Brands need to prove they understand their customers in order to create loyalty and long-term relationships, but how are they doing here?
In the years ahead, customers will expect service to become increasingly personalised. They will want offerings to take account of such factors as previous purchase history, location and the kind of device being used. In order to provide this kind of service, both direct-selling brands and retailers need to persuade customers to part with rich data that can be used to underpin marketing and merchandising efforts. Since customers are keenly aware of what different brands signify, it’s commonly supposed that brands have the edge over conventional retailers in engaging with customers in these new ways, and that customers will more easily share data with the companies they identify with. However, our research reveals a more complex picture. By going beyond the theory of why brands should have an edge in this Performance Dimension, and instead looking at the research metrics and comparing them to our IREU Top500 Index, we find that leading third-party retailers also perform strongly.
So, what do top-performing businesses do? Firstly, they incorporate feedback into their marketing and merchandising, monitoring and responding to what people are saying about them. Secondly, they distribute brand information and content on the channels their potential consumers already use.
For any brand operating outside a home market, this in part means localising content. In this context, our research showed that, within the EEA, 46% of the Largest 250 retailing brands offered product reviews. This was most common among brands localised to Poland (56%), Sweden (53%) and Spain (48%) but least offered by those in Italy (38%) and France (35%). In certain markets, it appears to be more important, or at least more expected, to offer this.
Turning to gathering information on customers, three-quarters of the Largest 250 localised to the UK (77%) don’t require customers to register to make a purchase. This may seem counter-intuitive if the aim is to gather data, until you consider that customers are often suspicious of efforts to gather personal information at too early a stage. Softer approaches, such as asking for an email address in a store and emailing out a receipt, are also effective ways to gather information. Spanish-localised (62%) and Italian-localised (59%) brands are also cautious when it comes to asking for registration information. In contrast, just 42% of Belgian-localised brands offer a guest checkout facility.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial for brands to try to gather personal information. One approach is to use loyalty accounts. Here, retail brands operating in specific territories perform significantly better than elsewhere in the EEA. A quarter of Largest 250 retailers (with mobile apps) operating in the Netherlands offer customers the facility to scan their loyalty card, as against an EEA weighted average of 3%. Brands operating in the Netherlands also excel when it comes to offering the ability to create a new loyalty account via mobile app (13% against an EEA weighted average of 6%) and offering the ability to enter loyalty card details via mobile app (13% against an EEA weighted average of 6%).
As for encouraging customers to use apps in social sharing, three quarters (75%) of the Largest 250 with a mobile app localised
to Switzerland enable shoppers to share an item on social media. The same feature is enabled by two-thirds of the brands in Italy (67%) against an EEA weighted average of 34%. Retail brands localised to the Netherlands (63%) and France (58%) also perform strongly here.
Turning to metrics that reveal an ability to reach out across channels, the Top100 brands perform impressively on the most commonly used social media platforms. At the time of research, 98 had a Facebook page, 94 had a Twitter account and 85 had a YouTube channel. These figures drop down when it comes to Instagram (75), Pinterest (59) and Snapchat (31). We were surprised to learn that just 51 of the Top100 operated a blog at the time of research. In terms of other channels, 30 offered live chat, 62 had a customer service email address, 64 had a customer service web submission form and 84 had at least one customer service phone number in the single market. While acknowledging the difficulties of producing localised content (the Largest 250 retailing brand support on average two-to-three languages across the single market), we would suggest that brands need to remain responsive to consumer trends in this space where social networks can be born, grow old, and die in the space of a few years.
"The Top100 brands perform impressively on the most commonly used social media platforms."