Companies with the main goals of generating revenue and reducing operating expenses have succumbed to a mistake many others are making. That is, they lost sight of the original target, the source of all profit generation: the customer. In the retail industry, “the customer comes first” is a tagline used tirelessly by all general managers, however higher up the corporate ladder, “money comes first” consumes the minds of the individuals in command. There is a disconnect that needs to be repaired between the training store associates receive and the mindset the corporate level drives the company with. Loyalty managers need to ask themselves if they really have their goals focused around their customers. After all, loyalty is driven by customer satisfaction. What follows is a quick rundown of how loyalty managers in the retail industry can better understand their customers and drive more business through their schemes.
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GATHER SIGNIFICANT CUSTOMER INFORMATION

Customers prefer when their shopping experiences are personalised, they block out un-tailored messages from retailers because they may not need the product being marketed. Furthermore, the advertisement may not even be received by the intended recipient because algorithms for email accounts could potentially stamp it as spam.  If you are relying on basic customer profile information and purchase history, you’re missing a lot of important data that could improve your customer lifetime value. According to www.businessnewsdaily.com, 80% of brands have minimal customer data which cannot drive effective marketing campaigns.(1) Therefore, businesses need to take advantage of all the technology innovations to discover what their customers are buying, when they are buying, and why they are buying. You can read about some of these technologies in our other blog post here: http://blog.intouch.com/technology-and-the-retail-industry/.  

Loyalty schemes perform wonders for extracting this information. When a customer scans their card, all the information on what they are buying to what time they are buying is uploaded immediately to the customer database for potential analysis. By the same token, online data analytics tools can track real-time customer data such as how long they are on your website, the links they click on and the route they took to land on your webpage. The more you know about your customers’ buying patterns, the more you can tailor your marketing programs and turn a higher profit.

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FOCUS ON EXISTING LOYAL CUSTOMERS

Making new friends is difficult; you are required to start from scratch to uncover their preferences, your similarities, and the best way to contact them. Acquiring new loyal customers is no different, except in this case, it costs you money. According to Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.(2) Loyalty managers often shift too much of their focus towards the procurement of new customers and lose sight of the retainment of the existing ones. This costs the company dearly and can easily be avoided. Retail analysers should be compiling as much consumer data on the current loyal customers in order to milk them for as much as they are worth for the company. Many marketing campaigns are missing their mark due to the disregarding of the actual value of these already loyal consumers. These shoppers spend on average more per visit, visit more often, and are more likely to recommend the retailer to a friend. That is more revenue and the best marketing you can get. Loyalty managers need to realise how valuable their current loyal customers are and take advantage of every opportunity they provide.

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UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMERS NEEDS

Everyone involved in the retail industry chain has needs; the CEO needs to generate revenue to present profits to the shareholders, the marketing manager needs consumer data to create more personalised marketing campaigns, and the operations manager needs stock information from the stores to develop a more efficient supply chain. Answering one question is the key to success for all these vital positions: what are the customers’ needs? The answer to this question will allow the retailer to create a unique selling proposition, which will differentiate them from their competitors and drive more traffic to their stores. This process begins with understanding who your target customer is and starting to develop ideas on how to market to them. For this, you need to begin collecting data, a recurring idea, to search for patterns in consumer purchasing. You can conduct surveys, focus groups, interviews, and go over case studies. Knowing exactly what your target consumer needs will exponentially improve your ability to market successfully to them and will lead to the whole company obtaining their needs as well.

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UPDATE PRODUCT REGULARLY

Humans have a natural tendency to want the newest product on the market. When the iPhone 7 came out, millions sold their 6 or 6 Plus to be able to secure the newer version. Even though the 6, and even the 5 still worked well, it wasn’t the best on the market, so people no longer desired it. This works cross brand as well; If Samsung came out with a new phone that had a battery that lasted a full week without charging, some people would probably ditch their iPhone and transfer their loyalty to Samsung. Upgrading or creating new products and services regularly is essential to keep customers interested in your brand. Customers have more options now than ever before, and markets will continue to diversify even more in the near future. Customers no longer are stuck with a monopolistic company; if they aren’t happy, they can just move on to the next provider of their choosing. In order to retain loyal customers, your company needs to be innovative and forward thinking.

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ASK FOR FEEDBACK

What is the best way to see if your customers are satisfied or delighted by your service? That’s right, simply ask them. In order to achieve a better understanding of the needs, thoughts, ideas, and opinions of your customers, you need to open a direct line of communication. There are a few routes you can go with this: you can put a link to type in online at the bottom of your receipt and promise an entrant into a lottery for a prize- a popular trend in grocery stores,- or you can create an in-store kiosk to allow customers to fill in their ratings and comments immediately. The customer may lose the receipt, forget what they wanted to say by the time they get home, or just forget to do the survey all together. The in-store kiosk can right under their noses at the check-out and would bring in a lot more input and ideas. Using this new direct-from-customer information, you can implement new solutions that you can be confident will work with the customers wants and needs.

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This is in no way an exhaustive list on how to improve your understanding of your customers and in turn your customer experience, however following these ideas will steer you on the right path to success in achieving it. Maintaining a positive customer relationship is essential for retaining loyal customers, so every retail company should invest resources into such a venture. Just remember, the customer is who brings in the revenue, so they come first.