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Four highly practical approaches to brand engagement

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Leading retailers enhance engagement by encouraging customer interaction and affection for their brand,  be that by providing a source of must-have information, loyalty rewards, useful apps or ensuring that the brand’s values and image matches those that of its target customers. Here are four approaches that work for leading IRUK Top500 retailers.

1. Watch your apps

Customers will readily download apps, but how many ever use them to their full extent? Top500 retailers appear to have cut back on a number of app functions this year while there has been little change in adoption of new attributes. Very few retailers (only 2% of the Top500) allow customers to sign up for a loyalty account via a mobile app, while still only around a quarter (26%) allow mobile users to post product reviews or ratings that way.  However, daily deals via an app have become more popular – now offered by 37% of the Top500. As a brand engagement tool, however, some of the leading retailers are more interested in content and customer services. Marks & Spencer has a recipe app and another for accessing Sparks accounts and locating stores, while Boots’ allows shoppers to book appointments for pharmacy services or beauty consultations in store, manage prescriptions and arrange photo printing as well as accessing loyalty card information and health-related content. John lewis helpfully lists its app functions by device –  Android, iPhone or iPad – with a raft of functions that include storing electronic receipts, checking stock availability or building up wish lists.  It also  allows users to “Access your myJohn Lewis card in the app by shaking your phone”. 

2. Match promotions to product

Excessive discounting, as every retailer knows, rapidly erodes margin and given the added cost to serve of home delivery and handling online returns, the likely result can easily end in a profits warning. Rewarding loyal customers with occasional discounts can encourage brand engagement but should they be offered to all and sundry even before they’ve made a purchase? It clearly works for some – especially if there is a relevant product mix. Land on Furniture Village’s site for the first time and you’re greeted with a large pop-up window offering £25 off the first order in exchange for an e-mail address. At Dunelm a similar pop-up holds out the carrot of a chance to win a “£250 shopping spree” for signing up to its newsletter – even before you’ve entered the site. Furniture and home furnishings are unlikely to be regular purchases for most people, so there are good arguments for offering a reward and grabbing as much information about potential buyers as soon as possible, but for retailers in product groups with regular repeat purchases it may be far better to wait until the checkout and an initial purchase and then offer those carrots for a repeat visit.

3. Involve your customers

Persuading your customers to become brand champions requires not only appropriate products and good service but other reasons for them to trust and recommend your brand or want to interact regularly with your site and stores. For some of the Top 100 providing a source in-depth expert advice is the obvious solution – as with Boots, Mothercare, or Pets at Home. Others encourage lively discussion forums where customers can share concerns: Screwfix’s Community Forum provides a popular space for both amateurs to ask for help with a building project as well as specialist tradesmen – plumbers, carpenters etc –  to share their problems: new posts regularly trigger hundreds of replies within hours. House of Fraser actively encourages customer interaction with “Your Say”, an online customer panel, where shoppers “can share your views about House of Fraser through regular surveys and polls”.  As a reward participants are entered in regular prize draws for £250 HoF gift cards.

4. Think outside the box 

Don’t confine your brand engagement efforts to website, store, or your Facebook page. Gordon’s Gin, possibly aiming to raise its profile as artisan gin-makers continue to attract media attention, is offering vouchers for free Gordon’s Gin and tonic to commuters suffering from train delays. Using technology from Eagle Eye, “Yaydelay” uses geo-data to monitor real-time social media spikes that surge when train delays occur. On Fridays between 5pm and 6pm, commuters can check at to see if the level of delays has triggered the offer and then download an online voucher and claim a free G&T at the station’s pub. Starting at London Waterloo in February, Gordon’s plans to extend the scheme countrywide and commuters are being encouraged to tweet #YayDelay to lobby for their station to be added to the scheme. It is certainly a novel way to raise the profile of your brand, drive traffic to your website, collect contact details of likely customers and deliver a much-needed feel-good factor.

This feature first appeared in the IRUK Top500 Brand Engagement Performance Dimension Report. Click here to explore that report. 

Image: Fotolia

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