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Changing priorities

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Are new areas of cross-channel best practice beginning to emerge within the Brand Engagement Performance Dimension? Jonathan Wright considers the numbers



The question of how best to reach out to customers, first to engage attention and then to build loyalty, is fundamental within retail. Certain techniques cut across borders, and the adoption of these techniques can occur surprisingly quickly. Our research shows, for example, that Facebook has become hugely important across Europe – with retailers using it in similar ways, perhaps because the nature of the platform itself determines which techniques will be effective.

However, other techniques for reaching customers show greater degrees of regional variation. Here, we take a look at these areas, both to analyse current differences and to consider whether there may be greater convergence in the future.

The number of channels supported: it’s generally been assumed that it’s necessary to communicate across more channels in more sophisticated retail markets. InternetRetailing research broadly backs up this idea. In the UK, the retailers we surveyed communicate, on average, via five different channels. Other territories where it’s important to communicate across multiple channels – an average of three in each case – include Austria, Germany, Spain and France.

In contrast, this figure drops to two channels for such territories as Norway and the Czech Republic.

We would expect regional variations to diminish here over time. We would also caution that regional-specific channels may not be fully picked up in our research. Accordingly, this is an area where we’ll be conducting more work.

The ability to Like products: this may seem a straightforward metric, yet it’s important because it’s a first step in starting conversations with customers. It’s retailers in Finland, Bulgaria, Ireland, Norway and Sweden that lead the way here, with more than 30% of the retailers assessed in each territory offering this facility.

In contrast, the same figure for the UK is 21%, while in Germany it’s 19%. This initially surprised us, but it may be this is partly because retailers in these developed markets communicate across more channels. Nonetheless, this is a simple way to get customer feedback and we’re surprised more retailers don’t offer this facility.

Product ratings: another potential reason that many UK retailers don’t offer the facility to Like products is that 59% offer shoppers the opportunity to leave a product rating. To give an idea of how far this makes the UK an outlier, the next-best performing country is Hungary at 48%.

This may also be related to the number of channels UK retailers support: companies don’t need to kickstart conversations with customers through Likes because these conversations are already occurring.

Product reviews: further backing up the point about conversations that are already happening, 61% of UK retailers offer customers the facility to leave reviews. Poland with 51% is the next-best performing country here.

The research also measured such areas as sharing with friends, a facility offered by 73% of retailers in Bulgaria, and social validation, where the UK leads the way with 38% of retailers offering this facility.

We also assessed retailers brand engagement performance in relation to mobile apps. Here, the metrics around the ability to share an item on social media were intriguing. Despite UK retailers’ lead in the number of channels used for communication, it’s companies trading in Portugal that lead the way here, with 52% of retailers offering the facility to share via social media. Retailers in Switzerland (51%), Norway (50%), Italy (49%) and the UK (49%) also performed strongly here. In contrast, this facility was offered by just 31% of retailers in Belgium, although it’s worth noting that complexities around a country that uses multiple languages may play in here.

Finally, InternetRetailing researchers considered whether retailers’ apps carried product ratings in stars and written product reviews. In terms of star ratings, it’s Ireland that leads the way, with 41% of retailers surveyed offering this facility in their apps. Retailers in Austria (39%) also perform strongly here, followed by those in the UK (33%) and the Czech Republic (32%).

The figures are more or less identical for written product reviews, suggesting this functionality is most often developed in tandem.

Taken overall, what should we make of these figures? The idea that more developed markets broadly use more sophisticated techniques is certainly true. However, we would suggest the situation with retailers’ use of Facebook will be gradually mirrored in other areas of brand engagement best practice.

That’s not to say things will remain static. It seems reasonable to suggest that retailers that already engage effectively with customers across different channels and which have high-performing apps will want to increase the sophistication of their offerings. InternetRetailing researchers will, of course, seek to reflect such developments in their methodology.
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