The digital age has killed any notion of traditional brand loyalty. Loyalty is no longer driven by an amorphous feeling of brand “fit” or access to discounts and exclusive offers, in fact as the digital revolution continues apace consumers have become more media literate and increasingly concerned about their personal information meaning the public perceptions of loyalty schemes has shifted in the last few years.
The basic principles of growing loyalty remain the same, consumers may still be willing to exchange data for discounts, however, easier price comparison and worries about data privacy means loyalty programmes have to work a lot harder and address three essential ingredients – NEED, DESIRE and EXPERIENCE.
Need – everything the customer wants and more.
Desire – that elusive feeling of brand fit that draws you in.
Experience – something more than just a transaction.
This is where a mobile app can make a real difference. Smartphones are the most personal of computers - immediately to hand, with us at all times – the app experience can be made hyper relevant and be delivered to the customer where they are. We no longer need to force customers to visit us or read an email to stay in touch. The power is quite literally in their hands. Apps allow us to create a shopping and loyalty experience where a brand demonstrates their promise and allows the consumer to live it, not just experience it through a piece of communications.
Crucially, apps can learn about customers via phone and usage data, and communicate a highly personalised message in real time. A website (be it mobile or desktop) or CRM programme are unlikely to match this any time soon.
To build loyalty, an app needs to be one that the audience will want to come back to and there are three keys ways to make this happen.
First, it must provide content or a service that has immediate value to the customer. Whether it is special offers, exclusive content, a calendar or reminder service, there has to be a reason beyond a brand name to prompt customers to download. The Morrisons Match and More app and shopping data for example, work together to learn customer preferences and habits, even asking users to express preferences. This means that the more consumers use their cards, the better personal offers and chances to earn additional points from certain products they receive.
Second, it must be designed persuasively. This could be time-limited offers, a continuously updated content stream, or exclusive competitions. Look at the Vue Cinema app which is continually updated with offers from free cinema posters, to discounted tickets and gift cards. Whatever the hook, it needs to be designed and built to ensure customers will reach for it once the initial setup and exploration period is over.
Finally, it has to stay in touch with customers. Notifications are the name of the game here. Not only do they make sure customers keep getting the best from the app, they mean the brand can prompt the customer to spend time with us – the brand.
The days where brands can assume that customers would prefer to have a relationship with them are probably over – there are only a very few that can still rely on this. Modern brands will win by becoming more useful, and therefore valuable to their customers. And apps are one of the best ways of bringing this to life.
By Allan Blair, Strategy Director at Tribal Worldwide, London.
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