engagement with a customer, who can now be easily swayed elsewhere.
In order to stand a chance at maintaining customer attention across multiple transactions,, particularly when selling D2C, brands must firstly ensure that do three things well; firstly Incentivise Loyalty and Advocacy, secondly Optimise (and where possible personalise) the Customer Experience and thirdly Make Data Actionable.
Of course to do any of the above well Brands need to have a solid foundation. This means investing in strong digital infrastructure and creating an ecommerce platform that ticks all the right boxes when it comes to consumer expectations. Adopting an open source approach that is centered on providing brands with flexibility and the freedom to adapt to changes in consumer demands and expectations is often the best solution. However, once this is achieved, brands need to focus on building upon this foundation to grow sales and achieve customer loyalty and satisfaction in the long-term.
Going above and beyond
It goes without saying that developing a strong loyalty scheme is one of the surest ways to maintain a loyal customer base, particularly if you are a large retailer. However, this is the final piece of the puzzle. If you want to generate loyalty and customer satisfaction, brands in the first instance need to ensure they have a true understanding of their customer and their needs.
The benefit for brands that operate D2C is that they are ultimately guardians of their own data. This means that the brand owns the customer journey and the data that comes with it, giving them the ability to personalise at scale, using their understanding of how their shoppers behave and what they like to anticipate their future needs. With a plethora of paths to purchase, brands that are able to personalise effectively can better attract the customer but also provide them with exactly what they need and more – boosting customer satisfaction and increasing the chances of loyalty.
Lets try and put this into a real world scenario – this Christmas, there will be shoppers looking for the ideal present for a child, and for a brand selling that toy, this is the first interaction in their engagement with that consumer. Brands need to harness this data (in a GDPR compliant manner of course) to gain a bigger picture view of the customer, determine what the outcome they need now, and what needs they might have in the future. Some products may indicate a new parent leading to a plethora of future needs, others to a relation which can trigger future requirements at a similar time (with perhaps a slightly different age range). Guided experiences and video content that give creative tips and help good decisions have proved to be most effective.. Offering flexible purchase options can also help tip the scales in your favour if the customer is price sensitive, such as providing pay in installments or even a rental option on a big ticket item which they may only need for a limited period.
This deep understanding of the customer and anticipation of their future needs ultimately creates added value, and increases customer satisfaction. It is important for customers to feel like their relationship with you is more than transactional. Customer expectations are becoming more complex, and having a strong understanding of who your target customer is and being able to deliver more than just a product is a crucial way of building a strong connection with them so that they will return.
Driving loyalty through apps
Consumers are increasingly shopping on their mobile devices, and data from Statista reveals that mobile commerce revenues are expected to soar beyond the 100 billion GBP mark by 2024. Obviously, brands should therefore prioritise their mobile experience and this may include using apps to deliver added value and enhance their customer’s experience. Apps in themselves are not an overall solution to building customer loyalty, but expanding your brand beyond a web browser and creating a functional, user-friendly app that has the potential to claim mobile ‘real estate’. This is a permanent spot on a person’s phone – and is both a huge indicator of customer loyalty and can help to maintain it.
Apps have a lot of advantages for shoppers, giving customers a flexible way of shopping whilst they are on the go , as well as connecting the in-store and online (omnichannel) experience. For example, for a beauty brand, this could be giving customers the opportunity to book in-store beauty consultations or help them find a store where a particular product is in stock. An app is also unique in that it has access to mobile functions, such as push notifications. This is important if you want to remain front of mind with shoppers as clever, scheduled alerts will not only remind the shopper of your brand but also help to re-engage them when they have abandoned a basket or alert them to that new exclusive deal or enticing reward offer.
Customers are ultimately looking for added value when they shop and a reason to return once they have made that first purchase. No doubt, a strong loyalty scheme will help in re-engaging customers through attractive discounts and offers, but this is not the be all and end all of driving customer satisfaction and loyalty. Understanding your customer and anticipating their needs, and timing communications to coincide with those needs is a crucial step in achieving a high customer lifetime value, as it helps to build an authentic connection with the customer. It is also important to be across the same digital touchpoints that your shoppers are on, such as through mobile apps where a simple push notification can make a difference in bringing your brand top of mind again with the customer.