Loyal retail customers have for long now given Bricks and Mortar (BM) retailers an advantage over their competitors. However, the advent of the internet and the subsequent development of the online shopping channel have changed the shopping behavior of retail customers.
Although BM retailers have invested millions of dollars in customer loyalty programs, the convenience, speed and assortment of products customers enjoy online lured many loyal customers away. This is apparent with the closure of thousands of retail stores, and the vanishing of well-known retail brands over the last couple of years.
The big challenge for BM retailers is to the get customers back to their stores. Thereafter, the retailers should have a strategy in place to keep them coming back. In other words, making their customers loyal again...
What are loyal retail customers?
Customer loyalty is according to PR Loyalty Marketing both an attitudinal and behavioral tendency to favor one brand over all others. This may be due to satisfaction with the product or service, its convenience or performance, or simply familiarity and comfort with the brand.
Loyalty is formed in four stages - cognitive, affective, conative, and action.
Cognitive loyalty - in the first loyalty stage, consumers develop value expectations and preference for one brand relative to other available alternatives.
Affective loyalty - here the consumers begins to develop a liking or attitude towards the brand based on an increasingly satisfying experience with the brand.
Connotative loyalty - the third stage, which is confined to consumer's behavioral intention. The consumer has deeply held commitment to buy the brand.
Action loyalty - is where the desire and intention in the previous loyalty state has translated into realistic loyalty actions or behaviour.
It takes time, money and commitment from retailers to get loyal retail customers. This process, mostly took place at the BM retailer's store in the local shopping center. However, retail customers in the digital age can shop anywhere, at any time, at the best price.
So, BM retailers need to rethink their customer loyalty programs. They need to find out what "delights" their customers. How has the internet and the online retail channel affected their shopping behavior in the retail stores?
Loyal retail customers in multi-channel retail
Retailers can nowadays rely only on more than one channel to do business with. As a result, most BM retailers adopted e-Commerce to become Bricks and Clicks retailers. Online retailers, on the other hand, started to open physical stores to serve as showrooms for their products. Indeed, loyal retail customers need to be found outside the traditional retail channels.
"In the digital age, your customers have apps that let them search for products, compare products, review products, check prices, compare prices, and even buying the product without ever stepping foot in your store "says Tiffany Marshall. So what must retailers do to get their loyal retail customers back?
Media Genesis suggests that retailers do the following to get back loyal retail customers:
Build an emotional connection - whether it's through exclusive content or rewards, making your consumer feel special is an important part of brand loyalty.
Personalize - you have your customer's data; use it to your advantage! Make your content relevant and engaging by making sure that it is (almost) custom-made for your consumer.
Use your data - use data, analytics, and your digital business capabilities to go beyond just rewards. Use the information you've gathered to really analyse how your consumers want to engage with your brand and build a strategy to do it.
Create an active online presence - forgoing a good website and a strong online presence is essentially a death sentence in today's digital marketplace. Most consumers prefer to shop online and not having an easy to use website is like excluding your brand from the conversation. It's not enough to just post on social media. Create conversations, respond to customers, and help make customer service a 360° experience.
Merge your worlds - make the online to offline experience completely complimentary by identifying all of the crucial touch points you may have with your consumers. You might even see a return in foot traffic if the consumer consistently sees your brand attached to good prices online. When they need something in a pinch, your brand will be at the top of their mind.
Make it easy - as a business, you now have to prioritize delivering quality, enjoyable interactions with your consumers. This is the best way to build a lasting customer relationship in the digital age. If your web presence does some of the heavy lifting for your consumer, making it easier for them to reach their end goal, the quality of the experience will resonate and they'll be back for more.
Online shopping caters to the busy lifestyle of modern people, and its prevalence manifests the rise of the stay-at-home economy. Also, the internet, big data, the internet of things and social media has revolutionized the way customers interact with their retailers. I wonder, however, how loyal retail customers can be towards a chat bot?
Lastly, has the demise of the loyal retail customer started?
The digitization of the retail industry has taken away much of the personal contact that customers enjoyed with their retailers. Remembering your customer's name and asking how they are when they visit the store offered them more than goods to shop for. The bond between the retailer and its customers mostly resulted in loyalty to the retailer's brand. Once loyal, the customers would promote the retailer through word of mouth. And so the number of loyal retail customers have grown. However, customers nowadays interact with bots and use apps to buy the cheapest products at their convenience. For that reason the demise of the loyal retail customer is now happening...