By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
While online retail services are commonplace and very much taken for granted these days, I remember a time when this was certainly not the case. Christmas 2002 – what feels like a bygone era now – was the first time I used Amazon to buy a few gifts for friends and family. Foremost in my memory being a spectacular Stanley Kubrick DVD box set intended for a friend of mine. Although I ordered in plenty of time, no box set ever materialised and I was obliged to venture out and purchase another to avoid being red-faced on Christmas morn. I duly complained and another set was dispatched without argument. It still has pride of place on my DVD shelf to this day.
I was gobsmacked at the time. No aspersions were cast on my honesty, nor whether the package had actually arrived - no argument at all in fact. Just a replacement product dispatched in a timely fashion. I had to admit that I was more than a little impressed after such a poor first impression. A new standard of customer service had been set in my eyes.
A mere 15 years later and this level of service has become the norm, and most can scarcely remember a time when it wasn’t. It has become clear that this provision of quality service has now become functional and can no longer be thought of as a differentiator. The question of what makes us loyal when it comes to our engagement with brands, spanning a range of sectors, is one without a simple answer.
However, as is indicated in our Retail Trend Report for 2017, one particularly successful method for promoting trust and loyalty appears to be through offering reward schemes and cashback to consumers. There is clear evidence in our research that brands with highly established reward schemes, such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, have greater customer trust than those with no or only recently introduced reward systems.
Nevertheless, this alone is not enough, brands must strive to be more transparent and be seen to both preach and practice strong values for this loyalty and trust to be truly sustainable.
If we compare our most recent research to our findings from our 2013 Retail Report, we can see that loyalty has undoubtedly increased in those four years. However, while retailers can take encouragement from this there is still plenty of room to improve. Now is certainly not the time to ease up on the pedal. Essentially though, a higher proportion of brands seem to be raising the bar and increasing the pressure for others to follow suit and provide consumers with improved emotional and more rewarding relationships.
One cannot help but be intrigued at how the introduction of new technology may provide brands with a means to enhance their emotional connection with consumers in what is increasingly perceived to be a non-personal world. More advanced technology such as virtual reality seems to be gaining popularity at a steady rate, especially with younger customers. This could certainly present an exciting opportunity for brands to add an unprecedented level of engagement to their customer relationships in the years to come.
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