In-store customer loyalty is coming into focus this year as the continued boom of ecommerce threatens to stamp out physical ‘high street’ shopping. One way of attracting consumers away from their computer screens and back towards bricks-and-mortar shops, however, is through engaging and creative in-store customer loyalty schemes. The concept of in-store loyalty has evolved quickly in a short space of time, largely thanks to rapid advancements in technology and a level of consumer savviness that many of us are still getting to grips with.
There is no doubt that this year will see further developments in the in-store loyalty world, and below we detail a few trends that we think will dominate.
Data and analytics has been a hot topic for many years, and this will be no different in 2018 as it continues to play a hugely critical role in marketing success. In fact, as personalisation becomes a defining factor of many marketing campaigns and customer journeys, it will be more important to consider the quality of data and how it is used.
However, with the compliance deadline for GDPR fast approaching, retailers will be forced to change their approach regarding how they use customer data. While many are already following best practice and handling customer data responsibly, there needs to be an added level of consumer education to help them understand where and how their data is being used by companies. We know that most consumers are willing to share their data with brands, but they need to be encouraged to do so, and increasingly, they need to feel reassured that the retailer will use their data appropriately and carefully.
Taking a look at the issue in more detail, research conducted by Retail Week found that 44% of a brand’s customer data is gathered at the till, which presents an excellent, largely untapped channel of opportunity. The key to taking advantage of this lies in using data in real-time at the point of sale to offer loyal customers personalised offers that they truly value. These must go beyond the typical stretch spend offers or money off regularly purchased items promotions that we are used to, and extend to messages delivered at the point of sale that include additional information about the products shoppers have just purchased.
We’ve already discussed the importance of personalisation, but 2018 will see retailers moving towards hyper-personalisation — i.e. delivering highly tailored, unique marketing journeys to each individual customer, all based on relevance and personal interests. However, there’s a slight contradiction at play: as the desire for and delivery of personalisation increases, automation will start to play a bigger role.
So can the two work together? For 2018, the answer is yes. While it may be more applicable to an e-commerce environment (think about chat bots and the targeted use of data gleaned from shoppers and the queries that can be answered), the slightly unexpected mix of the two elements can also influence in-store customer behaviour. The increased presence and popularity of self-help kiosks, mobile points of sale and store assistants using smartphones and tablets can all contribute to the overall customer experience and influence in-store loyalty, while still providing those key elements of personalisation.
There was no shortage of debate around artificial intelligence (AI) in 2017, but according to Forbes we should worry less about AI and more about augmented intelligence. Of course, AI still has a contribution to make to retail (indeed, Forrester predicts that 10% of all purchase decisions will soon be influenced by AI-enabled agents due to the amount of data they can gather from shoppers), but its true value lies in collaboration. By combining AI with human logic and intelligence, retailers will be able to get the most out of the technology.
The in-store world is a veritable treasure trove of new and emerging technologies that promise to redefine and revolutionise the customer experience, from innovative new contactless payment methods to the continued use of beacon technology for sophisticated location-based marketing. But it is the topics mentioned above that will surely have the biggest impact on the way we carry out our daily roles and responsibilities.
The most important thing to remember, however, is that the customer should always remain the central focus of all marketing efforts, with technology acting as the enabler to help you achieve your goals.
David Buckingham is chief executive of Ecrebo.