COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work and transact. The impact on businesses is likely to persist even after the pandemic is contained. As we approach the new normal, how do brands regain consumer confidence? We have laid out these four strategies to build and maintain customer loyalty.
While consumers cultivate new spending habits during this economic downturn, they will stick with the brands that cared.
Many brands have recognised concerns about the expiry of loyalty rewards and re-assured consumers with grace periods. For instance, Singapore Airlines has extended memberships by one year as well as the validity of Krisflyer miles. Grab has extended their memberships by six months along with Grab food and ride vouchers. Beyond this, brands need to review the situation closely and continue to deliver consumer experiences with empathy, care and concern.
A brand’s treatment of its employees affects purchasing intent. Research shows that consumers considered employee treatment to be as important as readily available items. For brands that have had to lay off their employees during this difficult time, it’s imperative to be open about communications and adopt a compassionate approach. Brands like Airbnb have won hearts by supporting their affected employees with an alumni talent portal which increases their employment opportunities. Employee treatment reflects the core value of a brand and impacts brand favorability in the long run.
Brands could also leverage their core business assets and lend a helping hand to the essential workers and those impacted by the pandemic. While several brands such as Singtel and DBS Bank have donated to charities and vulnerable groups, other brands like Razer and Burberry have tapped on their manufacturing facilities to produce surgical masks and personal protective equipment.
Today’s consumers expect brands to stand up for good causes hence brands need to go beyond their business objectives and help build a better society.
As the new normal sets in, social distancing and government-imposed restrictions will permeate daily activities, at least until a vaccination or treatment is found. Brands can use this downtime to better recognise new behaviour patterns and invest in personalisation models that correlate their database.
It is an optimal time to clean up consumer data and ensure its consistency and usability. To get started, brands can monitor the trends of data errors and standardise their data process. After validating the existing data, research and invest in tools that help with cleaning data in real-time. The next step is to scrub for duplicate data and use reliable third-party sources to add new data. Most importantly, communicate with your team to adhere to the new, standardised data cleaning process.
With the standardised data format in place, brands could also look into CRM marketing campaigns that encourage consumers to update profiles and indicate interests. This would help brands with personalising marketing communications and tagging consumers to their preferences. In addition, brands could also tap on survey emails to better understand consumers’ new needs and preferences. Don’t forget to thank your consumers for their time with loyalty points — one of the most popular ways of earning in a loyalty programme, according to a report by Merkle.
Beyond integrating delivery into business models, brands need to adapt their e-commerce experience to the new normal and minimise physical touch points to retain loyalty.
Consumers are pivoting towards cashless payments and brands should diversify into these opportunities. In the short run, brands could drive mobile payments via a connected bank account like PayNow and NETSPay, or via a linked credit or debit card like Google Pay. Brands that already have a loyalty mobile app or website could also look into incorporating a mobile payment function like Favepay to facilitate cashless payments and further entice consumers with additional perks from partner merchants.
Brands could build on their mobile-enabled, digital rewards to stay relevant. As social interactions decline, consumers have been expressing affection for their loved ones via gifting. As consumers become increasingly receptive to technology, this is the best time to implement gift cards that can be bought, given and redeemed online within a brand’s loyalty program. To ease this digitisation, brands could consider working with Fave, which has partnered with Facebook to help local businesses get their e-cards up and running in less than five minutes.
Brands also need to look into simulating the physical retail experience. Consumers may continue to avoid crowded places and prefer to shop from the comfort of their homes now. To bring the retail experience to consumers, brands could explore live commerce and interact with the consumers about their products through their loyalty platform. Barcelona-based skincare brand, Isdin shifted an offline promotional event in March to a live stream session with internet personalities. It was reported that nearly 15 million tuned in, compared to a few hundred that an in-person event might draw. To further simulate the in-store experience, brands could invest in experience hubs with augmented reality (AR) filters that allow consumers to ‘try on’ the products. An example of a brand that has adopted this technology into their merchandising is Gucci, who added an AR feature to its iOS app that allows shoppers to virtually try on the Italian luxury brand’s line of Ace sneakers.
To make up for the lack of social interactions, brands could create opportunities for interactions among their loyalty programme users and other consumers.
Gamification not only allows consumers to earn more loyalty points but also increases consumer engagement. For example, in 2016, Happy Marketer worked with The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to launch the ‘Spin the Beans’ app. A mobile app for consumers to win instant rewards, this loyalty initiative generated over $800,000 in revenue through gamification. Brands can consider incorporating leader board positions, badges and other social currencies to intensify the gamification aspect amongst consumers for loyalty rewards. This interconnectivity and interaction between loyalty programme users will help brands better engage with consumers and increase the active rate of their loyalty programme.
In times of soft demand, consumers will be more motivated to earn loyalty points through non-sales methods. During this period, brands could build trust and advocacy by incentivising consumers to leave reviews for its products and services. In addition, brands could run CRM campaigns that incentivise their loyalty programme members to refer other consumers like them to the programme.
Through these four CRM and loyalty strategies, we hope that brands will be able to retain loyalty, build deeper and more meaningful relationships with consumers and sail through this new normal.